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What's up with XForms
One of the major motivations driving Web designers and developers away from HTML and into the arms of XML is the latter's ability (in theory, at least) to support much richer, more capable forms. Those who understand how markup vocabularies like XSLT can already perform data validation, support data typing, and work with all kinds of text and numeric data should appreciate how an equally rich set of datatypes, validation techniques, and so forth, would make Web-based forms easier to design, build, and use.
XForms is the name of the W3C initiative that's supposed to deliver on this promise, and according to a report from Steven Pemberton, chair of the W3C XForms Working Group, that promise is getting ever near to reaching fruition. On April 2, 2003, Pemberton released his "Report on the XForms Implementation Workshop, 27th/28th February 2003" wherein he states the following:
- An implementers workshop was held in the Boston metro area on the dates mentioned to "exchange experiences with implementation, identify issues for advancing XForms 1.0 from Candidate Recommendation phase of the W3C process, and to demonstrate implementations."
- Attendees representing the XForms Working Group along with numerous representatives of companies implementing or using XForms identified over 20 implementations of XForms in progress, along with other partial implementations, and an XForms validator.
- Systems demonstrated at the meeting includes Xsmiles, a Novell Technology Preview of an XForms environment, FormsPlayer, and an unannounced implementation from Oracle.
For more details from this report, read it online.
The Working Group is working to identify an XForms Basic subset (that works much like the XHTML Basic subset in defining a small, broadly applicable set of functionality for mobile devices). They are also working out remaining issues that will allow the XForms 1.0 specification (and the XForms Basic subset) to reach recommended draft specification status -- and thereby become available to the XML community at large in stable form.
To learn more about XForms design work, capabilities, and related products and technologies, visit one or more of the following resources:
- XML and Forms (visit the Cover Pages at xmls.coverpages.org and search on XML Forms); see also xml.coverpages.org/ni2003-02-04-a.html for a great overview of XForms itself.
- XForms-The Next Generation of Web Forms
- XForms 1.0 Test Suite
- Anthony Tomasic: "XForms for Managing Forms-Based Data," XML & Web Services Magazine, December 2002/January 2003
- Ivelin Ivanov: "XML Forms, Web Services and Apache Cocoon," XML.com, January 29, 2003
While XForms isn't quite completely cooked yet, it's something any serious XML professional should starting learning about. Once it is ready, it will surely appeal to anyone who needs to solicit and manage user input through Web pages.
About the Author
Ed Tittel is a 20-plus year veteran of the computing industry, who's worked as a programmer, manager, systems engineer, instructor, writer, trainer, and consultant. He's also the series editor of Que Certification's Exam Cram 2 and Training Guide series, and writes and teaches regularly on Web markup languages and related topics.
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