Looking to match the rapidly evolving demand for modern business processes, Microsoft has made the decision to leave InfoPath and SharePoint Designer behind. While phasing out the two software was a controversial decision due to the platforms’ over a decade long run, the launch of replacement software such as PowerApps and Microsoft Flow help in understanding why it was time for InfoPath and Microsoft Designer to go.
SharePoint Designer vs Microsoft Flow
First launched in 2007, SharePoint Designer catered to a more well-versed user by facilitating the building of unique and elaborate workflows in one platform. Designed to aid in the ultimate customisation of workflows with multiple steps and complex features, SharePoint designer could be used to mould features and parallel approvals into one workflow. Now replacing SharePoint Designer, Microsoft Flow was first released in 2016, with the latest upgrades coming to users in 2019. Built on the same premise of creating custom workflows Microsoft Flow takes the service to the next level by facilitating cloud-based services and enhanced automation of “flows”. While the two software might sound similar, there a many key differences that make it easier to understand why SharePoint Designer was binned and is now replaced with Microsoft Flow. Here’s our brief take on some of the differences between the two.
- Unlike SharePoint Designer, Microsoft Flow is a cloud-based service which means that users can access the platform across devices and on the go. While not a priority for every business, the increased demand for mobile functionality makes Microsoft Flow a better option for future use.
- Like most of Microsoft’s newer launches, Microsoft Flow is integration and API (application program interface) friendly, which means that it is easier for users to connect different platforms and services for a more functional and seamless workplace.
- Microsoft Flow has put a focus on team collaboration by introducing “team flows”, which aid in the quick and easy sharing and working together.
- Microsoft Flow does not require complex code from users to create and implement workflows, which makes the platform more user friendly, regardless of previous experience.
InfoPath vs PowerApps
Launched in 2003, InfoPath was a software application that facilitated the creation and distribution of electronic forms. While becoming a firm favourite among developers due to its creative features that allowed users to use complex code for custom creation, the software is now being replaced with PowerApps. Launched in 2015, PowerApps is a software for building custom business apps, with a focus on providing a straightforward platform where users do not have to be tech-savvy developers to create functional and useful apps. Here is a quick and easy summary of the main differences between the two software.
- PowerApps is available and accessible across devices, supporting iOS, Android and browsers. InfoPath is limited to on-premises, preventing users to efficiently create, access and share work on the go.
- While PowerApps has made custom app creation available to common users, InfoPath requires advance knowledge on codes and skills in development to build and utilise complex forms.
- PowerApps integrates with both SharePoint Online and SharePoint servers, making data storage possible on the cloud and on-premises. As a standalone product, PowerApps does not require SharePoint to connect with data but can also be integrated with several other data sources and web services such as on-premises SQL.
With both InfoPath and Microsoft Designer it is easy to see the lack of common user accessibility and limitations with mobile and cloud use as the main hurdles that eventually led to the software’s replacement. While Microsoft Flow and PowerApps expand on the binned software by adding to them in new and improved features, there are several options for users to utilise in search of replacement. For a more focused take on creating and sharing forms similar to InfoPath, Microsoft Forms facilitates a wide range of features such as surveys, polls, quizzes and with Forms Pro integration with Dynamics 365 and application of company branding. While many have speculated that Microsoft Forms is also set to replace InfoPath along with PowerApps, Microsoft has declined the claim by explaining Forms to be a simpler version that is simply there to assist in creating and collecting business surveys, quizzes and polls. This does not mean however that users should rule Microsoft Forms out if looking for some of the similar features previously seen in InfoPath.
SharePoint Designer and InfoPath will continue to be supported by SharePoint until 2021, with extended support ceasing in 2026. If you are still using InfoPath or Microsoft Designer, make sure to get a head start with Microsoft Flow and PowerApps at: https://flow.microsoft.com/ and https://powerapps.microsoft.com/.
Additionally, if you would like to read more about Microsoft Forms, here is a link to get you informed: https://forms.office.com/