Getting Started with InfoPath: Do’s and Don’ts

Getting Started with InfoPath Designer

Now that InfoPath 2013 is readily available as a free download, it’s easier than ever to get started building Formotus forms. Here are some tips for getting started with InfoPath Designer.

Download InfoPath 2013

Now available for download

Things To Do

First, download and install InfoPath above if you don’t have it. Then:

  1. Day 1 Open InfoPath Designer, not InfoPath filler. To open an existing form in Designer right click the .xsn fileand choose Design. Double clicking it opens the form for filling, which is not what you want. Don’t feel bad, everybody does that.
  2. Use the Formotus InfoPath Starter Form as your starting point. It has lots of designs and best practices already built in.
  3. Read our support article: Getting started with InfoPath: Resources
  4. As you work on a form, save it periodically with a new name. We’ve all come to expect that we can delete or undo something that breaks, but in InfoPath sometimes bad things happen that can’t be undone. If that happens you’ll be glad to have a copy that’s only missing an hour or two of work.
  5. Recognize that InfoPath has a split personality. On the left it has a view pane where you lay out all your controls and labels nicely so they look good and are easy to use. On the right it has a data pane where you control the data field properties and hierarchy. (Click on the InfoPath screen snip below to see it larger.)

    InfoPath Split Personality

    InfoPath’s split personality: UI layout on the left bound to data fields on the right. Notice that a layout section on the left is bound to a data group folder on the right. Best to have the contents of the two match.

  6. Test on a mobile device in a Formotus app early and often – maybe every time you do an incremental backup save in #2. You don’t want to create a large magnificent form and only then discover there’s a problem on the mobile device. Best to discover a problem sooner, because it’s easier to identify and often easier to fix.

Things NOT To Do

First, don’t panic! Then:

  1. Create filler form not blankWhen you create a new form with File | New, don’t choose “blank form”. That will give you a browser-based form template without key features you may want to use.
  2. Don’t create a long form in one very long view. This causes performance problems on mobile devices, and can even cause the form to fail on the device. Instead, split your form into multiple shorter views and use buttons to navigate between them.
  3. Don’t include any custom code in your form, because Formotus doesn’t support it.
  4. Don’t include controls Formotus doesn’t support, such as a file attachment or a combo box.
    See the master list of supported controls >>
  5. Don’t use optional sections unless you really need to. Instead use regular sections and formatting rules to show or hide them.
  6. Don’t nest sections inside other sections unnecessarily. Stick to two layers of nesting, not section-in-section-in-section. Use tables rather than sections to visually organize your form layout.
  7. Don’t expect to capture a large number of photos in one form. Every device has a memory limit that will crash a form that’s too large, and photos make forms large quickly. See our support article: How to submit a large number of photos

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