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Office 365 'Forms' Service Hits Preview Stage

Microsoft recently launched a preview release of the new Forms service for business users of Office 365.

Office 365 Education customers are already able to use Forms to create surveys and quizzes. However, now Office 365 business customers that have opted to get "first release" Office 365 builds across the whole tenancy will start seeing a Forms preview that's designed for business use.

Organizations can use Forms to create basic surveys for internal use with employees or surveys for external use with customers. The surveys are accessible in any browser and scale to work on mobile devices. The response data get displayed in automatically generated charts, which pull the data together in "real time." Forms users can see the graphed data from the Responses tab on the Microsoft Forms page, which is where they create the surveys. Users can access that site with their work or school Office 365 credentials.

While Forms are basic, they can be used in various ways. They can be embedded in a Sway or in a OneDrive for Business page. They can be inserted into OneNote Online or Excel Online pages. Microsoft describes those possibilities in this support article.

The preview of Forms for businesses is now available to the following Office 365 tenancies that get first releases: Business Essentials, Business Premium and Enterprise (E1, E3, and E5). It's also available to organizations that subscribed to the Office 365 Enterprise E4 plan before that plan's retirement.

Forms eventually will roll out to other Office 365 business subscribers, following the testing phase. For those tenancies, the new service will be arriving "in a few months," according to Microsoft's announcement on Friday.

The new Forms service will just appear and it'll be turned on by default for tenancies. IT pros that want to block it have to use the Office 365 Admin Center portal to turn it off, as described here.

While Forms might seem like a replacement for Microsoft InfoPath 2013, a tool that's used to make forms for SharePoint sites that Microsoft is deprecating, that's not how Microsoft views it. According to a FAQ document, Forms is just for creating lightweight surveys and quizzes. Microsoft wants organizations to use SharePoint Lists, as well as Microsoft Flow and PowerApps, to create more traditional business forms and workflows.

Forms does have limitations. It collects the response data, but only up to 5,000 responses. Organizations have to export the responses into an application like Microsoft Excel and clear them from the survey or quiz page to get more data.

The construction choices when creating forms is limited with the Forms service. Essentially, survey creators can add "choice, text, rating or date picker" controls to a form, according to a description by Jeremy Thake, vice president of product technology at Hyperfish, in a blog post. He added that the integration of Forms with Microsoft Flow is "quite limited" at this time.

Forms might overlap with PowerApps to a degree, according to Thake. He speculated that Forms could have been pushed out quickly by Microsoft to address the competitive threat posed by Google Forms.

Currently, there doesn't appear to be a way to prevent users from transmitting sensitive information using the Forms preview, such as credit card numbers, noted Paul Cunningham, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, in a Practical 365 blog post. He also noted that the external collaboration feature of Forms is turned on by default.

IT pros can control Forms by managing the licensing. That's done using the Office 365 Admin Portal, Cunningham explained.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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