Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A few annoyances with InfoPath

InfoPath is a good application for controlled viewing and form entry of data into XML documents and web services, but there are a few things that could have been much better or logical.

What has annoyed me most this week in InfoPath are the handling of optional and non-required date and numerical elements in XSD (e.g. xs:date and xs:decimal), and the handling of default values based on formulas.

First the optional (minOccurs="0") and non-required (nillable="true") "object" types in XSD: they will still be mandatory in InfoPath when using the WSCF (web services contract first) approach. What you gain is the option to leave these elements out of the InfoPath form's scope. If you include these fields in the scope, you must yourself handle the fields in an OnSubmit event handler, setting a dummy date into the fields. Likewise, you must clear the dummy dates when loading existing data into InfoPath.

Then the default value mechanism of InfoPath: we have some fields that are calculated based on other fields, but the user can override the calculated value by typing a number of their own choice into the field. This seems to function OK with InfoPath, and when you submit the form to the web service, the user's number is there alright. However, when the form loads the stored data later on, InfoPath actually reapplies the default value formula, even when the field already has content. Not exactly the way I expected it to work. The solution is to use InfoPath rules. But even rules has a small quirck; they only trigger on changing the content of a field, thus it is hard to apply "default value when user leaves field empty" logic in InfoPath.