Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by MVP Clayton Cobb as part of the MVP Award Program Blog's "MVPs for Office and SharePoint 2010" series. Clayton Cobb is a SharePoint Architect and InfoPath MVP who has been involved in SharePoint and Office technology and development for more than 3 years and was awarded MVP in April of 2010. Clayton is the technical editor for SharePoint Designer 2010 Unleashed, maintains a technical blog for SharePoint and InfoPath, and he is a major contributor of the Microsoft SharePoint MSDN/TechNet forums.

You may not have known it, but InfoPath has been a part of the Office suite since 2003.  I actually first noticed it as part of my Office 2003 Professional suite when I started working with SharePoint.  It was there, so I tried it, became a big fan, and starting showing my colleagues that they also had it.  Fast forward to the Tech Preview release of InfoPath 2010 last June, and there I was digging my claws into all the new interface features, but I had to wait until July to get my hands on SharePoint 2010 so that I could test all the new SharePoint-specific enhancements.  On July 15th of 2009, the InfoPath released a tantalizing article titled “What’s New in InfoPath 2010?”  Just a day later, out of excitement, I posted my own blog article raving about many of these new features: InfoPath 2010 Rules!

As you can see, there is enough there to probably do 10 full blog articles, especially around the SharePoint enhancements, but I don’t have room to get into the details right now.  So, I will be talking about some new features in the InfoPath 2010 interface that are helpful for anyone building InfoPath forms even if you don’t have SharePoint available and even if you are building 2003- or 2007-compatible forms.  The 3 main features I’ll show you today are the Ribbon, the Quick Publish, and the Rules Manager. 

Ribbon

By now, I’m sure everyone is familiar with the Ribbon, which was introduced in some of the Office applications in 2007 but didn’t expand to the rest of the suite until 2010.  InfoPath is one of the applications that didn’t receive the ribbon until 2010, but now we have it, and I consider it very useful.  As you can see below, instead of having to use dropdown file menus, you can just click on the appropriate ribbon tab and see sections full of relevant commands, and what you see is also contextual, which means the commands change based off what you’ve selected:

Figure 1 – Contextual Ribbon when selecting a control within a table

Quick Publish

This may seem like a mundane button at first glance, but for anyone who develops forms in InfoPath, you know how tedious it can be to continually go through the entire publishing wizard each time you make a change and want to test it on the server (or other published location).  I can’t tell you how much time I’ve wasted going through the publishing wizard in InfoPath 2003 and 2007, but now we have this simple, yet powerful button for doing a Quick Publish.  What this button does is it utilizes your current publishing settings and performs all the same actions with one click.

Figure 2 – Quick Publish button in the Quick Access Toolbar

Figure 3 – Quick Publish button in the Backstage

When you need to change the details of your publishing steps, you simply go to the Backstage (File button in the ribbon), then the Publish menu on the left bar, and finally click the specified publish type:

Figure 4 – Normal publishing route when not using the Quick Publish

Rules Manager

This is my favorite new feature enhancement of the InfoPath 2010 interface.  In InfoPath 2003 and 2007, we had Rules, Conditional Formatting, and Data Validation all in different places with different buttons and menus.  Now, we have all three of these rule types in one consolidated Rules Manager: 

Figure 5 – Rules Manager button in the Quick Access Toolbar

Figure 6 – Rules Manager tool pane showing all three Rule types on one control

Another incredible feature of the Rules Manager in InfoPath 2010 is the fact that we can now copy rules from one control to the next.  We can copy individual rules or copy entire rule sets.  The amount of time this saves me is immense, and this is the biggest reason why I can barely use InfoPath 2007 when building forms…

Figure 7 – Copy and Paste buttons in the Rules Manager

Everything I’ve show you in this article can be used to more efficiently build your InfoPath 2003, 2007, and 2010 forms.  I use InfoPath 2010 at all times even to build my 2007 forms, because I am able to be much more productive.