Why hasn’t anyone heard of InfoPath?

I recently wrote a book on InfoPath 2007. What I find most amazing about the book is that it's evangelizing InfoPath. I've shown a number of developers the book, and when they read the description, their reaction is "wow, InfoPath sounds cool - I should check it out."

How is it possible that a member of MS Office that's four years old has almost no mindshare?

I don't know the answer - I'd be interested to hear suggestions on how to get the word out to more users and developers.

Comments (15)

  1. KB says:

    The end-users that make forms make them in Acrobat.  The developers that make forms make them in Visual Studio.  Is InfoPath a product searching for a niche?  I’ve yet to see a series of strong articles on MSDN et al on why it is better than all the other ways of doing things that people are more familiar with.  It needs to overcome ‘critical mass’ in order for momentum to build.  I’ve had InfoPath installed since the first version but I’m not even sure if I’ve ever run it.

  2. Bruce Voris says:

    I’ve heard of InfoPath, but have never used it and am unlikely to ever use it. There is way too much stuff to know about in the software arena today, so if I don’t NEED to know about it, I don’t learn about it.

    Ask yourself what you know about … pick any topic that you’ve heard of but don’t know about. Then ask yourself how likely it is that you’ll ever NEED to know about it.

    Cranial CPU cycles are a limited resource.

  3. Tim Weaver says:

    I’ve looked at infopath a few times over the years, but every single time it boils down to the simple fact that I don’t need a new technology to help me get my job done, I need the technology I use and know today to do what I want.

    There simply isn’t time to relearn the "infopath" way of doing x unless x is pivotal to my success and of course it simply hasn’t been and is highly unlikely to be.

  4. Starlin says:

    Well, I just purchased your Infopath 07 book, so it better be good.   🙂

    I’ve never used Acrobat for creating forms, but I’ve heard that it’s ‘clunky’

    I’ve also used Visual Studio for creating some forms (that required a SQL backend for tracking).

    Mostly, though, I’ve created a few forms for my firm in Infopath 2003 (soon 07) because it’s quick and dirty – and it works quite well.

    Now with Infopath 07, with the hopes of better integration into Sharepoint 07, it’ll make my life a little bit easier.

    I agree, though, that it’s not on the tip of people’s tongues (ala Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc…)  Not really sure why, though.  It works – it’s relatively easy to use, and with our Office licensing, everyone has it pre-installed on their machines.

    I have a funny feeling that Groove will fall into the same trap that Infopath fell into – mini-obscurity.  The marketing muscle behind many of the MS products just don’t ‘push’ it all that much.    Case in point, “THE RIBBON” was all I heard about from the billion marketers from MS regarding office 07…barely heard anything about Groove.

    Ah well, anyway, so far, Infopath 07 seems nice – can’t wait to really dig into it.

  5. DoniG says:

    InfoPath has really only been an option if you were part of a company that installed it as part of their Office install. And most company IT departments aren’t going to install anything that they don’t absolutely need to because then they would have to support it. For a few forms, they would probably use ASP.NET for the forms. And by the time they got enough forms to make it worthwhile to consider using a new technology like InfoPath, they have this "installed base" of forms using another technology that would have to be converted.

    Now with InfoPath Forms Server there might be a chance of making more headway. However, since businesses now need to pony up the extra cash for an Enterprise SharePoint license to use the Forms server, that probably won’t happen too often.

    If the Forms Server was free, or if there was a free InfoPath client, then there might be a chance to use it. But it will always remain a niche product until the licensing is changed – if ever.

  6. o3APA3A says:

    Because Microsoft does not provide free InfoPath reader to work with InfoPath forms!

    This is so stupid! How am I supposed to publish InfoPath forms for my clients on the Internet? I am not going to buy MOSS2007 for this.

  7. michael says:

    I agree with your sentiments, Bruce. Just ’cause it’s out there made by some GIANT company DOES NOT mean we need to know things they make which we’ll NEVER use.

  8. Max Battcher says:

    I think that InfoPath really needs a compelling demo or three that mid-range developers might be able to sink their teeth into before they start to have a small inkling of InfoPath.  I’ve said before that InfoPath and WCF (Windows Communications Framework) are just shy of being a perfect "peanut butter and chocolate"…  It’s really neat to show someone a very quickly built WCF service, hand someone the endpoint address and tell them "Build yourself a form in InfoPath".  There’s still a few impedance mismatches between WCF and InfoPath (the main one on the top of my head is I remember having a few issues with InfoPath’s lack of WS-* support), but there is at least some starting points in the service-oriented conversation there.

  9. Simon says:

    I’ve heard of infopath, I thought it was great.  I thought lets get this out to the users and solve a lot of my “Web forms” with this great tool.  Ok so theres a cost in rollout to each client in time for our support guys.

    Then you find out its not part of the office suite.  There is an additional cost per seat (or was when I last looked).  This made it completly unviable for 20,000 seats to roll this out.

    It would take me roughly the same amount of time to design a form and web service for infopath as it does to create a web form.

    So no point in me spending time and effort on learning a product whose cost is prohibitive when compared with the ability for me to knock up the equivalent web form.  

  10. tzagotta says:

    The problem is that InfoPath, being a separate app from the ones people use daily, is not “discoverable.”  In other words, there is no real way for an Office user to learn about the benefits of InfoPath in their day-to-day work.  Most people don’t have extra time to play around with and learn “those other apps” that come with Office.  The only way to overcome this is through marketing and teaching.

  11. MSDN Archive says:

    "DOES NOT mean we need to know things they make which we’ll NEVER use."

    Of course, if you don’t bother to learn about it, you’ll never use it. However, does it make sense not to even *try* to learn about a tool that may help you?

    This is the equivalent of banging in nails with a pipe wrench and saying "Why the heck should I learn about some stupid ‘hammer’? I can do my job just fine with what I have!"

    Note that the question was not "why don’t people use InfoPath" – it’s "why don’t people even KNOW about it?"

    Learn about it and choose not to use it – that’s a wholly different question. 🙂

  12. Philip Stears says:

    InfoPath is a very cool technology but it has a fair share of problems. One of its biggest attractions for me is publishing forms online for people to use – however, I don’t want to use MOSS. If Microsoft started distributing an ASP.NET control which made InfoPath forms available on ASP.NET sites, I’d consider using InfoPath anywhere I use a form today.

  13. Mervin Lin says:

    It would help alot if MS were to release a free Infopath reader or/and form filler.

  14. daisychain says:

    To be a successful product, somebody should evangelize InfoPath. Typically, it is either the Developers who promote the technology or the Business Users. InfoPath is for Business Users. Unfortunately it is not easy for Business Users to learn InfoPath by themselves without the help of Devlopers, unlike  other Office products like Word and Excel. However Developers find no need to use InfoPath. So, know your target market tailor your product features to their needs.

  15. Oisin Grehan says:

    Personally speaking, I had heard of infopath (2003) but was disappointed to hear that was required to host the forms that you created. That pretty much put me off it for good. I only recently learned that 2007 can generate stand alone forms in (d)html, so perhaps it’s due another look.

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