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Re: Offline Forms Working for the Public

From: Mark Birbeck <mark.birbeck@x-port.net>
Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2008 11:03:09 +0000
Message-ID: <a707f8300803170403l5683780fx17ef05c9b3dcdf32@mail.gmail.com>
To: "Jane Roberts" <jane.roberts@toplev.com>
Cc: "www-forms@w3.org" <www-forms@w3.org>

Hi Jane,

I think there are a number of ways that this can be done. The simplest
is to just distribute a form with whatever bits of instance data it
needs, and then save any data locally on the user's machine. This
allows a form to be filled in completely off-line. You'd need some
kind of submit button that the user can use when they are done, to
send to the main store, but that's pretty straightforward. More
details are here:


This would be the 'code it in XForms' approach, and would work in any
XForms processor that supports "file:" in submissions.

A second approach would for the processor itself to have a 'take
offline' switch. This is something that we are still working on, but
we have decided to incorporate into Sidewinder
(http://www.swcube.com/) rather than formsPlayer itself, since it's
something that has wider applicability than just XForms. (Sidewinder
is a framework that can be run in a browser or standalone, and
provides more than just XForms.)

Once you have such a solution though, the advantage is that it would
work for any form, on any site.

If you have lots of forms, then the third approach is to build an
entire application that manages a collection of XForms, and uses an
XForms processor to render them. This is obviously the most
complicated approach, but the most powerful.

We recently helped to implement such a solution with our customer, 1st
Software. They're a MIcrosoft house who have in turn implemented a
.NET application for their customer, into which they have embedded

Their application allows salesmen to capture information on a Tablet
PC from potential customers, when preparing quotes for insurance,
ISAs, and other financial products.

The architecture is simple; their .NET application manages an SQL
database, into which are stored 30 to 35 XForms, as well as any data
collected. This data is synchronised with the main central system
(built by 1st Software) when the salesman returns to the office, or
over the net. This might also involve getting updated forms, for
example as recently happened, when ISA allowances changed.

The forms are rendered using formsPlayer, and there are hooks in
formsPlayer to allow the containing application to request a
serialisation of the current state of the form. This serialisation is
itself an XForm, but it also includes any data that is currently
loaded (represented as inline instance data), as well as any CSS
information (whether a control is invalid, etc.).

This serialisation is a complete representation of the current state
of the form, and therefore can be used for things like save and
resume, digital signing of a form, encryption for transmission,
transforming to XSL-FO (read for PDF printing), and so on.

So as you can see, in this case the 'offline working' is achieved by
having a host application that manages the process, and the XForms
processor is merely a component of a larger application.

In short, exactly how you achieve the 'off-lineness' depends on what
exactly the application is doing.

I don't know if that helps or not, but feel free to fire back with any



On 17/03/2008, Jane Roberts <jane.roberts@toplev.com> wrote:
> Does anyone have a view on the current best technologies / methods to use
> for giving members of the public an offline working method?
> If so I'd be interested to hear your views, please, as we are doing an R&D
> appraisal of options in this area.
> Best Regards
> Jane E Roberts
> Sales & Marketing
> Toplevel
> Secure e-Business Solutions
> Toplevel Computing Ltd, Bath Road Trading Estate, Stroud, GL5 3QF, United
> Kingdom.
> Tel +44 1453 753955 Fax +44 1453 753933
> email: jane.roberts@toplev.com     www.toplev.com
> Company registered in England at the address above, No. 2341302

  Mark Birbeck

  mark.birbeck@x-port.net | +44 (0) 20 7689 9232
  http://www.x-port.net | http://internet-apps.blogspot.com

  x-port.net Ltd. is registered in England and Wales, number 03730711
  The registered office is at:

    2nd Floor
    Titchfield House
    69-85 Tabernacle Street
    EC2A 4RR
Received on Monday, 17 March 2008 11:03:44 UTC

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