W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-forms@w3.org > October 2014

Re: [Xsltforms-support] Is XForms a failure to learn from?

From: Joern Turner <joern.turner@betterform.de>
Date: Thu, 16 Oct 2014 12:26:29 +0200
Message-ID: <543F9D55.4030606@betterform.de>
To: "<public-forms@w3.org>" <public-forms@w3.org>

Am 14.10.14 14:40, schrieb Jarosław Kowalewski:
> All,
> I active use xforms technology since 2008 and I want to share my point of
> view.
> Xforms form for me is very very powerful technology for building big forms
> with complicated logic. Please refer e.g. to EU Commission e-forms like
> http://erasmus-plus.ro/erasmus-plus-eforms-application-guide/.
> Similar forms I and my coullegues implemented in xforms. And that's work
> currently only in FF3.6 with xforms plugin:/
> If you want to see how it works feel free to create account and after login
> choose e.g.  "The scolarship and training found" and then "Application
> forms".https://online.frse.org.pl.
> For what this introduction?
> As I was started to develope my first xforms I was suprised how easy it is.
> But it was only first impression, because I met a lot of problems and low
> productivity in developing, chaning and debuging:
> 1. you have to write xml (main instance, origin instance, other instances
> if necessary), xsd, xforms (and as in my case latex print tamplate too)
>   file separatly.
> 2. if you want change structure of xml (e.g. rename some nodes) you must
> change manually xsd, xfoms and latex file too. You must update all  binds
> and fields
> 3. You cannot reuse fragments of this files in another context becouse you
> must do the same as in point 2.
> 4. If you want to add some specific constuction e.g. repeat list that show
> only a few fileds on the list e.g. name and surname but you want add
> subform to edit more details  each time you must write it again and again.
> Please imagine that in one form you have 20-30 of such constructions.
> 5. and a lot of other problems

I fully agree with your points. It's very powerful but hard to maintain.
At least for the reuse some implementations have invented constructs to
overcome that but unfortunately those haven't made it into the spec
(subforms supported by XSLTForms and betterFORM or XBL components in

> All this above is time consuming and causes many errors.
> So taking into account our problems we developed own framework that solved
> almost all problems: reusable code, easy in maintain, etc.,
> If anyone is intrested in details I can prepare some complex examples. In
> attachment I added some code that is transformed via xslt to xforms, xml,
> xsd and latex template. The main features are: xpath independent bindings,
> field definition contains control type, label, nodename, xsd type, size in
> grid layout online and independent size in grid layout in latex,  bind
> element, hint element. In last five years we build based on that framework
> more than 2000 diffrent forms.
> I think about publishing it on SF.

Yes, i would be interested in some detail. Esp. what you invented for
the binding. We are evaluating all those years back when we've
implemented betterFORM and think it's about time to look for new ways.
What was good in XForms and what were the points we didn't like? So our
goal is to keep the good things and to drop the rest in favor of more
modern, more simple and well-known approaches.
> Stephen Cameron said about AngularJS. I have attempted to implement xforms
> in AngularJS
> becouse of similarities. But AngularJS forms are quite poor in data
> binding. As I know exist only simple
> libraries that implement jsonpath (https://code.google.com/p/json-path/) <
> xpath 1.0.
> Xpath is the best and easiest way to go through data tree.

I've looked at many of the MVC JS frameworks out there and binding is
mostly rather primitive - at least far behind of what XForms can provice
in terms of dependency tracking.
> Summarizing:
> Xforms is currently the best specification for big forms, but difficult to
> maintain. Xfomrs is a bed solution for small simple forms. Better use pure
> js or AnlugarJS.

Parly agree - yes, XForms is still the best for really complex forms.
And it is not very good for prototyping. Most of the time you'd like to
start small (even plain html) and later refine and decide when you
actually learn what you need in terms of binding and validation etc.

I wouldn't go as far as to recommend Angular - there are surely many
good frameworks out there that do the job. And sometimes it even doesn't
need a model at all. Lets face it - model frameworks have become
increasingly popular and everybody wants to be MVC in a way. But
model-based approaches always also introduce more more complexity and
maintainance challenges.

For real simple cases it's still faster to just put your code in one
place and don't worry about building a model at all. Ideally a
technology supports both - to start simple but allow to migrate to a
model-based approach without too much hazzle when time has come.
> All this solutions according to me need framework and xforms needs client
> side implementation! The one last but promissing is XSLTForms.
Ok, of course i disagree with this last one as an implementor of a
server-side solution. Pure client-side XForms is still not reaching its
goal i think and of course the forms are running in the browser but for
the user it's completely uninteresting if that beast is accomplished by
a pure client-side, a server-side or a mixed approach.


> Regards
> Jaroslaw Kowalewski
> 2014-10-13 22:42 GMT+02:00 Stephen Cameron <steve.cameron.62@gmail.com  <mailto:steve.cameron.62@gmail.com?Subject=Re%3A%20%5BXsltforms-support%5D%20Is%20XForms%20a%20failure%20to%20learn%20from%3F&In-Reply-To=%3CCAHFpwcUd6fx%2BrRWdt97cLGd-qLmTzF-1qWBPsvv9By6VWmMXpQ%40mail.gmail.com%3E&References=%3CCAHFpwcUd6fx%2BrRWdt97cLGd-qLmTzF-1qWBPsvv9By6VWmMXpQ%40mail.gmail.com%3E>>:
>> Having twice tried to promote XForms in my workplace and not succeeded,
>> for me XSLTForms has failed in the 'marketplace of ideas'. But the IT
>> road-side is littered with such worthwhile efforts that lie discarded.
>> Unless there is a job or dollars in it most people are not interested. Have
>> look at job adds looking for AngularJS vs XForms experience.
>> XForms support in browsers is the subject of discussion though I think. If
>> Alain had not developed XSLTForms, XForms as it was envisaged, client-side
>> (RESTful), would be quite dead.
>> But things do sometimes 'rise from the dead' :)
>> On Tue, Oct 14, 2014 at 12:21 AM, marcelo alfaro <cmalfaro@gmail.com  <mailto:cmalfaro@gmail.com?Subject=Re%3A%20%5BXsltforms-support%5D%20Is%20XForms%20a%20failure%20to%20learn%20from%3F&In-Reply-To=%3CCAHFpwcUd6fx%2BrRWdt97cLGd-qLmTzF-1qWBPsvv9By6VWmMXpQ%40mail.gmail.com%3E&References=%3CCAHFpwcUd6fx%2BrRWdt97cLGd-qLmTzF-1qWBPsvv9By6VWmMXpQ%40mail.gmail.com%3E>>
>> wrote:
>>> Hi all, I would like to express what I think about this... For me XForms
>>> is an incredible and powerful technology.  I love it and I will keep using
>>> it as long as there are a community like this and, of course, the tools to
>>> get the job done. In this respect, XSLTForms is all I need to build
>>> powerful interfaces that are easy to code and maintain. That's it.
>>> I am very grateful to Alain and all the people that make this possible.
>>> So, Is XForms popular? No, Is  XForms a failure? Not at all.  This are
>>> not the same thing.
>>> Misquoting, I would say that, the reports of XForms's death are greatly
>>> exaggerated ;)
>>> cheers
>>> marcelo
>>> On Sun, Oct 12, 2014 at 4:52 PM, Stephen Cameron <
>>>steve.cameron.62@gmail.com  <mailto:steve.cameron.62@gmail.com?Subject=Re%3A%20%5BXsltforms-support%5D%20Is%20XForms%20a%20failure%20to%20learn%20from%3F&In-Reply-To=%3CCAHFpwcUd6fx%2BrRWdt97cLGd-qLmTzF-1qWBPsvv9By6VWmMXpQ%40mail.gmail.com%3E&References=%3CCAHFpwcUd6fx%2BrRWdt97cLGd-qLmTzF-1qWBPsvv9By6VWmMXpQ%40mail.gmail.com%3E>> wrote:
>>>> Hi Chris,
>>>> XSmiles is a Java project and just maybe that is a problem, no one is
>>>> interested in building (on) a browser using Java.
>>>> XQuery and XSLT do have some jobs market value still, but mainly in
>>>> integration work. That is a niche and in large part mostly filled by Saxon
>>>> I suspect.
>>>> The browser has become an application development platform, but the
>>>> approach used to do that is all Javascript based, XSLTForms itself is
>>>> Javascript in large part. and uses XSLT as a 'translator' to Javascript.
>>>> So, is there a place for such a browser as XSmiles but all C++? It could
>>>> be both a browser and a generic XML technologies library. I have a project
>>>> that I would love to do with such a beast, but maybe I am just one of those
>>>> "creative non-mainstream people (who) like to push boundaries" that you
>>>> mention, with no thought of the practicalities of cost and marketability.
>>>> Steve
>>>> On Mon, Oct 13, 2014 at 12:45 AM, <bch@shroggslodge.freeserve.co.uk  <mailto:bch@shroggslodge.freeserve.co.uk?Subject=Re%3A%20%5BXsltforms-support%5D%20Is%20XForms%20a%20failure%20to%20learn%20from%3F&In-Reply-To=%3CCAHFpwcUd6fx%2BrRWdt97cLGd-qLmTzF-1qWBPsvv9By6VWmMXpQ%40mail.gmail.com%3E&References=%3CCAHFpwcUd6fx%2BrRWdt97cLGd-qLmTzF-1qWBPsvv9By6VWmMXpQ%40mail.gmail.com%3E>>
>>>> wrote:
>>>>> On Sun, 12 Oct 2014 11:07:41 +0200
>>>>> Alain Couthures <alain.couthures@agencexml.com  <mailto:alain.couthures@agencexml.com?Subject=Re%3A%20%5BXsltforms-support%5D%20Is%20XForms%20a%20failure%20to%20learn%20from%3F&In-Reply-To=%3CCAHFpwcUd6fx%2BrRWdt97cLGd-qLmTzF-1qWBPsvv9By6VWmMXpQ%40mail.gmail.com%3E&References=%3CCAHFpwcUd6fx%2BrRWdt97cLGd-qLmTzF-1qWBPsvv9By6VWmMXpQ%40mail.gmail.com%3E>> wrote:
>>>>> > All,
>>>>> >
>>>>> > Having a look at AB/2014-2015 Priorities/w3c work success
>>>>> > (https://www.w3.org/wiki/AB/2014-2015_Priorities/w3c_work_success), I
>>>>> > can read that XForms is one of the "failures to learn from".
>>>>> >
>>>>> > Surely, there is a lot to be said about XForms as a failure. In this
>>>>> > list of "failures", I would personally add XSLT and XQuery for very
>>>>> > similar reasons, and surely SVG some years ago, if they all had to be
>>>>> > considered as effective Web, or client-side, technologies.
>>>>> >
>>>>> > What do you think? Shouldn't we write what has to be written?
>>>>> >
>>>>> > Thanks!
>>>>> >
>>>>> > -Alain
>>>>> Hello Alain
>>>>> I am not an expert in the field, but I would not call XForms a failure.
>>>>> Though I suppose it does depend on what the measure is.
>>>>> If I were looking for something that would have made it come together
>>>>> better, it would have been a tool, a main tool, a browser or something,
>>>>> that brought all the ideas together in a demonstrable and useful
>>>>> product.
>>>>> Having said that, it is a shame it has all [arguably] struggled along
>>>>> for reasons which I suspect are down to other commercial vested
>>>>> interests by big players and their take-up or lack of, any proposed
>>>>> standards adoption.
>>>>> I still believe the XML based 'tools' (XForms, and associated concepts
>>>>> e.g. XRX) are extremely important and its too easy to cast them off.
>>>>> This comment from a reply to your post "...the W3C...should just
>>>>> make its own browser with ALL its XML standards implemented." (Stephen
>>>>> Cameron)  is not a shout without serious merit in my opinion too.
>>>>> Not wishing to distract from supporting the previous idea, was not
>>>>> XSmiles an attempt to have a go at doing the XML standards compliant
>>>>> browser.
>>>>> Whatever, I still try to use XForms and it will only fail for me if the
>>>>> clever and supportive open-source community minds keeping tools going
>>>>> in some form or another, actually give up. To them, including you for
>>>>> XSLTForms, I am grateful!
>>>>> I wish there was some push by W3C to resurrect (if some feel it has had
>>>>> its day) and bring it all together in a serious meaningful way. There
>>>>> would always be a market I'm sure.....creative non-mainstream people
>>>>> like to push boundaries   :-).
>>>>> Regards
>>>>> Chris H.
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Received on Thursday, 16 October 2014 10:27:00 UTC

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