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Receiving Data from SharePoint Lists and Business Connectivity Services

In this chapter from Using Microsoft InfoPath 2010 with Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Step by Step, you will learn about using data connections for retrieving data from SharePoint lists. You will use standard SharePoint lists, and you will also work with the new External Item Picker control in your forms.

Chapter at a Glance

In this chapter, you will learn how to:

  • Work with Microsoft SharePoint 2010 lists as data sources for your forms

  • Benefit from maintaining data connections in a centralized Data Connection Library in SharePoint

  • Configure and use the External Item Picker control and Business Connectivity Services to add information from external systems to your forms

Receive Data Connections

In Chapter 6, “Publishing and Submitting Form Data,” you learned about data connections for submitting Microsoft InfoPath forms to SharePoint. In this chapter, you will learn about using data connections for retrieving data from SharePoint lists. You will use standard SharePoint lists, and you will also work with the new External Item Picker control in your forms. The External Item Picker is used to select items from SharePoint’s Business Connectivity Services (BCS). BCS is used to connect a SharePoint list to an external data source such as a customer or product database.

In this chapter, we will focus primarily on SharePoint list data connections. Chapter 9, “Working with the SharePoint User Profile Web Service,” shows you how to use web service data connections to query data from SharePoint. InfoPath offers more data source options, such as XML files and databases, but those are beyond the scope of this book, because we want to focus primarily on the core SharePoint scenarios.

The deep integration between InfoPath and SharePoint gives InfoPath the ability to use SharePoint 2010 lists as secondary data connections to easily retrieve data into form controls. For many forms, an obvious benefit of using a SharePoint list data connection is that the data already exists and is maintained in a SharePoint list. Therefore, the form can always pull in the most up-to-date information from SharePoint rather than trying to duplicate the same information within your form. Also, if the data is maintained in SharePoint, it will be much easier to allow business users to provide updates to the information that your form consumes, without the need to actually modify the form.