Novell, IBM,W3C work to open source Xforms 1.0

Novell Inc., IBM Corp. and the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) are working to open source Xforms 1.0, a W3C standard for creating Web forms using Extensible Markup Language (XML).

The Xforms 1.0 standard will be integrated — as the forms compenent — into XHTML 2.0, which is not yet a completed standard, said Ashish Larivee, director of product marketing for exteNd and Nsure at Novell in Waltham, Mass.

To make Xforms 1.0 accessible to everyone, Novell, IBM and the W3C are working to integrate Xforms 1.0 into the Mozilla Web browser.

Both Novell and Big Blue have developed plug-ins so users can run XML forms on Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer, the number one Web browser used in the world. Right now XML forms cannot be viewed on standard Internet browsers.

Morten Olsen, director, research and development for exteNd at Novell Denmark A/S in Copenhagen, Denmark, said it is not clear when an XML-enabled version of Mozilla will be available because it depends on collaboration with the open source community.

One of the benefits to using XML to design Web forms is that it is easier to build, manage and design them, Larivee said.

“Typically today when you build your form you have to go through a lot more of the nitty-gritty details of mapping the fields to what is entered and put in JavaScript to do validation and you have to repeat certain segments of the form,” Larivee explained. “Using XML you can put in more scripting within the description of the form itself. And any implementation of that XML engine will then be capable of developing the visual endpoint of the form based on the XML data.”

The point, she added, is that form creators no longer need JavaScript for validation as part of the Web Forms using Xforms 1.0. “All of the validation can be defined as part of the schema itself,” she said. When Xforms became a public standard, Novell integrated it into its Novell exteNd Enterprise Suite 5, part of which includes a Web-enabled content management system using portals and portlets.

Robert Fabian, president of the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) in Toronto, disagreed with Novell that form creation is much easier with XML than HTML but did say it is easier to integrate databases with XML forms rather than HTML forms.

“What XML does is provides a background consistency that can be largely transparent,” he explained. “So you can build a form-like document in a word processor, press a button and get it translated, through the wonders of XML, into a Web form. Press another button it gets translated into a database ready to receive a form and all of this can be hotlinked to a live original document that you started with.”

In comparison there is no inherent integration with current forms into back-end systems — they’re standalone, Fabian said.

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