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Creating Custom Edit Forms with InfoPath in SharePoint 2010

Author by John Adali

Users have the ability to display and edit properties (known as metadata) for items in SharePoint document libraries and lists. This is standard functionality that comes with SharePoint, and SharePoint provides a standard form when displaying/edit an item. SharePoint also provides the ability for power users or developers to customize these display/edit forms, using InfoPath. I am going to run through the steps to customize a SharePoint 2010 list, to create a custom display and edit form. I will be using InfoPath 2010 (along with Visual Studio 2010) to demonstrate how you can call a web service method from the custom InfoPath form.  

Customizing a SharePoint 2010 List

When you create a list in SharePoint 2010, a standard display/edit form is used, so the first step in customizing a list to use your InfoPath form is to navigate to the SharePoint list, and click on the List tab in the ribbon. This will display ribbon items for the list, and you can click on the Customize Form button, in the Customize List section (Figure 1).   Figure 1: Customize Form ribbon button for a SharePoint list Once you do this, SharePoint creates a custom template with InfoPath 2010, based on the current columns defined for your list. You can use SharePoint Designer 2010 to verify whether a SharePoint list is using a customized list, as seen in Figure 2 (Figure 3 shows a list that does NOT have a customized InfoPath form):   Figure 2: SharePoint list with a Customized InfoPath 2010 Form   Figure 3: SharePoint list without a Customized InfoPath 2010 Form When you click the Customize Form button in the ribbon, InfoPath 2010 Designer will open up with the customized form template created for you. At this point, you should make your modifications to the form (we will discuss this in more detail in the next section) and publish the form back to the SharePoint list. One thing to remember is that if you do not publish the form back to the list at this point (you will be prompted if you exit the form), SharePoint will not save the form template as a customized form, meaning your list will continue to use the default form. For my example list (named TestCustomEditForm), I just published the custom InfoPath 2010 form template back to the list without making any modifications. Once this was completed, clicking on an item in the library displayed my custom form, as seen in Figures 4 and 5. The next section will discuss how to design more advanced changes to the customized form template. Figure 4: Customized View Item Screen for a SharePoint list     Figure 5: Customized Edit Item Screen for a SharePoint list  

Designing a Custom Display/Edit Form with InfoPath 2010

Once you have created a custom form template using InfoPath 2010, there are a lot of options available to you to design the form to your specifications. I am going to show you three things you can do to customize your form template: Adding a custom field that is a lookup to another SharePoint list, creating different views for the Display, Edit and New forms, and calling a web service method to retrieve data in a column when the form loads.  

Adding Custom Fields

Adding a custom field is done in InfoPath 2010 Designer, and is very easy to do. Design your form template and in the lower right panel, there is an Actions section. You can click on the Add Field link, and a dialog to add your field information will be displayed (Figure 6). Figure 6: Adding a Custom Field   Enter your information about the field you are adding, and press OK to add the field. In my example, I am adding a Genre field, which is a lookup to a SharePoint list called Genre. Selecting a value of Lookup (Information in a SharePoint list) in the Data Type entry field will configure the field to be a lookup to a SharePoint list. I also selected Genre from the Get Information From field, which appears after you select the Lookup data type. After you have entered all the information for your field and clicked OK, the field will appear at the bottom of the Fields section. You can now drag and drop the custom field onto the form design surface, and InfoPath will create the appropriate control for you. In my example, since the Genre field is a lookup to a SharePoint list, InfoPath creates a dropdown control when I drag and drop the field to the design surface (see Figure 7).   Figure 7: Adding a Control for a Custom Field   You can now publish the modified form template to SharePoint, and you will see the Genre column added, as well as the field displayed when viewing/editing an item. Figures 8 and 9 show the list after these changes.   Figure 8: Update SharePoint list with a Custom Column   Figure 9: View Item with a Custom Column  

Customizing Different Views

If you need to customize the different views (View/Edit/New Item) for a SharePoint list, you can accomplish that by creating different views in the form template in InfoPath. For my example, I created three (3) views in InfoPath: Display Item, Edit Item and New Item. The only difference between these views is the label for the Title field (of course, in a real-world scenario, your changes would be more extensive). After these views are created, publish the form back to SharePoint, and in order to “wire up” the different views to the custom pages being used, you need to modify the web part in the different custom forms created (when you originally clicked Customize Form for the list). This is done by clicking on the Modify Form Web Parts (under the Customize List section in the ribbon) to display the different custom forms created (See Figure 10). Figure 10: Modifying Form Web Parts   The web part properties for each Item form (not the Default forms) needs to be modified to display the proper view. For example, Figure 11 shows the custom form for New Items. Under the Edit tab in the ribbon, select the current view to display that view in the page.   Figure 11: Selecting the View for the Web Part   You also need to modify the web part properties for the web part on the page, as seen in Figure 12. Click on the Options tab in the ribbon (under Web Part Tools), and select the appropriate view you created (from InfoPath), under the Views dropdown. Apply the change and Stop Editing to finish with your changes.     Figure 12: Modifying Web Part Properties for the Web Part Once you make these changes for each of the views, you can see the changes when you display, edit or create a new item, as shown in Figures 13 and 14. Notice that SharePoint automatically makes the controls read only (or editable), depending on which view is being displayed. Figure 13: Customized View Item Form   Figure 14: Customized Edit Item Form  

Calling a Web Service Method from a Custom Form

Another powerful customization is the ability to call a custom web service method (to retrieve data for a field, for example). Before you can allow your custom InfoPath form to call a web service method, you need to verify the Cross-Domain Access for User Form Templates option is selected (Figure 15). This setting is found in Central Administration, under the Configure InfoPath Forms Services area (look in the General Application Settings section).   Figure 15: Customized Edit Item Form   In order to call a web service method, a data connection must first be configured in the InfoPath form template. Make sure you select a connection to receive data, and select SOAP Web service in the Data Connection Wizard (Figures 16, 17).   Figure 16: Receive Data Connection in Data Connection Wizard   Figure 17: Data Source selection in Data Connection Wizard To complete the data connection for your web service, enter the URL to the web service and select the web service method you are using. For my example, I’m using a method titled HelloWorld, which takes no input parameters and returns a simple string value. Once you’ve created this connection, you need to convert it to use a data connection file (UDCX file). This is needed for security purposes, so that the user is not prompted for credentials. Click on the Convert to Connection File button in the Data Connections window (Figure 18) for your newly-created web service connection. A dialog will appear, prompting for a URL to the data connection file (Figure 19). Enter the path and file name to a data connection file that will be created when you click the OK button. For my example, I created a Data Connection library earlier named DataConnections, and used the URL to that library when creating the UDCX file.     Figure 18: Converting a Data Connection to use a Connection File   Figure 19: Convert Data Connection Dialog   At this point, your web service method is configured for use in the template, so the final step is to wire up the method to a field on the form. For my example, I created another string field (named HelloWorld) and added a text box on the design surface. I then set the default value of the text box to be the string returned from the HelloWorld web service method. This was done by entering the Formula Editor and clicking the Insert Field or Group button to allow selection of the return value from my web service method. Please make sure you select your web service method in the Fields dropdown (it will be marked as a Secondary Data Source), and that you select the appropriate field from the dataFields node in the schema (for my example, the string being returned is title HelloWorldResult, under the HelloWorldResponse node). Figure 20: Selecting Output from Web Service Method Click OK to save the changes, save and republish the form template, and when you display/edit an item in the list, your web service method will be called and displayed on the dialog (Figure 21). Figure 21: Displaying Customized Form with a Web Service call  

Moving a Customized Display/Edit Form to Another Environment

So far, we’ve discussed how to create a customized display/edit form, and I’ve shown you some powerful customizations you can make to your form. You may be wondering how to deploy this custom form from a development environment to a different environment (staging and/or production). I have found that the process is a bit different than you would expect. Normally, when InfoPath form templates are created in a development environment, it’s a simple matter to “repoint” the publishing URL to your target environment and republish the template. Unfortunately, since this form template is going against a SharePoint list, we do not have access to repoint the publishing URL to a list in the target environment. Due to this limitation, the only way to get your custom form to a different environment is to save your customized list (which will include the form template and any content you might want to include) to a list template. You can then install this list template on your target environment, and create a list in that environment, based on the list template. The only other changes you would need to make is to repoint your web service method call (if you’re using one) to the web service in your target environment. You would do this by editing and republishing the InfoPath form template in your target environment.  


Customizing the display/edit forms for SharePoint 2010 lists and document libraries is simple and provides a new level of customizing your SharePoint environment. Adding a bit of custom code can take this customization even further, if you need additional functionality not available with just SharePoint lists. I hope this article has helped you understand how to customize the display/edit forms using InfoPath 2010, and if you have any additions, I would love to hear about them.  


John Adali

Senior Software Developer - Modern Applications