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Microsoft InfoPath

Microsoft InfoPath enables you to design and fill out electronic forms, such as expense reports, time cards, surveys, and insurance forms. You can do this by using standard form controls, such as text boxes or list boxes, or insert controls that offer users the flexibility to add, remove, replace, or hide sections of a form to make a richer user experience. The forms that you design can range from simple forms for collecting data from your immediate team to complex forms that are part of a much larger business process. InfoPath forms can be used on their own, or you can design them to work with existing databases or Web services. Forms can be published to and accessed from a common location on a company network, such as a shared folder, a Web server, or a library located on a Microsoft SharePoint Server  or Microsoft SharePoint Foundation site.

When filling out a form in InfoPath, users can use familiar, document-like features. For example, they can check spelling in their form or insert formatted text and graphics into certain fields. Depending on the design of the form template, users may also be able to merge the data from multiple forms into a single form or export the data to other programs. If a form template is browser-enabled, users who don't have InfoPath installed on their computer can fill out the form in a Web browser or on a mobile device instead.

If you use InfoPath and Microsoft SharePoint Server running InfoPath Forms Services, you can design browser-compatible form templates in InfoPath and enable them for use on internal and external Web sites. This lets you share business forms with a variety of users, including employees, customers, suppliers, and partners. Users aren't required to have InfoPath installed on their computers to fill out a form, nor are they required to download anything extra from the Web. All users need is access to a browser, such as Windows Internet Explorer, Apple Safari, or Mozilla Firefox. If users do have InfoPath installed on their computers, they can display and fill out the form in InfoPath rather than a browser.

InfoPath consists of the following components: InfoPath Designer 2010, InfoPath Filler, and SharePoint Server running InfoPath Forms Services. InfoPath Designer and InfoPath Filler are installed on client computers as part of Microsoft Office Professional Plus. If you want to publish InfoPath forms as browser-compatible forms, you must have access to an installation of SharePoint Server running InfoPath Forms Services.

InfoPath Designer

To create and publish an InfoPath form template (.xsn), you use InfoPath Designer. When you design a form template (.xsn) file, you create a single file that contains the supporting files that implement the layout, views, and logic upon which a particular InfoPath form solution depends. When users fill out a form, they are actually filling out a form (.xml) file instance, which is based on the associated form template. Using InfoPath Designer you can quickly create forms that include pre-built layout sections, out-of-the-box rules, improved rules management, and varied styles. In addition, InfoPath Designer now includes a number of different form templates, so you don't need to define all parts of the form from scratch.

InfoPath Filler

With InfoPath Filler, people who are filling out forms have a simple and easy-to-use UI and can choose to save a draft, save a local copy, or save as a PDF and have a local record of the form. All the unnecessary functionality for designing forms has been removed for people who just want to open and fill out a form. 

InfoPath Forms Services   

Improved parity between InfoPath Filler forms and InfoPath browser forms in SharePoint Server ensures greater consistency for users who are filling out forms. For example, functionality available in both environments includes: Bulleted, numbered, and plain lists; Multiple selection list boxes; Combo boxes; Picture buttons; Hyperlink capabilities; Choice group and section; Filtering functionality; Date and time controls; and People pickers. 

Additionally, InfoPath is integrated with SharePoint Designer to enable you to create and customize the forms associated with Business Connectivity Services (BCS) external lists and workflow solutions.

- inputs from Office Support pages

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