InfoPath, Tech Talk

When is a thing not a thing? Apply InfoPath functionality when attempting to change a lookup column

Many projects ago,  I was given the task to take a simple single line of text and turn it into a lookup column.  Simple enough except you can’t change it into a lookup column.  A lookup column by all definition needs a hook to grab data from.  If there is no data to be had, it can’t be created.

There are ways to change this if you use code and by code I mean a lot of code.  It’s like trying to change a lion into a tiger.  Think it’s simple but to be honest, a lion is a lion and a tiger is a tiger.  The two are very different.  Of course there are those crazy animal breeders that mix the two and you get a liger.  But I digress from this post.

What I am talking about is changing one thing, aka single line of text and turning it into another thing, aka lookup column. A lookup column has it’s benefits for users.  It has the ability to transfer data from one place to another without having to recreate it over and over again.  It can be applied to other lists in SharePoint.

My colleague  suggested a workaround solution.  Let’s look at this problem for what it is.  What if the only thing you want is the functionality of the “lookup”.  What if, you only wanted the lion’s roar to come out of the tiger. The “roar” is the only thing you want to create.  Never mind, why.  Let’s ask the question how.

SharePoint in all it’s basic functionality can be applied in other places.  Content types, data connections, column types….these are some of the few things that can be applied across the board.  SharePoint or InfoPath.

There is a really clever feature in InfoPath that enables users to connect data from one SharePoint list to the form.  The data connection will “grab data” from an existing list and tie it to the value.  In my example, I switched the single line of text into a drop down menu.

1.  Take the original list that has the single line of text, open it up in InfoPath.

2.  Create a data connection to that column.

3.  Switch the single line of text into a drop down menu.

4.  Republish your form.

Tadah, you have a “lookup” feature on your list.  This my friend, is SharePoint recycled.  Thinking outside the box to reuse it for a different purpose.

Creative ways of reusing same features. Thanks for reading!