Forms Services and Workflow

By Martin Kearn

Electronic forms and workflows have been part of business software solutions for a very long time. Most user interaction with business software systems involves the completion of an electronic form, and most electronic forms depend on a workflow or process behind it.

For the first few releases of SharePoint Products and Technologies (the 2001 and 2003 versions), SharePoint never formally competed in this area. However, many users opted to build forms using the standard SharePoint list capabilities, and workflows were often implemented using a series of custom-code event handlers and other mechanisms.

In the 2007 release, SharePoint added workflow functionality, built on top of .NET's Windows Workflow Foundation (WF). SharePoint also introduced a feature called InfoPath Forms Services (or Forms Services). Forms Services is a server-side, browser-accessible companion to the already established InfoPath forms software. The main value proposition of Forms Services is that users do not need a local installation of InfoPath in order to complete InfoPath forms. It all happens via a browser.

These two technologies instantly combined to help users fill the gap around low-cost forms and workflow solutions based on SharePoint.

In SharePoint 2010, both Forms Services and workflow have been updated to make business solutions even easier to build. SharePoint 2010 reduces the need for custom code, and enhances the tools that are used to design and ...

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