W3C approves HTML forms upgrade
- By John K. Waters
After nearly ten years, it's time to upgrade forms on
the Web. So says the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which last week published
a ''candidate recommendation'' version of the XForms 1.0 specification. An
upgrade of the HTML-based forms that have been the standard since 1993, XForms
1.0 is intended to make forms on Web pages more dynamic and powerful, and to allow
them to be read on a range of new devices, according to the W3C.
''W3C's XForms allow authors to use their choice of markup language -- XHTML,
SVG, XML -- with minimal scripting and maximum usability,'' Steven Pemberton,
co-chair of the W3C XForms Working Group, explained in a statement. ''The XForms
Working Group has provided a model that makes it easy for implementers to
develop and reuse form components, delivering functionality to users and devices
previously not possible.''
HTML Forms were originally introduced to the Web to provide a means of
gathering information and performing transactions. But according to the W3C,
that original HTML Form design is ''showing its limitations.'' The advent of
Web-enabled cell phones and handheld computers designed to access the Web has
placed new demands on Forms Authors, who are looking to minimize scripting while
maximizing reuse of form components. There's also a greater need to cleanly
separate the purpose, presentation and results of a form.
XForms is an XML application that separates the XForms model, instance data
and user interface, providing a ''next-generation design'' for forms on the Web,
Pemberton said. XForms 1.0 provides a new platform-independent markup language
for online interaction between a user (through an XForms Processor) and another,
usually remote, agent. Developers can create Web-page forms using the markup
language of their choice, including XHTML, XML and SVG (Scalable Vector
Graphics) -- which means that a single form can be designed to work on a
traditional Web page and to scale across a range of devices.
According to the W3C, the advantages of this trifurcated design are
* Reuse: XForms modules can be reused independently of the information
* Device-independence: The UI controls are abstract, which
means that their generic features are the only things indicated, so they can
easily be re-presented on different devices with different capabilities.
Accessibility: separation of presentation from content leaves information more
readily available for users of assistive technologies; in addition, the UI
controls encapsulate all relevant meta data such as labels, thereby enhancing
the accessibility of the application when using different modalities.
The XForms Working Group includes: Adobe; AOL/Netscape; Cardiff; Computer
Associates; CWI; Electricite de France R&D; Helsinki University of
Technology; IBM; Novell; NTT DoCoMo, Inc.; Openwave; Oracle; PureEdge Solutions;
SAP/Mozquito Technologies; Sony/Ericsson; and Xerox.
''The XForms Working Group encourages developers to work with the new
specification,'' the W3C said in a statement, ''and to send feedback about
implementations to the XForms Working Group mailing list.''
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached