InfoPath Runtime Plea

At work, when I evangelize the benefits of using InfoPath as a tool for structured data collection and distribution, I talk about how, IMHO, InfoPath will someday unlock all the black-box business intelligence stuffed into Excel, Word, PowerPoint et al. In addition, I mention that it’s primarily an end-user tool that doesn’t require developers to implement any of those simple form-based workflow processes that deluge most corporations with endless forest killing paper forms.

Invariably I get a response back asking if this can be done in the browser or if users need InfoPath installed on their desktop to enter data into forms. I regrettably say, “For now, the answer is yes, but I think that will change.”

Well, it has been roughly a year since I first started playing with and touting InfoPath’s virtues. Unfortunately however, it appears that a ubiquitous InfoPath runtime is still not available.

Apparently, I’m not alone with this gripe either.

Today Jon Udell quotes an anonymous InfoPath user regarding this missing element:

“I believe a primary requirement of a forms application is to make it possible for the form to be completed by a wide audience of people from whom I wish to gather data. A key driver, at least in the world of my customers, is to be able to distribute the form widely to people who aren’t necessarily connected to the network and get them to fill it in and return it. I don’t want to authenticate these people in my network. They won’t install software on their computers just to fill out my form. They don’t want to learn a new application.”

“There is no ability to save the form template as an ASP.NET web form.”

I think the last line is killer and doesn’t seem to be technically difficult.