Finding an InfoPath replacement

With the announcement from Microsoft that InfoPath 2013 will be the final version, IT architects, managers and developers are on the hunt for an InfoPath replacement. While there are those who are sorry to see InfoPath go, many (including Microsoft themselves) feel it is outdated.

A brief history

InfoPath, a form building software, was launched back in 2003. Originally designed in conjunction with SharePoint, it helped users build and design rich forms for their local intranets. InfoPath supported basic calculations, helped capture data from external sources, and allowed custom coding within the forms.

However, developer and user habits have evolved, demanding increasingly intelligent and integrated forms. They require displays across a wide range of devices, and output to a host of different document formats. Microsoft listened to its market and decided it was time for a significant change.

 

What are the alternatives?

This depends on whether you’re using forms for data collection or for producing and outputting complex documents like contracts, loan documents or reports, or RFPs using multiple data sources (one of which may be a manually filled-in form)?

When you start using form building software to help generate complex documents at high volumes, as many started doing with InfoPath, the complexity demands a more elegant solution. ActiveDocs Opus incorporates intelligent form building for data collection, but ActiveDocs software is specifically designed to automate the production and output of complex documents.

Here are the key advantages of the new (ActiveDocs Opus) over the old (InfoPath):

 

Feature Comparison – InfoPath v ActiveDocs Opus

 

1: Ease of input

InfoPath required users to edit fields as they would appear on the end document, which was effectively a reproduction of paper forms. However this method of data input became outdated, as electronic forms started to become the norm. ActiveDocs takes an approach inspired by UX, where the user fills the form in an organic, logical flow, facilitated by tabbing quickly through fields, with inputs filtered and then output to a highly-customisable end document of any size, shape, or complexity

 

2: Ease of document output and data connectivity

Creating reports and documents with InfoPath used to be restricted to PDFs, with limited text formatting Word capability, and needed code developers to enable connection to most data sources via a Visual Studio install if the forms were to be prepopulated with data. ActiveDocs Opus removes the need for any additional installs can produce output in with outputs going direct to a host of formats: DOCX, WordML, DOC, ODT, PDF, XPS, RTF, HTML, TIFF, XML, and TXT. ActiveDocs also tackles high volume output, benchmarked at over 150,000 documents per hour – excellent as an enterprise solution, or for smaller organisations tasked with a lot of paperwork.

 

3: Ease of integration

Just like InfoPath, ActiveDocs Opus has been built on the Microsoft stack, and is easily managed and deployed by the same people who used InfoPath. It can integrate easily with your existing enterprise applications, and can be configured and deployed to work with across modern platforms like SharePoint Online, Office 365, Dynamics CRM and Salesforce Windows 10, and the Windows Phone. Additionally, any custom integration in ActiveDocs Opus is handled through an open REST API, to enable best practice and the use of established standards. The design of forms in ActiveDocs is based in Word, making it easy to convert existing DOC files into automated templates. As the format is unchanged when forms are imported into ActiveDocs, automation is done with 100% fidelity and with no extra rework.

 

4: Content sharing between templates

In InfoPath, it wasn’t possible to share content across multiple forms/templates. Since documents often have large portions that are identical or similar, ActiveDocs Opus enables content to be shared by multiple templates. At the same time the shared content can be context-sensitive to account for any variations. This means a reduction of the number of forms that need to be managed, with ActiveDocs’ typical form/template reduction ratio sitting at 10:1, and sometimes even 30:1.

 

5: One data source, multiple documents

The Template Set functionality enables creation of multiple documents from a single data collection questionnaire/form. It also makes it possible to include or exclude forms based on business rules.

 

6: Increased accessibility for end users

Using browser-based forms was difficult with InfoPath, especially with mobile devices. ActiveDocs Opus is a fully server-based solution, so end users can access the forms in any web browser on any platform.

 

7: Sourcing of data made easy

In some instances, InfoPath populated its data from a variety of sources, which left a developer tasked with connecting each form individually. Similarly, other situations called for forms to be invoked by applications that pre-populated the data, with the same developer required to wrangle the object model. ActiveDocs Opus makes connecting to data sources easy through its Data View functionality which abstracts the forms from the data sources. Integration in ActiveDocs Opus is handled through an open REST API instead, to enable best practice.

 

8: In-built control templates and delivery options

With InfoPath, template libraries began to swell with each project, and with that exponential growth, library audits became difficult. ActiveDocs Opus has a repository to store and audit each template, with inbuilt version control and change tracking. Delivery of documents can also be directed to repositories, with additional queues available in print and email.

 

The way forward

A lot has changed in software since the inception of InfoPath in 2003. InfoPath did its job. It pushed us away from paper forms and towards a brighter electronic future. Now it’s time to move on from the electronic forms that try to mimic their paper-based predecessors. With robust solutions like ActiveDocs Opus, which are specifically designed to assemble and output complex documents, data collection becomes a seamless part of the overall business process.

 

ActiveDocs Opus - at a glance

  • Handles form inputs and data from multiple sources
  • Manages high-volume document throughput
  • Makes it possible to reduce the number of forms through application of context-sensitive reusable content
  • Designed with complex document output in mind
  • Optimised for user input and is platform agnostic
  • Highly customisable with versioning and change control
 

Request more information about replacing InfoPath with an ActiveDocs Opus solution by clicking on the button below.

 

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