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John M. Boyer 060000VMNY 1,686 Views
Got a request today to provide more specific information on exactly where to find the XFDL reference manual.
The documentation site link in my prior post includes a link to the currently released XFDL Reference Manual. For ease of use, the following appears to be the specific link on that documentation site:
Note that you will ultimately receive the XFDL reference manual in PDF; we always publish our language manual in PDF because PDF is good at static readonly documents. XFDL is good at dynamic interactive precision forms applications, but that doesn't mean the language manual should be expressed in it.
On a separate note, you can find a fairly comprehensive technical introduction to the integration between XFDL and XForms in my XML 2005 conference paper. The upcoming version of IBM(R) Workplace Forms(tm) will be accompanied by an updated reference manual that describes the union of XFDL and XForms exhaustively, but at 36 pages, the conference paper actually gives quite a thorough start to those interested in the pointy brackets. Here's the link:
John M. Boyer 060000VMNY 1,676 Views
What is the value proposition of an open standard?
XML is fairly pervasive, so we rarely ask this question of XML anymore, but once upon a time the question came up a lot as business managers tried to figure out why the technical people were insisting on spending money to move to XML. And the truth is that the impact is difficult to measure precisely, so open standards are sometimes a bit of an uphill battle. Nevertheless, the software engineering benefits are tangible and increase in magnitude over time.
One benefit is, of course, the human resource factor. Given a schema or DTD for a pile of pointy brackets, human beings can learn a lot about your document format quickly, which means they can become proficient more quickly and be more efficient overall at moving information into and out of the document.
This has an impact on the development of software systems. The software engineering benefits of increased interoperability/looser coupling of system modules have a significant positive effect on the time and cost efficiency of software development. Really, it's the same benefits as a service oriented architecture, which is why SOA and XML documents are such a good match.
But XML standardization has a deeper impact as it also places a value on the document format. In other words, the document format becomes a product in and of itself. A software system based on an XML document format is more valuable than one that is not because it is easier for enterprises to migrate to or from the document format. The benefit to a vendor of enterprises being able to migrate to the vendor's format is immediately obvious, but the ability of the enterprise to migrate from the vendor's format is also surprisingly valuable to the vendor. This is true not just for the obvious reason that being trapped in a document format is inherently costly to an enterprise. So, the enterprise can more readily adopt a vendor's solution when it does not imply vendor lock-in, but frankly it is the capability to more easily migrate away from the vendor's solution that becomes a selling point. A vendor can say, "We know you have a choice, so we're going to be responsive to your needs and deliver quality software so you keep choosing us."
It is with all these benefits in mind that we moved the predecessor of Workplace Forms to an XML syntax called XFDL. The XFDL language is an XML vocabulary that simplifies the design, development and deployment of high precision, secure forms applications that provide a rich user experience.
Of course, the first thing we did with our new XML syntax was to report it to the W3C in a document which became a W3C Note. The purpose of a W3C Note is to bring to the attention of the W3C something that contains aspects worth of consideration for standardization. The W3C does not and never will standardize a vendor's submission. But it does take note of its own notes! A positively reviewed note is likely to result in some movement in the standardization world. In the case of XFDL, that movement has occurred all over the place, including the likes of XPath, XML Schema, XML Signatures and Canonicalization, and XForms.
Of course, XFDL now incorporates XForms to express all aspects of XFDL that it can. And like a good standard ought to do, XForms itself incorporates other W3C technologies where appropriate, like XPath and XML Schema. But XForms depends on a host language to deliver the actual user experience, and there are aspects of a precision presentation and rich user experience that properly belong at the host language level. And XFDL even encodes these bits with the most pervasive standard of all -- XML.[Read More]
John M. Boyer 060000VMNY 1,672 Views
IBM is interested in all manner of open standards, including XForms, because they allow organizations to express their information assets in a format that can more easily be preserved as one incorporates more technologies into an application over time to meet evolving business requirements.
As Kevin Kelley (STSM, emerging standards) explained in a telecon this morning, the standards are like an on-ramp that allows assets to be developed over time. If you care about reuse of those assets, then you care about standards.
To be honest, this is the same argument that drove XML to the ubiquity it currently enjoys. With XML, we sought to standardize how data models are expressed. With XForms, we seek to standardize the expression of processing models over that data.
Some upcoming posts:
1) What does XForms actually offer?
2) How does XFDL fit into the above open standards story?
3) What makes XFDL+XForms an ideal format for archival, transaction auditabilty, and transaction security purposes?
John M. Boyer 060000VMNY 1,659 Views
Now you can get free access to the trial versions of IBM Workplace Forms software. The trial software includes the Eclipse-based visual design environment as well as the rich client viewer (a desktop application and web browser plugin). The suite includes a server component that delivers the form viewing and rich user experience with a zero footprint on the client (using the existing web browser only with no client-side install). However, the server product is not part of the trial software.
Workplace Forms supports development and deployment of XML forms and XForms-based XML forms in the following languages: Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English International, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Portuguese Brazilian, Romanian, Russian, Slovakian, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish.
One final note is that in order to get the trial software, you have to get an IBM developerworks ID. But that's free and easy to do, and the benefits immediately begin with access to the most powerful, advanced, pure XML electronic forms system on the market today.[Read More]
John M. Boyer 060000VMNY 1,657 Views
The upcoming release of Workplace Forms 2.7 is very exciting for our team due to performance improvements across the board as well as a wealth of improvements to the design time experience. However, the Workplace Forms product line has also benefited from some refinements to the XFDL and XForms layers, and that's what this blog entry is about.
The focal point for the XFDL presentation layer changes has been higher precision layout of tables. The form author can now control the amount of padding between table "rows" to the point where one can essentially create a grid appearance in which there are absolutely no unused pixels. Of course the use case is to be able not only to achieve zero unused space, but to have fine grain control that allows the form author to get down to zero but also to allow a little bit of breathing room for effects like row highlighting. Finally, XFDL now has the ability to create collapsible content such as "details" panes as well as collapsible table columns.
At the XForms level, more of the features from the XForms 1.1 last call working draft are now supported. The focus was on simplifying the handling of repeated data, which again is aligned with the focus on tables at the presentation level. The origin attribute is now supported on the insert action, which means that the prototype for repeated data can be copied from any instance of the XForms model. So, rather than copying an existing row of data then running a pile of setvalue actions to clear it out, the insert action can simply grab a new empty prototypical row of data, which means forms can be faster and take up less memory. The context attribute is also supported for insert and delete actions, which makes it easier to implement a table that is allowed to be empty. Finally, the while attribute is now supported for all XForms actions and sets of actions (the if attribute was already supported). This allows lots of data processing abilities for repeated data, including more complex results obtained from web services.
And last but not least we did make some small but meaningful additions to the language that were implemented across the product line but primarily motivated by the desire to make XFDL forms fit better into a corporate web site when the form is delivered via conversion by Web Form Server. This includes additional styling for XFDL button items to help them look and feel more like anchor links and offering the ability to hide the usual form toolbelt (which has open, save, and other form operation buttons on it). Hiding the toolbelt is useful when the form is intended to be in a portlet or as a component of a larger web application user interface.
I am proud of every release we do, and yet as each release nears, I just can't wait to get it out there into your hands because of how much better it will make your life developing forms applications. Once again, Workplace Forms 2.7 is going to be that kind of release.[Read More]