Lotus Forms 3.0 is now available. Click here for details and trial downloads.
Perhaps the biggest news overall is the performance enhancements to Web Form Server, which is a "Rich Internet Application" platform that provides the capabilities of Lotus Forms directly to web browsers without the need to install "rich client" software.
We have also added digital signature capability to Web Form Server. This is, of course, one case where a small amount of native code must be deployed by the server in order to perform the core cryptographic functions allowed by the end-user with their private key material. But this is a small and seamless download needed for digital signatures only. Again, no "rich client" deployment to maintain.
I am excited by the ease-of-authoring improvements in the Forms Designer, such as the Form Designer's enhanced datatype awareness. I am also very pleased with enhancements made to the many ease-of-authoring wizards, including the XForms-savvy Digital Signature wizard, the table calculation wizards, and the compute wizard. And the performance improvements made for large forms rival the improvements made to the run-times. No blog entry could do justice to the improvements to the designer; you just have to download the trial version and test drive it.
Perhaps the biggest overall cross-product change has been the performance improvement made available via a new language feature called on demand page loading. This feature is available in both the Web Form Server and the rich client Forms Viewer plugin (the latter of which is available for trial download). If you have multipage forms, this feature greatly reduces the time spent bringing up a form, and it avoids loading data structures for pages not visited by the end-user's navigation experience. This feature is combined with a new capability to do page-level validity checking on page-change operations so a user cannot progress through a wizard experience unless the validity criteria for that page are met.
The biggest overall language change goes to the support of bidirectional text and components for Hebrew and Arabic locales. This is a deep integration with the XFDL language that encompasses nested component orientations, text direction options, and even support for visual versus logical data representations.
Finally, on the XForms front, there are several XForms 1.1 features now supported in the product line, including having Lotus Forms that communicate with the web services of an SOA. This release also supports half a dozen new functions that facilitate everyday programming, such as date math and better string comparisons for sorting and searching of data. The release also supports the new XForms datatypes that allow empty content and simplify authoring.
To be sure, no blog entry could cover all the news of a major release, but these are some highlights I have found to be meaningful, and I hope you will download the trial versions and start finding out what you like best about Lotus Forms.