The Document Information Panel (AKA the DIP) is one of the coolest features in the Office System 2007 integration. If you saw it – it allows you to fill in the Document Library/Content Type metadata within the document and even bind some of the metadata into the document's body. And guess what – This is only the beginning! It's true that Sharepoint auto-builds a very nice DIP according the relevant metadata but the really neat thing about it is that you can easily customize it with the full power of InfoPath 2007.
For example: I have a customer that wanted to replace a Textbox in the DIP to a Dropdown List that will display data from a Web Service. When using InfoPath 2007 – you don't have to deal with BDC or other complicated structures. InfoPath allows you to do it in a very simple manner and sometimes without even troubling a developer.
However, you may remember the good and the bad about InfoPath solutions. InfoPath 2003 was also a very powerful tool for creating forms but it wasn't too popular since it required InfoPath on all of the clients (think big $ signs…). Microsoft addressed this issue with the new Forms Server that ships with the Office System 2007 solutions and today this feature is extensively used. The Forms Server renders the InfoPath form into a web page and now you can consume this form without any further installations (and even in multi platforms!).
But wait, what about the DIP? It looks like the DIP is not rendered into a web form so it must use the InfoPath client installation to work (or at least a variation of it). Damm, isn't that exactly what killed the InfoPath 2003 solutions?!
Well, Microsoft thought about it and tried very hard to avoid another InfoPath 2003 fiasco. In the official documentation (an article called "Understanding Document Information Panels") from the official office.microsoft.com, you can find the following qoute:
"The Document Information Panel is a Microsoft Office InfoPath 2007 form that is hosted and displayed within a document. You do not need InfoPath installed on your computer to see a Document Information Panel in a 2007 Microsoft Office system document, but you do need Office InfoPath 2007 to design or customize Document Information Panels. "
Relaxed now? DON'T BE!!! I still came across the following error message that states exactly the opposite!
So what the hell is going on here? I would say the documentation is incorrect but there are some loose ends here. If InfoPath 2007 were mandatory for the DIP to work – why on earth would the "ipeditor.dl" be installed and shipped with just a Word 2007 installation?!
Well, there is some logic around it. It took me a while to find but once you get it – it's not too hard to understand. Here it is:
- Auto-Created DIP – When you DIP is auto-created by MOSS and no customization was done with InfoPath – You don't need InfoPath at all! This should be the default case and I guess this is this is the case described in the documentation.
- Customized DIP – If you ever used InfoPath 2007 to customize the DIP – you're in trouble. The documentation "forgets to mention" that that action shakes things up. Even if you just opened the DIP and saved it again (without changing a thing!) – You will need InfoPath on all of the machines running this document. This is a very important information to consider when deciding how to approach a solution (from the Web or from InfoPath). In that case, if you'll open a document and InfoPath is not installed, you will see the error message attached in this post and there is nothing you can do about it.
Hope this helped you. It's a real bummer to create a major design for a super cool solution and then find out it comes with a huge price tag (InfoPath in all of the client machines).