What is a SharePoint form library?
Learn what a SharePoint form library is, what it can be used for, and what its benefits are when used in combination with Microsoft InfoPath 2010 or Microsoft InfoPath 2013.
A SharePoint form library is like a SharePoint document library, but then used to store InfoPath forms instead of documents.
InfoPath forms are XML files that have a processing instruction that identifies them as files that can be opened with Microsoft InfoPath and that are linked to an InfoPath form template.
Before you can use a SharePoint form library to store InfoPath forms, you must publish an InfoPath form template to SharePoint.
The InfoPath form template you publish can be published directly to the SharePoint form library in which you want to store InfoPath forms, or you can publish it as a site content type and then later add the content type to the SharePoint form library, so that you can create InfoPath forms from it.
Publishing an InfoPath form template as a SharePoint site content type has the extra benefit that you can then add several InfoPath form templates to one SharePoint form library to be able to store different types of InfoPath forms in one SharePoint form library (see recipe 27 of InfoPath 2010 Cookbook 2 or InfoPath 2013 Cookbook 2).
Fill out InfoPath forms via the browser vs. InfoPath Filler
Once an InfoPath form template has been published, users can use it to create and fill out InfoPath forms. InfoPath forms can be created and filled out either through the browser via SharePoint, or through Microsoft InfoPath Filler.
If you want to fill out InfoPath forms through the browser via SharePoint, your SharePoint Server must have InfoPath Forms Services available on it. Otherwise, InfoPath forms will not open in the browser and you will only be able to fill out InfoPath forms through Microsoft InfoPath Filler, which is a desktop application that is installed when you install InfoPath 2010 or InfoPath 2013.
Whether you fill out InfoPath forms through SharePoint or through InfoPath Filler does not matter where storing InfoPath forms in a SharePoint form library is concerned. Either option will work. The only difference is that if you want to use the browser to fill out InfoPath forms, you must make sure that you create and publish a browser-compatible form template to SharePoint or to the SharePoint form library that will be storing the InfoPath forms.
Store InfoPath data in a SharePoint list or a SharePoint form library?
You can use Microsoft InfoPath Designer 2010 or Microsoft InfoPath Designer 2013 to create InfoPath form templates that can be used as an interface to a SharePoint list or form templates that can be used to create forms in a SharePoint form library. The former are called SharePoint list forms and the latter SharePoint form library forms.
When used to create SharePoint list forms, the data from InfoPath forms is stored directly in a SharePoint list and not as separate XML files as they would be when you store them in a SharePoint form library.
Whether you choose to store InfoPath form data in a SharePoint list or in a SharePoint form library depends on your scenario and your goals. SharePoint list forms offer less functionality than SharePoint form library forms do. You can use less InfoPath controls with them and you cannot write code for them. SharePoint form library forms do not have such limitations.
In addition, one of the big benefits of using a SharePoint form library to store InfoPath forms is that because InfoPath forms are XML files, they contain structured data that can be exported to other applications that can read XML data. This allows you to share data between the SharePoint form library and another XML-compliant application.
However, if you want to keep your data native to SharePoint, so store InfoPath form data in SharePoint lists instead of SharePoint form libraries, using SharePoint list forms is the way to go. But always remember that storing InfoPath forms in SharePoint form libraries offers the greatest flexibility and possibilities when designing and creating InfoPath form solutions.
Copyright: This article may not be used on web sites (whether personal or otherwise), copied, disseminated, altered, printed, published, broadcasted, or reproduced in any way without an expressed written consent of S.Y.M. Wong-A-Ton. The techniques demonstrated in this article may be used within any Microsoft InfoPath project. This article is provided without any warranties. Copyright for this article is non-transferrable and remains with the author, S.Y.M. Wong-A-Ton.