Meet external data connections

Vladi Gubler
Vladi Gubler
July 09, 2020 | Products

Hi,

If you've used our Modern forms before, you know how powerful, yet easy-to-use they are. The sophisticated, responsive forms allow precise control over layout and look & feel, as well as advanced permissions and rules. Basically, you are able to implement a great deal of your business directly in the form, without much need for any backend workflows.

Until now, the forms have been closely tied to the underlying SharePoint infrastructure. You could only create a form based on a SharePoint list or document library and the data could only go into that list/library. That is, until we figured you might want to leverage the forms to interact with data in other applications as well, making them the most versatile tool in your organization.

This is way we added External data connections to Ultimate Forms. Using these connections, you can set up a form that submits data into a variety of other, non-SharePoint applications, as well as host those forms inside and outside of SharePoint. And, because we preserve the same familiar user interface, it's going to be easy and intuitive for both form developers and users.

As our first step, we've developed the ability to configure data connections and forms that submit new items. The ability to view and edit existing items is coming.

Connection types

External data connections support a wide variety of data sources and protocols:

  • Databases: Microsoft SQL, Oracle and MySql
  • Web services: SOAP and REST
  • Documents: you can generate or update Word and Excel documents, as well as comma and tab delimited file, and upload them to SharePoint or to FTP
  • Email - you can send form data as an email (Exchange Online, Exchange on-premises and SMTP protocols are supported)

Security

The forms themselves have no knowledge of how to connect to your database or email server, that information is safely stored on our servers. The form submits to our servers only, which will then verify that the submission is coming from a human (no bots allowed!) and from a authorized URL.

Connection settings

The actual connection settings depend on the connection type you decided to use. For instance, when using SQL server, you specify the .NET connection string (if you're not sure, refer to this site: https://www.connectionstrings.com/sqlconnection/). Once entered, click on Connect and select one of the DB tables. The table columns are then shown and you can perform additional configurations on them, such as defining the column format (for example, you might want to display a text column as a choice of values instead of free form entry).

Once you're done, save your settings, then click on Design form to be taken into Form Designer to visually design your form.

Form design

We are using the same Form Designer you are already familiar with, with some minor changes. For example, you cannot select the content type for the form (because, well, there are no content type outside of SharePoint). But in general, the experience will be almost exactly the same.

Publish your form

The form can be hosted in one of 3 ways (or all of them together):

  1. In a web part on a web part page in SharePoint
  2. Embedded on your own page (say your external web site)
  3. Hosted on our page
  4. NEW! On Microsoft Teams tabs

If you chose option 1 or 2, make sure to include the page URLs within Allowed internal page addresses under Access control of the connection. It ensures that the form author maintains complete control over where her form is going to be used. 

For option #3, you need to allow access for anonymous external users, also under Access control. Once the connection is saved and assigned a unique ID, you will be able to copy the form URL there as well.

Form web part

You can place the form on any web part page by including Infowise Form web part. In the web part settings, specify the connection ID that you copied from the settings page. Again, don't forget to include the page URL under Allowed internal page addresses, otherwise it won't load.

External data connection allow you to provide modern and easy-to-use form interface for a variety of data stores, programming interfaces and applications that do not currently have such an interface, thereby leveraging your existing toolset and improving user experience.

We will be happy to receive your feedback on this brand new feature!

 

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Facing difficulties installing the application? Contact our fantastic support team.

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