Tags: , , , , | Posted by Antonios Daskos on 3/21/2011 2:23 PM | Comments (0)

Introduction to using BPC PowerForms

Part I: Installation and first looks

In this series of walkthroughs, I’ll demonstrate the simplicity of using BPC PowerForms to access SharePoint 2007/2010 lists, from the beginner’s point of view. In the next posts, more complex scenarios will unfold and many of the available features will come into play. I’ll demonstrate how one can use PowerForms to elevate SharePoint's already rich feature set, by using a simple, yet powerful set of options.

If you’re interested in other articles of this series, please refer to the following links
(links will be updated as articles get published)

  • Part I: Installation and first look

Installation and activation

Installing PowerForms is as simple and straightforward as one can expect. Make sure you select the correct SharePoint version (both 2007 and 2010 are supported) and provide a valid site collection url and everything should run smoothly from that point on. There's an installation guide available at BPC's site in Products & Solutions > For SharePoint > BPC PowerForms > Additional Downloads section (direct link to pdf).

When the installer finishes you should notice the newly added options on SharePoint's toolbars, under List Settings . There is a new group called BPC PowerForms containing two buttons: NewForm Options and EditForm Options

PowerForm buttons in SharePoint 2007 PowerForm buttons in SharePoint 2010

In the most simple scenario, each button will present one option, to un-/register the PowerForms components for new items or editing respectively. There's no similar option for when viewing an item. SharePoint will always handling the viewing. The two buttons give you the flexibility to enable PowerForms only for one of the two cases (new or edit), although most often you'd use it for both.

For now ignore the lengthy labels and simply register PowerForm for editing and adding items and let's see what we got. We'll take our sample list called "Largest Cities in Greece", which we have filled with data from the respective Wikipedia article. Trying to edit an existing item will immediately provide us with an ad-hoc PowerForms form, created using the default settings.

Unless you start customizing the form, this will happen each time the form is launched. That means, our list setting will be retrieved from SharePoint and a default form will be displayed. If you edit the list (e.g. add a new column) the changes will be reflected without any action on your part.

On the other hand, if you launch the PowerForms Designer and save the current settings, those will stored and used from that point on. Any changes to the list will need to be handled by accommodated using the Designer. More about the Designer we'll see in future posts.

For now let's take a look at the UI of PowerForms.

Comparing it with SharePoint's own (displayed below) there are very few changes, so one can start using PowerForms out of the box, without any learning curve. The "power" of PowerForms though, will not be unleashed, before you start exploiting its capabilities and all the features it introduces. 

PowerForms are using Silverlight, so the pop-up window has its own Close and Maximize/Restore buttons. Maximizing to fill the entire working space will often be useful, especially if your list gets crammed with components. The default size is defined by Silverlight, but if you want you can change it, by editing the web part and specifying a fixed width or height.

To achieve that you can use the SharePoint Designer (2007 or 2010) or find the url of the edit form (ends in .aspx), append "ToolPaneView=2" to its query string parameters and modify its settings directly. There is a lot of information about either technique online. The result will be the same: your PowerForms will pop up with the newly defined dimensions.

In the upper part of the form, there's a toolbar displayed which consists of the following buttons.

PowerForms toolbar

  • New Record: If pressed while editing an existing item, it will clear the form and allow you to create a new record.
    It's the same as selecting Add New Item while viewing the list. Note, that this will allow you to use the exiting form for adding items, even though you might have not registered PowerForms for New Items. Also, note that any changes to the existing item will not be saved.
    Tip: You can use this button to add multiple items, by using Save and New Record, rather than closing the form and re-opening it.
  • Save Record: Saves the currently displayed item without closing the form.
  • Save and Exit: Saves the currently displayed item and returns to the list.
  • Delete Record: Deletes the currently displayed item.
    If you were in the process of adding a new record but haven't saved it yet, then trying to delete it will provide you with an error message: No valid record to delete.
  • Cancel: Closes the form without committing any of the changes you might have done.
    Note that changes regarding the form's settings (see Design Form, Customizations or Run-Time Designer) have already been committed and are not affected by choosing Cancel. The same effect can be achieved by pressing the X on the top-right corner.
  • Design Form: Pops up a form to view or change all the settings regarding the specific form
  • Customizations: Allows for customized versions of the form, based on specific conditions (e.g. a certain field's value)
  • Run-Time Designer: Provides tools for customizing the layout of the form.

For all of the above buttons, the user must have the relevant permissions. But even then you can choose to hide them using the Designer. For example, you could hide the New Record button if you don't want to allow users to add records through this form.

In Part II of this series we'll see how we can change the appearance of the form and in the articles to follow we'll dive into more details regarding customizations and specific features of PowerForms.

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