Originally published by Matt Mallory on the Eastridge Blog.
With the recent release of the Nintex Mobile platform supporting Office 365, I thought that I would give it a go and post my opinions and first impresssions.
We already know how Office 365 can benefit your sales force, but what about other field operators? Lets start out by describing what Nintex Mobile is, and why you might want to use it.
What is Nintex Mobile?
Nintex Mobile is an app that can be installed on your tablet or smartphone that allows you to access forms created on your site. Forms access is done through the site, and doesn't require you to open a browser and fight with potential incompatabilities there. Among other features the mobile app allows for offline form submission. This allows you, or your employees, the ability to open and post a form while away from a data connection. Once a data connection is established, the forms get submitted to the proper SharePoint online lists, libraries, etc.
A prime example, and one that gets used often in the marketing campaigns, is the ability to create forms for field workers who may not have constant access to the internet. They can access the forms, complete them, and then submit then when they have network access. Other key features include:
- Offline access
- Native application forms/controls
- Not reliant on SharePoint user interface
Nintex has done a good job at creating an application that leverages the native controls, etc of the OS. This of course it the primary challenge in developing a system that can be used offline. They have built a great but there are a few items you should be aware of as you begin implementing your mobile form solutions.
Adding an existing form for use in Nintex Mobile is pretty simple. Open the form in the designer and add a layout for Nintex Mobile Tablet or Phone, or both. All of your form controls will be added to the new layout in a form that fits the target layout. Pretty simple. From here you can publish the form to your site and then launch the client application and take it for a spin, but there is another way to test out your form, after all, the controls may not be laid out in the best fashion.
Previewing your form
Nintex Forms give you the ability to "preview" your form before it is actually published. I found it interesting that this is still an option for the mobile platform and gave it a shot. It turned out to be an interesting experience. When you click the "Preview" button from the ribbon in Forms Designer, you get this nice little prompt that explains the process. Here is the gist of it.
Your form will be published but to a specific "category" called Preview. When you load up your app, and connect you will see this section and any forms that are ready for preview. As apposed to other sections where valid forms may be stored. When you open a form for preview you will see the form, and have all the ability to fill it out. Once you hit submit. The form will be removed from the Preview category and subsequently removed from the device. NO ACTUAL DATA IS SUBMITTED WITH A PREVIEW FORM.This is a great method for previewing the form on your target device as there are some controls that may layout differently than you expect since you don't have direct control over the look and feel of the OS checkbox, or dropdown selector.
TIP - Previewing your forms is highly recommended.
A Few Tips for Working with Nintex Mobile
Overall Nintex Mobile is great. However, I did come across stumbling points, which you should definitely be aware of before using the product.
When I first attempted to publish the form for preview, I was given the dialog prompt and then the spinning "generating preview" message. This dialog never really went away like I expected. I suppose that it was actually waiting for me to open the form on my device before actually moving on, but this isn't what I expected from the experience. In the dialog there is also a "close" link that is greyed out, but still gave me the impression that I could click on it to close the dialog.TIP - This dialog is not dismissable but is waiting for the user to preview the form on their device. Once the form previewing is complete this dialog will be automatically closed.
When logging into the application for the first time, you are prompted to provide the url for your tenant. I know that most users don't understand the concept of the Office 365 tenant (while the admins do) so be aware that you may need to communicate this URL to your users.I also found out that what the really mean is your "Site" not your tenant. In my demo case, I have multiple site collections under 1 tenant. When I provided the tenant URL I received and error message. But when I used my site URL it worked as expected.
TIP - Communicate clearly how to log in and authenticate with Office 365 using Nintex Forms to be sure your users understand what URL to use when prompted.
Mobile OSs are all different, and will behave differently
Windows, iOS, Andriod all have their pros and cons. Because the apps use the native controls from the respective OS you will have a different (although similar) experience depending on your device. That being said, you may also have issues on one device, but not on another. In my experience, I used both an Android tablet and the iPad. Both worked well, but the iPad seemed to behave better than the Andriod.
TIP - Test all devices that you plan to support, don't expect that iPad will render just like Android for example.
I noticed rather quickly that even though I didn't specify the orientation in my form design. The iOS version allowed me to rotate my tablet using the form in either Portrait or landscape modes. The Andriod version however forced me into Portrait mode (at the Nintex App level) and I was unable to rotate the display of the form.
TIP - Test your forms using both orientations, portrait and landscape.
This really should be listed in a larger header as it will be the main issue. I noticed that there are a few controls that are not quite ready for the Mobile format. Unfortunately the designer didn't give me any prompts or remove them by default. There are 3 controls that I found problematic:
- URL/Hyperlink control
- Image control
- RichText control
Basically if you have any of these in your form when you add the mobile layout, your form will get a message stating the the control is "incompatibile." The language of this message is very odd as well it actually reads "<control> is incompatible with the Nintex Forms version installed on the server." which I find odd since there isn't really any option that we can update the version of Nintex Forms installed on the servers.
The Image control I found rather tedious as it causes the application to outright crash (both Android and iOS) without ever loading the form. Once I realized this was the case and remove the image control, everything worked as expected.
TIP - Be aware that not all controls are compatible with Nintex Mobile. Test, Test, Test and use Preview!
All things considered, Nintex Mobile is still a great offering for businesses that have a need for remote, offline forms. The good news is that Nintex Mobile is fairly new, for the issues that I had there is still value added with this product offering and with the development process, these are easily fixed issues (in fact they could be fixed by now.)
If you find issues or have feature suggestions then submit them on the Nintex Forms User Voice website.