Xforms to the fore?

Modern executive carry a bag full of internet-ready devices, such as mobile phones, personal digital assistants and laptops and have become used to being able to access information any where, any time and now on almost any device.


Allowing users to input data from a variety of devices is a commendable aim. So much for the creditable objective; get the underlying standard wrong and the value of your application will be limited.


For a start, users will find it difficult to access applications across different devices – and once they have the application they may find it tricky to actually use.


Therefore, a framework for application user interfaces is essential. The bad news is that progress has been mixed.


The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) released the first version of XForms six years ago, a standard that was supposed to make it easier for individuals to interact with applications on the web through all devices.


But tinkering on the standard continues, with the third edition of XForms 1.0 published in October last year. Adoption of XForms by application developers has been slow, most notably with developers choosing to stay with existing forms support in HTML and Javascript.


Despite improvements in the standard, considerable issues remain – most notably XForms deployment usually relies on plug-ins, rather than being the browser default. For example, lack of support from Microsoft for the standard on the most popular browser Internet Explorer constrains mass adoption.


With each user needed to install the required plug-in and development work still continuing, XForms has developed too slowly.


Other options are being considered, notably the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) – a community of specialists that are working to create an updated version of HyperText Markup Language (HTML).


The independent group is looking at next generation internet languages from the perspective of web developers.


Do not, therefore, give up hope. Hopefully one of these standards will prevail. But for now better web application interaction across different devices should be the standard we all aim for.



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4 Responses to “Xforms to the fore?”

  1. Erik Bruchez Says:


    Good to see interest in XForms.

    Luckily, you do not need XForms implemented on the client to use XForms. There are alternatives, including Ajax-based implementations (Orbeon Forms, of which I am a developer), and JavaScript implementations (Ubiquity XForms). Both these examples are entirely open source.

    BTW I don’t think that so far any forms technology has come close to XForms. Web Forms 2.0 / HTML 5 improves on HTML forms, which is great, but 1) this pales in comparison with XForms and 2) this is not available in browsers today either.


  2. Dharmesh Mistry Says:

    Thanks for your post Erik.

    I am aware that there is a server side rendering option within xForms, and certainly that Orbeon is a great example of that option.

    I think the challenges that XForms faces (and even the other “standards”)is making the standard mass market, which would require the syntactical nature to become accessible to less skilled developers. This is something Steve Pemberton alluded to as the next phase of Xforms at a UK conference at IBM a few years ago. Unfortunately we’ve seen little progress of that.

    The base approach of Orbeon is a great idea and edge IPK shares much of the philosphies you do, except we have not tied ourselves in exclusively to xForms.

    Another challenge is moving xForms into the presentation layer, currently we would charactise it only as a Forms subsegment, and our experience with clients would suggest that this is a key issue. Many forms tend to be parts of complete applications rather than standalone forms and as such have additional issues to cater for example security, menu driven, session data control etc…

    kind regards – Dharmesh

  3. Erik Bruchez Says:

    Hi Dharmesh,

    I think it is fair to say that XForms requires a learning curve. That is also the price to pay for having an XML-based data model and a pretty smart processing model. This said, the XForms Working Group does have a “simplified syntax” in the works, to lower the barrier to entry.

    The Working Group’s wiki has a section about future features being discussed, if you have any interest:


    But clearly, defining standards takes time 😉


  4. Д Says:

    Да тут и добавить то нечего, спасибо всё толково.

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