12 IBM Workplace Forms: Guide to Building and Integrating a Sample Workplace Forms Application
1.3.1 XFDL
Extensible Forms Description Language (XFDL), developed by UWI.Com and Tim Bray, is an
application of XML that allows organizations to move their paper-based forms systems to the
Internet while maintaining the necessary attributes of paper-based transaction records. XFDL
was designed for implementation in business-to-business electronic commerce and
intra-organizational information transactions.
1
XFDL is a highly-structured XML protocol designed specifically to solve the body of problems
associated with digitally representing paper forms on the Internet. The features of the
language include support for a high-precision interface, fine-grained computations and
integrated input validation, multiple overlapping digital signatures, and legally-binding
transaction records.
What does XFDL add to XForms?
The benefits include:
򐂰 Document-centricity
򐂰 XFDL stores the data in the document, creating a single record
򐂰 Precision layout and printing
򐂰 Can faithfully reproduce paper forms
򐂰 Wizard-based, dynamic forms
򐂰 Can guide the user through filling process, change on the fly, and reduce errors
򐂰 Broad support for signatures
򐂰 Locks both the XFDL presentation and the XForms data
򐂰 Extension points for integration with other technologies
򐂰 Can embed .jar files in the form to extend the functionality
What does XForms add to XFDL?
The benefits include:
򐂰 New items
򐂰 Table, pane, checkgroup/radiogroup, slider
򐂰 XForms event handlers
򐂰 Value-changed, read-only, read/write, submit-error, etc.
򐂰 XForms functions
򐂰 Boolean-from-string, avg, min, max
򐂰 Device Independence
Common XML Data Model
Workplace Forms gives a common XML Data Model (based on the W3C XForms standard)
that can work in heterogeneous IT environments. These are common in most organizations
that can combine diverse J2EE, .NET, legacy, CRM, ERP, HRMS, Content, Document, and
Workflow environments. Also, this common XForms model within Workplace Forms provides
the ultimate flexibility in providing personalized, role-based “views” of this data for improved
user productivity (wizard is an example of this). This common XForms model also allows for
multiple system “views” or schemas necessary for straight through processing of this same
data as required for back-end integration.
1.3.2 XForms + XFDL in alignment with SOA
In addition to standardizing an eForm document model, XForms technology has excellent
alignment with both the principles and technical requisites of service-oriented architectures
1
XFDL: Creating Electronic Commerce Transaction Records Using XML: Barclay T. Blair and John Boyer
http://www8.org/w8-papers/4d-electronic/xfdl/xfdl.html
Chapter 1. Introduction to Workplace Forms 13
(SOA). XFDL + XForms provides Workplace forms with an enabler for Service-Oriented
eForm solutions; while strong technical alignment also reduces barriers.
At a functional level, one often sees a similar set of activities occur throughout different forms
applications and forms-based processes. Let us consider some of the most common
interactions that take place in Web and Portal eForm applications. Standard interactions in
eForm applications include:
򐂰 Server-side form prepopulation, that is, the merging of an empty form template with data
򐂰 Submission of a form into a Content Management system at various stages of a process
or workflow
򐂰 Submission of a completed, signed form to a Record Management System as a
transaction record at the conclusion of a process
򐂰 Presentation of a form to users on laptops (mobile computers), tablet, or handheld devices
both in online and offline modes
򐂰 Storage of form data into a database (often for reporting or for use by other systems)
򐂰 Transmission of form data into one or more Line-of- Business (LOB) systems.
򐂰 Validation of digital signatures as part of an approval process.
At a solution architecture level, SOA gives us a great story. Figure 1-6 provides a
representative example of how eForm application functionality can be effectively used within
the business tier of a larger Web application.
Figure 1-6 Example Service Oriented eForms Web Application
As you can see, a number of the services within the business tier are encapsulations of
specific form application-related functionality,
designed for reuse across multiple applications.
Adapter
Adapter
Service
Oriented
Portal
Application
Service
Oriented
Portal
Application
Service
Oriented
Web
Application
Service
Oriented
Web
Application
Client
Tier
Application
Tier
Business
Tier
Integration
Tier
Form Template
Pre-Population
Service
Form Template
Pre-Population
Service
Form
Submission
Service
Form
Submission
Service
Authentication
Service
Authentication
Service
Adapter
Adapter
Adapter
Adapter
LDAP
Content
Manager
Database
Record
Manager
Data and
Line-Of-
Business
Systems
Desktop
EForm
Application
Desktop
EForm
Application
Web
Browser
Showing
E-Form
Web
Browser
Showing
E-Form
An Example Service Oriented E-Forms Web Application
Form
Versioning
Service
Form
Versioning
Service
Adapter
Adapter
Adapter
Adapter
Line-of-
Business
System
LOB System
Related
Service
LOB System
Related
Service

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