posted on May 29, 2020 Show version history

We recently reconfigured one of the databases we use for 90% of our Forms business processes, and as I went through switching older processes over to the new database I came across a handful of random forms I slapped together in a pinch that got me thinking.

In some cases when we don't have much time to dedicate to the task, I've used Forms as a way to put together a really quick and easy interface for viewing data from external database without having to build a full SSRS report or some other kind of application/interface.

Basically, I leverage the lookup and interface design, not to mention access control, functionality Forms already provides and configure a form that has no actual back end process with the Submit button completely removed.

Looking back at these process got me thinking that a lot of the components present in Forms could be very easily leveraged and/or repurposed in a product specifically designed to provide an interface for both internal and external data sources.

I've seen a lot of tools like SSRS, Tableau, etc. that allow you to present data, and between the Forms designer and reporting it really isn't that far off in terms of functional capabilities. It isn't as optimized for large data sets, but in many ways, the interface design tools make it far superior to something like SSRS.

As a result, I'd love to see a "Laserfiche Intelligence" type product focused entirely on this type of functionality. With things like a unified dashboard on the horizon it seems like this kind of thing may already be in mind, and I see a lot of potential for something like this by expanding the visualization and reporting functionality beyond Laserfiche data much like you can do with a Forms lookup.

The Forms approach is really only ideal for small datasets since things really start to slow down when you get beyond a few hundred rows in a multi-column table, but that should be less of an issue with limited interactivity. Even with larger datasets I've found workarounds, like setting up paginated views and using custom buttons on the form to cycle through the lookup results.

Another use case I could easily foresee is providing a way to build data maintenance interfaces; we have a lot of databases that are either specifically for Forms processes, or at the very least heavily related to Forms or Workflow processes, and one thing we always need to address is a way for users to manage changes in those data sets in a controlled way.

For example, we have a list of outside vendors who perform certain tasks for our organization. They submit their invoices through a Forms process, but when something changes (a vendor leaves, a new one comes in, etc.) the process for updating that data isn't as easy as it could be.

I just imagine dragging and dropping fields onto a web interface, setting up the database connections, adding a "save" button; essentially building a simple web application instead of a form. All of that can pretty much be done with Forms already by getting creative with stored procedures, but I think something designed with that intention could be especially great.

Based on what I've seen with the product roadmap and Empower, I wouldn't be surprised if I'm one step behind and this is already in the works, but I figured I'd share it anyway just in case it could spark conversation about what kind of features people might like to see.

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