XForms, three ways
DENG, Orbeon, PureEdge apply XForms to meet different app-dev goals
XForms is important for two reasons. First, it places a standard at the appropriate level of abstraction. It standardizes not what an input form looks like, but what it does, delegating the visual particulars to the user interface. As a result, the same XForms code can be optimized for both a handheld device and a desktop screen, and the application developer needn’t be concerned about the details of either.
Second, XForms eliminates much of the complex ugliness of scripting by reusing technology from elsewhere in the XML world (namely, XPath).
These benefits are a key piece of the DENG, Orbeon, and PureEdge products I examined. Their binding element is the implementation of XForms. Aside from that common thread, these are different applications that address different problems, so their usefulness to your enterprise will depend on your particular situation.
DENG is a browser plug-in that implements several XML-based W3C languages — XForms among them. You’d use it if your server-side application needed XForms in the client browser.
Orbeon is a Web application framework built around XML. It uses XML documents to hold user input and output data. It also uses XML-based languages to define the business and presentation logic of the applications. Orbeon is ideal for enterprises wanting to create Web applications that rely heavily on XML. (The fact that it’s really one big J2EE implementation means it’s platform-agnostic, which is handy.)
PureEdge is an e-form creation, management, and delivery system built atop numerous XML standards (XForms among them). It uses these standards as the architectural elements of the e-forms it manages. PureEdge targets organizations that want to reduce the piles of pulp on desktops and in filing cabinets by converting them to electronic forms.
It remains to be seen how long XForms will last. If diversity is any indication of a technology’s vitality, however, the variety of applications reviewed here suggests that XForms is at the beginning of a long and healthy life.