We’ve known that InfoPath is on its way out for a while now. What hasn’t been clear is what its successor will be. Forms on SharePoint Lists looked to be a promising first-party alternative, but were cancelled, and Microsoft is still working on a new forms solution. This isn’t much use for users who want forms right now.
I’ve put together this short article to compare some of the leading form solutions for SharePoint.
The information in the table above is a rough guide.
Let’s look at the main contenders.
Default List Forms refers to the New Item/Edit Item/View Item pages that are automatically generated by SharePoint when you create a list. These have the benefit of being really easy to create, but there is no support whatsoever for repeating data. This makes them unsuitable for complex form development. The main reason to use default list forms is that they are part of SharePoint, meaning no additional licensing costs and no installation process.
InfoPath is Microsoft’s current forms solution. It has a comprehensive feature set, but has been discontinued by Microsoft and support will be dropped in 2023. For future-proof forms it isn’t a viable option. InfoPath is frequently bundled with SharePoint, so depending on your SharePoint license there’s a good chance you won’t need a separate InfoPath license.
The size of a submitted InfoPath form is limited, which means if you have repeating data (e.g. timesheets allowing for multiple entries) that may contain many rows, InfoPath is unsuitable. InfoPath does technically support mobile devices, but the mobile version is lacking many features.
Formotus is designed to provide an easy transition from InfoPath. Formotus can work with your existing InfoPath forms, so you won’t have to change anything. Formotus is pretty fully-featured, but is currently limited by the fact that it uses the InfoPath Designer for form creation. Formotus is working on creating their own browser-based designer which should offer more styling options. A drawback of Formotus is that it runs as a native application for mobile devices, with apps for Windows 8, iOS and Android. Formotus has no browser-based capabilities and will not run on computers running Windows 7 or lower.
Nintex Forms is a very powerful forms solution. Unfortunately the licensing costs are prohibitive for many businesses. Nintex Forms also integrate very well with Nintex Workflows, so if your business already uses Nintex then Nintex Forms is a natural addition. Nintex provides offline forms support via the Nintex Mobile app.
K2 blackpearl forms competes with Nintex as a full workflow and forms solution. K2 blackpearl forms doesn’t directly support repeating data, but it does support relational data which can be used for the same purpose. blackpearl forms can be made to be completely responsive and can be styled through the use of themes. Like Nintex, blackpearl supports offline form filling using a mobile app.
SharePoint Forms Designer, also known as Plumsail Forms Designer, provides an editor integrated into SharePoint to allow power users to easily create their forms, although some forms will still require code to be written. SharePoint Forms Designer supports relational data in place of repeating data. Forms Designer does support attachments, but not against a specific field. For example, if you had a vehicle damage form you could allow people to upload both photos of the damage and a quote for repairs, but the form wouldn’t be able to tell you which was which, you’d have to open them to find out. Forms Designer supports mobile devices but the forms are not fully responsive. Licensing for SharePoint Forms Designer is a one-off payment, with no ongoing fees.
Ardevia Rich Forms is another browser-based form solution, with an editor integrated into SharePoint. Ardevia supports relational (rather than repeating) data. Forms created using Rich Forms will probably be functional on mobile, but they are not responsive so may not be easy to use. Ardevia supports attachments and styling. Ardevia has both a free version and a Pro version, the Pro version having more features.
Pistachio is another wellfeatured browser-based forms system. Pistachio forms will work on mobile devices, but they are not fully responsive. Pistachio forms can be created and modified by power users and support attachments. Pistachio’s licensing is a one-off fee.
Forms7 is a jQuery-based in-browser forms solution. It’s fairly well featured and has the large benefit of being free. The drawback is that forms are developed using code instead of an editor, so most customisations will require a skilled developer.
LightSwitch isn’t so much a forms solution as a platform for rapid application development. That said, it can be used to create highly-customised forms. Unfortunately LightSwitch forms can take lots of time and expertise to develop and require the use of specialised tools.
Professional Advantage custom forms refers to Professional Advantage’s capabilities in building highly-custom browser-based forms. These forms have huge amounts of flexibility but take more time to develop. For forms that are important to your business this is an option that’s definitely worth looking into. Some limited customisations are possible by end users, but most modifications will require our development skills. Professional Advantage custom forms have no license fees.
As you can see, there are plenty of forms solutions available and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Not sure which best suits you? Professional Advantage can help you decide which solution is the best fit for your business as well as providing development expertise and support for your intranet.
You can read more about Professional Advantage and Microsoft SharePoint here.
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