The other day, a client asked me a pretty classic set of questions about customizing SharePoint Online list forms. As with some other arenas of endeavor in Office 365, there is more than one way of doing things and it can be confusing.
I am looking at options to customize List forms on sites in SPO and I am trying not to have to deal with code.
My first choice has been InfoPath Designer but I know this is being deprecated and it seems like some of my sites are not allowing the use of InfoPath to customize my forms. [This was an internal issue, not an InfoPath issue.]
Do you have any other tools you recommend for customizing List Forms?
Here’s an expanded version of the answer I gave my client, which incorporates some additional ideas and feedback I gleaned from Dan Holme (@DanHolme) and Chris McNulty (@cmcnulty2000) at Microsoft. (It’s nice being in Redmond for MVP Summit this week, where I can easily catch these guys in the hallway!)
The answer is the classic “it depends”. The main thing it depends on is what type of customization you actually want to do. There are a number of approaches and each has its pros and cons.
This is still possible, but I would discourage it in many cases, even though this has been my bread and butter approach for years. The out-of-the-box forms are changing, and “script injection” to do DOM manipulation is less safe. Remember you’re working on a service now, and it can change anytime.
Yes, it’s deprecated or retired or whatever, but Microsoft will support InfoPath through 2026 at this point. InfoPath is often overkill – you can do a lot with list settings – but at the same time, it can still be useful. Keep in mind that using InfoPath means you’ll need to stick with the classic view for the list or library.
PowerApps + Flow
These new kids on the block are the successors to InfoPath, as announced at Microsoft Ignite. They can do a lot, but they may or may not meet your needs at this point. They did reach GA recently.
PowerApps would be how you would build the forms themselves and with Flow you can add automation – what we’ve called workflow in the past.
PowerApps embedding is “coming soon”. This will allow us to embed PowerApps into the list form context, as shown in the screenshot below. This will be a GREAT thing for a lot of list scenarios. At that point, I think the need for InfoPath will be greatly diminished.
SharePoint Framework (SPFx)
The SharePoint Framework is the next gen development model for things like custom Web Parts, which will run client side. We can build pretty much anything you want with this, but it’s still in preview. At some point in the not-too-distant future, I think we’ll be building a lot of custom forms using SPFx.
Fully custom forms
To create fully custom forms today, you might use development frameworks like AngularJS or KnockoutJS (to name only a few). This can be the right answer, with the goal being to build in a way that can eventually merge into SPFx and the new “modern” pages. Knowing a bit about SPFx is a *very* good idea if you are going to go this route today. You’ll want to build your custom forms in such a way that you aren’t locking yourself out of wrapping them up into the SPFX for improved packaging and deployment down the road.
Third party tools
Because of how I roll, I haven’t used any of the third party tools out there, but there are many. The ones I hear come up most often are Nintex Forms, K2 Appit, and Stratus Forms. Obviously, there’s a economic investment with these choices, as well as a learning curve, so it’s always “your mileage may vary”.
The landscape here continues to change, so keep your eyes and ears open for more news from Microsoft and bloggers like me in the future!