So, recently I’ve been looking at .aspx forms in SharePoint workflow. It turned out to be a very hard experience, although there is a project on codeplex that might make life easier. I’d like to try it, and if it works as billed, I’d like to buy it’s author a pint.
Anyway, this set me thinking – why are .ASPX forms not the default way of creating forms in SharePoint workflows?
Infopath has it’s uses. In the last few months I’ve played with it a few times and found it fairly useful for what it was originally designed for – providing forms for people to fill in. It has some nice features, which I must post my thoughts about sometime. And, for what is quite a complex task, it’s relatively simple to use (relative to development, I mean, not relative to using, say, MS Word).
What it’s not designed for is providing workflow forms for SharePoint, and that’s part of the reason this is such an arcane process.
Worse, one of InfoPath’s selling points is that ‘power users’ can create and use forms without needing developer input. However, creating SharePoint workflows through Visual Studio is clearly a developer activity – no non-techy is going to manage it. So what are we using InfoPath forms for, rather than ASPX forms which we can also write in Visual Studio?
Finally, InfoPath forms don’t work with WSS3. With the lack of documentation and tooling for using ASPX forms, this effectively cripples writing custom workflows for WSS3. The cynical amongst us might suggest that this is a way of trying to force companies to cough up for MOSS (which contains InfoPath form server), but to be honest, I think it’s just an oversight.
Curiously, InfoPath forms seem to work much better in K2′s BlackPoint than with SharePoint’s workflows. Building InfoPath form tasks in K2 was simple compared, and worked with little effort. Unfortunately, the simplicity comes with a price tag, and as SharePoint already ‘does workflow’, few companies are that keen to pay for it.
So please, please, for Office 14 make ASPX task pages the default workflow building scenario, and make InfoPath the ‘alternative’. That’s in addition to making InfoPath forms actually work properly in workflows… …and maybe take some lessons from K2.