AppForms Overview
ClaySys AppForms is a metadata driven Forms and Application builder platform. You can create basic forms for migration from paper forms to electronic forms, to complex line of business applications using AppForms. Since you create functionality through configuration, the skillset required to work with AppForms is significantly simpler as compared to custom development using code. The Forms created in AppForms can connect to varied data sources like SharePoint lists/libraries, SQL Server, Oracle, Web Services, RESTFul Services, SQL Azure, Azure Storage amongst others. Any functionality created in AppForms is futureproof, as all existing functionality continue to work in future versions of the product. This is similar to how Excel works, where newer versions of Excel retain backward compatibility with Excel files created in earlier versions of Excel.
What is AppForms?

The ClaySys AppForms product consists of a Designer and a Rendering Engine or Application Browser. Within the Designer, it is a drag and drop experience to layout the Form controls and fields, and connect the Form to its targeted datasources like SharePoint Lists/Libraries, SQL Server, Web Services, etc. To embed intelligence or business logic into the form, there is a built-in Rules Editor that allows you to configure the business rules and logic required. The ClaySys AppForms Designer generates a metadata file in XML/JSON representing the designed form UI and embedded business logic. The XML/JSON metadata file is maintained by the ClaySys AppForms Application Server, and used by the Rendering Engine at runtime to generate the UI in HTML5. All Forms and Applications created in ClaySys AppForms are pure HTML5 and render in all modern HTML5 Web Browsers.

Creating AppForms

ClaySys AppForms allows you to manage your library of forms just like you manage a folder hierarchy of documents or files. You can structure your library of forms by having folders and subfolders as required. You can create new forms by simply clicking on the "New Form" button to create your form within the folder you are in at any point. Once you create a form, AppForms will track the user who created the form, as well as the date it was last modified, to ensure ease of maintenance and change management in relation to any form created. AppForms has comprehensive version control to enable you to edit any form while retaining all the historic versions of the form. It also allows you to rollback to any earlier version of the form with a single click.

Rule Editor

ClaySys AppForms incorporates a flowchart-type Rule Editor to review the business rules defined for a form and edit it as required. The Rule Editor makes it very easy to review the existing business logic configured in your AppForms, so that you can see how it works and modify business logic to meet changing business requirements. The Expression Builder and the Rule Editor serve the common purpose of building business logic into the AppForms. Users can choose either of these tools to review and modify business logic. The flowchart view of cascading business rules makes it easier for stepping through the defined business logic in the form for each specified business rule.

Managing AppForms

AppForms supports a comprehensive set of features to manage your forms. You can edit any form to introduce changes or troubleshoot issues. You can view historic versions of a form and rollback to any earlier version of the form with a single click. You can review the changes between the current version of the form and any prior version. If you are working with multiple SharePoint environments such as Development, QA, Staging or Production you can download and upload forms created in any one of these environments to any target environment to follow the change management protocols of your organization. AppForms also lets you create a copy of an existing form and use it elsewhere in SharePoint, making it easy to create forms that are similar in functionality to any existing form. AppForms "Metadata driven" format makes this possible, supporting ease of managing your forms.

Form Version Control

ClaySys AppForms is a 'Metadata' driven product, which means that all the design definitions and business logic for a form created using the product are maintained as a metadata file in XML. This architecture enables AppForms to have a powerful version management feature that allows every version of a form to be maintained as historic versions of the existing active form. This version control feature allows you to review the historic versions of any form and study the differences between the live form and any historic version that it is being compared to. A version of the form is maintained every time you 'Check-out' and 'Check-in' the form when making changes to it. The most important aspect of this feature is the ability to roll back to a prior version of the form with a single click. This capability means that if anything is broken after deploying a change to a form, the designer can roll back the form to its prior state ensuring that the form can continue to be used while they investigate the issue introduced with the latest version.

Form Export/Import

ClaySys AppForms provides comprehensive support to manage the development and maintenance of forms across multiple SharePoint environments such as Development, QA, Staging and Production. You can use the Development SharePoint environment as your sandbox to create and test functionality with AppForms, and once you feel a form is ready for QA you can simply export the form from Dev and import it into QA. Similarly once you have tested and debugged the form in QA, you can export and import it into Staging for UAT, prior to a final deployment into Production. This feature of AppForms ensures that an organization can comply with their Enterprise Change Management protocols while maintaining their production SharePoint Environment.

Expression Builder

AppForms supports a comprehensive Expression Builder feature that enables you to incorporate business rules and business logic from the simple to the very complex, into your forms. You can configure functions like you typically do in a spreadsheet tool like Excel, and you can work with different operators and variables to define your simple or complex logic as required. This ability to embed all of the business logic into the form design and the ability to link multiple forms seamlessly to create a business application is what makes AppForms stand out as the go-to way to extend SharePoint for forms and application requirements. Anything you can build with custom coding, you can build much more easily in AppForms using configuration.

Form Datasources

You can configure the layout of your form using the WYSIWYG form designer, set the properties of each form control and once completed the look of your form, you can then work with the Datasource feature to configure the form fields and controls with their respective datasources. AppForms supports SharePoint lists, SQL Server – Tables, Views & Stored Procedures, External SharePoint Site Collections and Web Services as the datasource options. You can configure multiple datasources on the same form to ensure that your requirements to have specific fields in a form work with data from SharePoint lists, or SQL or Web Services are met as required. Using the datasource configuration wizard you can define datasource commands for each datasource to Insert, Update, Delete, Select target records from the target lists or tables/views and then map them to the respective form controls.

Designing Forms

AppForms supports a WYSIWYG Designer to design your forms. All the Form field types and controls are available to you for designing the layout of your forms. The AppForms Form Designer has a toolbox listing all the available form controls to drag and drop onto the design surface of the form being designed. Right side of the design interface has the properties window to set the individual properties for each form control dragged and dropped onto the form design panel. So it's easy to create the look and feel of your form and set the properties like 'Font', 'Font Size', 'Label', 'Color' etc. very easily. It takes just a few minutes for a user new to AppForms to understand the working of AppForms for SharePoint and to start creating forms as required. AppForms supports a 'Check-out' and 'Check-in' feature to allow a specific user to take ownership of working with or editing any form. This ensures that a team of users could individually work with different forms within SharePoint in a collaborative and practical manner without overwriting each other's work.

Configuring Datasources

Once you design your forms using AppForms within SharePoint, you can setup any number of datasources that you would like the forms to connect to. For example, you might want the form designer to just function as a list form, which is supported by default, but you may also want the same form to connect to SQL Server databases, Tables Views, or Web Services on your Intranet or Internet. AppForms supports the ability to work with all these types of datasources. The datasource configuration feature allows you to define the access parameters for each datasource, such as the service account user id, password, or the web service URL and authentication parameters. Once you have set up the required datasources that you would like the forms to work with, you can just configure them to work with any of the forms you are designing. You can configure a single form to work with multiple datasources, which ensures meeting any type of use case for your forms to work with your business data.

Who can use ClaySys AppForms?

The biggest challenge with deploying Forms or Business Applications within large organizations is the complex and time consuming deployment cycle to deploy functionality and ongoing changes. When using ClaySys AppForms, once the product is deployed, then creating all the required functionality is just configuration that requires no code updates or code deployment cycles. This capability allows the business side of the organization to take some control over creating their functionality using ClaySys AppForms. The experience is similar to working with Microsoft SharePoint, where once you deploy SharePoint and want to use the OOTB (out of the box functionality), a business user can do it directly as long as they have the right permissions to access the application. Creating functionality in a Dev Environment and moving it over to QA, Staging and Production is also simplified with the metadata migration tools built into ClaySys AppForms. The ease of creating complex functionality with ClaySys AppForms also makes it a popular tool for the IT Department to rollout functionality rapidly and in an agile manner, to meet evolving business requirements.

Business Apps

AppForms enables you to build line-of-business applications within SharePoint. Not only does AppForms help you create complex forms, but it helps you extend them to fully create the enterprise scale business applications you need. Our customers have created and deployed a wide range of business applications including CRM, Help Desk Ticketing, Purchase Automation, HR Process Automation, Employee Onboarding/Offboarding, Supply Chain Management, Order Management, etc.

AppForms enables you to access data housed in SharePoint lists, SQL Server Database Tables, Views, Stored Procedures and Web Services. Any one of the forms you create can read or write to one or more data sources - giving you all the flexibility and connectivity you need. AppForms gives you the ability to embed complex business logic and validation rules into individual forms which lets you build business applications without needing to write any software code. Since AppForms can work with any existing SQL Server Database schema, your legacy applications can be migrated to SharePoint and you can easily recreate the front-end functionality of legacy Classic ASP, or Visual Basic applications, while continuing to use your existing SQL Server database.