AppForms

What does ClaySys AppForms bring to SharePoint??

Shaji | Last Updated on : June 4, 2019

ClaySys AppForms is a no-code forms builder which installs in SharePoint on premise as a site collection feature. When you come to the online version of SharePoint, ClaySys AppForms comes in the form of an App. ClaySys AppForms runs inside SharePoint without disturbing any of its features. ClaySys AppForms can be called as an extension of SharePoint rather than embedded feature.

Most of the SharePoint developers coming from the InfoPath world, relate ClaySys AppForms as forms over list/libraries. But ClaySys AppForms can be called as forms over data. This means you can have more than one form working with more than one form of data. One form can connect to multiple data sources like SharePoint list/libraries, MS SQL Server, SQL Azure, Azure data sources (like Azure Table, Document DB, Blob, etc.), web services, restful services, web requests, etc.. The number of data sources supported in ClaySys AppForms will keep increasing so that the developer will not have t to think outside ClaySys AppForms to design a form.

We will be discussing on the following features in ClaySys AppForms:

  • ClaySys AppForms Components
  • ClaySys AppForms SharePoint Versions
  • Advantages of using ClaySys AppForms
  • Functionalities that can be built using ClaySys AppForms
  • Best Candidates to use ClaySys AppForms
  • SharePoint Users Question – After InfoPath?

ClaySys AppForms Components

The basic components in ClaySys AppForms that help you in building Applications are:

  • The ClaySys AppForms Form
  • Form Controls
  • DataSources
    • Form DataSources
    • Collection Control DataSources
  • Rules Integration
  • Security Integration

The ClaySys AppForms Form is where you start designing your form. The form has its own properties that can be customized based on the user requirements. These attributes can be set during the designing time or it can also be set at runtime using the rules engine. The form has its own events like form load, form unload, form navigate away, etc. that can be used by the designer in the rules engine.

ClaySys AppForms has all the controls that the developer needs to build any enterprise scale applications. The controls can be grouped based on the functionalities and some of the groups in ClaySys AppForms are:

  1. Data entry controls
  2. Collection controls
  • Grouping controls
  1. Grid controls
  2. SharePoint specific controls

ClaySys AppForms SharePoint Versions

Once you have learned about these features, you can build a complete application using ClaySys AppForms. The functionalities of ClaySys AppForms is uniform across all the versions. The different versions of ClaySys AppForms in SharePoint are:

  • ClaySys AppForms Enterprise for SharePoint Online (O365, app model)
  • ClaySys AppForms Standard for SharePoint Online (O365, app model)
  • ClaySys AppForms for SharePoint 2013
  • ClaySys AppForms for SharePoint 2013 (app model)
  • ClaySys AppForms for SharePoint 2010

Advantages of using ClaySys AppForms

In ClaySys AppForms world, each control is not directly bound to the data source column. This is where this forms designer is different from any other product in the market. The column binding to the control in the form is done only in the data source. The advantages of this are:

  1. You can save the control value to as many data sources as you like.
  2. It is easy to work with different data sources from the same form.
  • Easy to manage the security at the data source level.
  1. You can have multiple forms working with the same data source.
  2. It brings complete flexibility and comes closer to the programming paradigm.

Functionalities that can be built using ClaySys AppForms

I will expand on each item that’s mentioned in the points mentioned above using the example below. This is one of the typical

  1. Consider you have a legacy MS SQL database where you have your customer details.
  2. Now you need to capture the orders placed by the customer and save the order details to SharePoint List. The next part would be to save the order details to two different lists. The first one to save the order details and the second one to save multiple line items in that order.
  3. You need to relate these two SharePoint lists by saving the order id to the order details list.
  4. You will be able to create one form that talks to all the datasources explained in the points above. The rules can be configured so that you have all the business rules embedded to the form.
  5. Once the rules and datasources are implemented, we can set the security for the form which is optional.
  6. Finally we need to publish the form so that it can be used by the end users.
  7. The published form can be displayed in a webpart of a SharePoint page so that the end users can start using the form.

Best Candidates to use ClaySys AppForms

Microsoft InfoPath forms migration

If your company has invested heavily in InfoPath or you are looking for the best InfoPath alternative, then ClaySys AppForms is the way to go. When you compare the functionalities in InfoPath, you will get much more features that you have in InfoPath. The wish list features like the ones below, that was expected in new version of InfoPath are already part of ClaySys InfoPath.

  • Check in/Check out
  • Versioning and an overall better deployment process
  • Complex nested rules with robust Expression Builder support
  • Master/Detail (repeating items) record creation, save and look-up without code
  • Create, Update and Delete to an arbitrary number of external sources without code
  • Tabs and Wizard capabilities as well as embedded forms
  • Can invoke the opening of multiple forms and external events (workflows)
  • Error Handling/Debugging of rules logic
  • JavaScript invocation
  • Works on any SharePoint version on-premises and on-line and form applications can be moved without modification
  • Centralized form management and administration
ClaySys AppForms does not limit you to these features and you have much more advanced features which will make sure that you are not stuck at any point of migration cycle.
Most of the products out there will promise you all the features until you discover the limitations during your migration process. But ClaySys AppForms has a proven history of InfoPath migrations where you are never stuck because of features. With all the new features available, you can do much more than the existing features in your form.

Microsoft Access forms migration

 Most large organizations today are in a situation where business users and departments have leveraged Microsoft Access to meet specific solution requirements. As these Access solutions grow beyond their initial scope, Enterprise IT is then faced with the challenge of taking control of many of these Access applications, and migrating them to a more stable, secure and robust environment like SQL Server. But this entails a number of issues and challenges related to migration effort and cost, the lead time to support such a migration, the continuing need for the business to retain control and rapidly modify the app etc.
 Since ClaySys is a no-code metadata driven rapid application development tool, it requires a skillset equal to or simpler to working with MS Access, for creating the migrated version of the Access application. ClaySys AppForms is a viable option to help organizations migrate any number of Access apps to a SQL Server environment very easily and feasibly. Since the application functionality and User Experience over the database can be created through just configuration versus writing code, it is very feasible to rapidly re-create the application front end and business logic, to work with the same Access Database schema and existing Access data, which was migrated to SQL Server.
The User Group that created the Access database can still retain control over maintaining the functionality, and to incorporate ongoing changes, while IT can manage the centralized maintenance of the application platform by managing the SQL Server environment for data backups, restores, high availability and security, while managing and monitoring the ClaySys application servers hosting the multi-tenant ClaySys AppForms Web Applications on Windows IIS Servers.

Microsoft Excel migration

From an Excel Migration standpoint, the typical model is to migrate the spreadsheet to SQL Server Tables, and then build or recreate the front end forms experience using ClaySys AppForms. Once the SQL Table structure is defined, you can import the data directly to SQL server from your Excel spreadsheet. This approach prevents data migration issues, and ensures that historic data is available even after completing the migration from Excel to SQL, given that the schema has been defined in MS SQL.

Legacy Application migration

Enterprise AppForms version that runs on just Windows Server with SQL Server as its back end. This version basically allows you to build Web Applications that can talk to diverse back end datasources, including SharePoint. So if you want to build a Forms solution or a Web Application independent of SharePoint, you could install Enterprise AppForms, and configure the Forms experience you want, and have the forms connect to SQL Server, Web Services, Rest Services, SharePoint, SQL Azure, Table Azure etc, to read/write data.
All the versions of ClaySys AppForms supports connecting to the datasources mentioned in the list above. This means you can choose your new platform as any SharePoint version or it can also be hosted in the enterprise version of ClaySys AppForms.

Forms over SharePoint List

ClaySys AppForms installed in any SharePoint version will give you the option to create a list form with just one click. The List form creation option is just another ribbon button in the SharePoint List/library. Click on this button will generate the form along with the rules and datasource connections required.

Forms over any existing relational Database

The Enterprise AppForms version that runs on just Windows Server with SQL Server as its back end. This version basically allows you to build Web Applications that can talk to diverse back end datasources, including SharePoint. So if you want to build a Forms solution or a Web Application independent of SharePoint, you could install Enterprise AppForms, and configure the Forms experience you want, and have the forms connect to SQL Server, Web Services, Rest Services, SharePoint, SQL Azure, Table Azure etc, to read/write data.

SharePoint Online (O365) forms

ClaySys AppForms allows you to create forms in the SharePoint Online. You can publish the forms to end users in the form of a webpart or a list form.
ClaySys AppForms is available in the SharePoint online store in two different versions. You can choose the required version and install it in your site. Once ClaySys AppForms is installed, you can create the online forms which can connect to your SharePoint list/library or any datasource that’s accessible online.  Most of the clients go with the Azure cloud datsources to store their data.

SharePoint Users Question – After InfoPath?

The companies who have invested heavily in Microsoft InfoPath has one question in their mind. There is no clear answer from Microsoft about the replacement product. The InfoPath users had many features in their wish list like the following ones. But the news from Microsoft was that there is no new version of InfoPath to be released. This means that the following wish list remains a dream for InfoPath users.

  • Check in/Check out
  • Versioning and an overall better deployment process
  • Complex nested rules with robust Expression Builder support
  • Master/Detail (repeating items) record creation, save and look-up without code
  • Create, Update and Delete to an arbitrary number of external sources without code
  • Tabs and Wizard capabilities as well as embedded forms
  • Can invoke the opening of multiple forms and external events (workflows)
  • Error Handling/Debugging of rules logic
  • JavaScript invocation
  • Works on any SharePoint version on-premises and on-line and form applications can be moved without modification
  • Centralized form management and administration

ClaySys AppForms the heir apparent

This means that ClaySys AppForms not only includes the features of InfoPath but much more than the wish list. The features in ClaySys AppForms are much more than a normal InfoPath user’s expectation. Most of the products out in the market today focus themselves as an InfoPath replacement product. But ClaySys AppForms is much more than a replacement for InfoPath.

ClaySys AppForms started as a version of Application builder that runs on a windows server with IIS and MS SQL server as its backend. This platform was used to migrate legacy applications from the traditional and obsolete platform to the latest versions of the database and windows servers. Once the platform proved its worth in the legacy application migration world, all these features was included as a Site Collection feature in SharePoint. This helped the SharePoint power users to build applications that does not require new deployments each time they wanted a new form. Creating a form now was part of the sharepoint configuration to them.

Today ClaySys AppForms exists as a standalone platform running on a windows server with IIS and MS SQl as the back end in the form of ClaySys AppForms Enterprise version. ClaySys AppForms for SharePoint can be installed on SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013. Now ClaySys AppForms is also available in SharePoint Online (O365) in two flavours (Standard and Enterprise). New version of ClaySys AppForms is waiting for the release of SharePoint 2016.

The best way to evaluate the product is to recreate some of the most complex functionality in any of your existing form. So go ahead and download your evaluation copy of ClaySys AppForms today.

Shaji
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2019-06-04 11:23:19