Thursday, August 26, 2010

More [functional] robustness issues with OOTB InfoPath Forms Services

Earlier I blogged about some robustness issues I encountered with the application of InfoPath Forms Services in an external facing SharePoint site. The basis of the framework developed in that project is re-used in context of the company's intranet. Hereby I ran into some new robustness issues. I'll describe them here, and also the outline of the applied solutions.

  1. Placing XmlFormView webpart on a SharePoint page conflicts with inline server codeblocks in MasterPage
    Immediately upon adding the out-of-the-box Microsoft.Office.InfoPath.Server.Controls.XmlFormView webpart on a publishing page in the company's intranet, SharePoint throwed an exception:
    Source: System.Web
    Message: The Controls collection cannot be modified because the control contains code blocks (i.e. ).
    at System.Web.UI.ControlCollection.Add(Control child)
    at Microsoft.Office.InfoPath.Server.SolutionLifetime.ScriptIncludes.AddCssLinkToHeader(HtmlHead head, String href)
    at Microsoft.Office.InfoPath.Server.Controls.XmlFormView.TryToAddCssLinksToHeader()
    at Microsoft.Office.InfoPath.Server.Controls.XmlFormView.OnDataBindHelper()
    at Microsoft.Office.InfoPath.Server.Controls.XmlFormView.OnPreRender(EventArgs e)
    at System.Web.UI.Control.PreRenderRecursiveInternal()
    at System.Web.UI.WebControls.WebParts.WebPart.PreRenderRecursiveInternal()
    at System.Web.UI.Control.PreRenderRecursiveInternal()
    at System.Web.UI.Control.PreRenderRecursiveInternal()
    at System.Web.UI.Control.PreRenderRecursiveInternal()
    at System.Web.UI.Control.PreRenderRecursiveInternal()
    at System.Web.UI.Control.PreRenderRecursiveInternal()
    at System.Web.UI.Page.ProcessRequestMain(Boolean includeStagesBeforeAsyncPoint, Boolean includeStagesAfterAsyncPoint

    First analysis learned that the problem was related to the applied SharePoint MasterPage: it manifested itself with 2 of our custom MasterPages, but not on other custom nor the standard (Publishing) Masterpages. Inspection of the particular custom MasterPages disclosed the following server-side code:
    <% Response.Write("<script>var Collaboration_SiteRelativeUrl='" + SPContext.Current.Site.Url + "';</script>"); %> 

    The inclusion of this inline server codeblocks resulted in the conflict with the server-side operation of the XmlFormView webpart. The solution was to replace the inline server codeblocks-tags '<%' and '%>' approach by a HtmlHead (which is a webcontrol) databinding approach:

    <script>var Collaboration_SiteRelativeUrl="<%# SPContext.Current.Site.Url %>";</script> 

    And in the MasterPage codebehind:

    protected override void OnLoad (EventArgs e)

  2. IE 6 gives a runtime Javascript error in case of RichTextBox control on the form
    While demonstrating the potential of the self-service WebForms functionality to internal stakeholders, I was asked to modify an earlier published InfoPath form with the placement of a RichTextBox control. After re-publishing the InfoPath form to the SharePoint target site, the form still correctly displayed in the content page; including the added RichTextBox control. However, when positioning the mouse in the RichTextBox control, the IE6 browser (Red: still the company's standard) reported a runtime Javascript error. Also the RichTextBox toolbox was not displayed, leaving the control pretty useless wrt a plain TextBox control.

    With these problem symptons, I kinda got a 'Deja-Vu' feeling. It looked very much like the problem earlier encountered with displaying InfoPath forms in IE 6. And indeed: via Javascript debugging I detected that the client-side runtime error manifested itself in the same OOTB InfoPath Inc/Core.js method as before: ErrorVisualization.ComputeAbsoluteTop(). Was then the problem caused by the usage of relative CSS-positioning applied in the custom branding, this time it proved completely InfoPath related. I could easily reproduce the same problem within a standard SharePoint WebPart page, with a standard MasterPage. The explanation of the IE 6 Javascript problem is in the HTML that InfoPath Forms Services renders for a RichTextBox control: an embedded iframe element within the DOM document. Due to the fault behaviour of the IE 6 offsetParent method implementation in combination with the non-robust/error-prone implementation of the OOTB InfoPath method, this results in the runtime Javascript error.The solution was to runtime at browser/client-side expand that OOTB InfoPath method to make it robust for the IE 6 faulty CSS offsetParent implementation.

  3. InfoPath re-publishing adds duplicate site columns to the ContentType

    Upon re-publishing an InfoPath formtemplate during the demonstration, I noticed another issue. It looked as if all promoted fields in the ContentType were now duplicate present. A quick internet search learned that this is a known InfoPath feature/behaviour, just something I myself was not aware of upto now. And neither something I was particular happy with. I think it is pretty ridiculous to add a complete other set of fields to the InfoPath ContentType each time you re-publish the associated formtemplate. You have some control-options in the InfoPath publishing wizard to prevent the creation of another set of promoted fields, but this is manual-dependent and thus error-prone; let alone it is also very cumbersone and clumsy for the functional managers (the first-class users of the self-service WebForms functionality in the company portal). Therefore I sought for a manner to afterwards correct the modified ContentType, by removing all duplicate FieldLinks. Ideally did would be done fully automatic in the scope of the InfoPath publishing, and thus transparent and invisible to the WebForms functional managers. Sadly, SharePoint does not have an EventReceiver signalling the creation or update of a ContentType. The solution is therefore to deliver a custom SharePoint application page via which the WebForms functional manager can afterwards fix the InfoPath modified ContentType. He/she selects in the dropdown the ContentType that [potentially] needs a cleanup. The custom application page then inspects
    the FieldLinks in the ContentType for duplicate occurences, and removes each one found. The changes (deletions) in the SiteCollection ContentType are propagated to all childs. Also each duplicate detected FieldLink is removed from the Fields collection of each SPDocumentLibrary that is associated with the selected InfoPath ContentType (code snippet).

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