Automatic Entry and Forms

Phillip M. Hallam-Baker (hallam@w3.org)
Thu, 22 Feb 1996 20:56:55 -0500


Message-Id: <312D1EE7.3F54@w3.org>
Date: Thu, 22 Feb 1996 20:56:55 -0500
From: "Phillip M. Hallam-Baker" <hallam@w3.org>
To: www-html@w3.org
Subject: Automatic Entry and Forms

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Here is a proposal on Automated Forms Filling

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Automatic Entry and Forms

Dr Phillip M. Hallam-Baker
World Wide Web Consortium

Abstract

A simple mechanism for automatic entry of data into forms is described. This
mechanism permits clients to support an arbitrary number of competeing
schemes.

Description

Many Web sites use fill in forms. Much of the information on these forms is
common, names, dates of birth etc. It is desirable to avoid having to enter
this information each time.

One approach to this problem would be to define a set of common field
identifiers which would be recognised by the browsers. These would have to
be distinguished in some way to avoid unintended confusion e.g. <input
name="$date-of-birth">.

Although simple such an approach effectively attempts to create a universal
taxonomy and is therefore unlikely to succeed. Different parties may wish to
interpret fields in slightly different ways. No listing of fields, however
exhaustive would ever satisfy every form designer in the world.

It is proposed that an additional attribute TEMPLATEis added to the HTML
<FORM> tag. This takes as its parameter a URI which identifies the template
used.

<FORM TEMPLATE="http://www.w3.org/template/default">
Your name:    <input name=name>
Date of Birth <input name=date-of-birth>
</FORM>

The TEMPLATE URI is used as an index only. It names a semantic binding of
input tag name attributes. It is not necessary for the client to know the
semantic binding, it is only necessary to differentiate one binding from
another.

On encountering a from with a template URI a client would look up the URI in
a database to see if it had encountered it already. If so the fields in the
form would then be filled in using the stored defaults.

It may be desirable to permit template attributes to be defined for
individual fields rather than the form as a whole.

Discussion.

The sceheme described would permit personal defaults to be specified for
arbitrary forms. The usefullness of a defaulting scheme would be limited by
its userbase. Hence it would be expected that most form designers would
choose to follow a single standard even though the specification does not
enforce this.

Certain communities may wish to develop their own, highly specialised
conventions. In particular companies may have internal conventions. In some
cases the designer of a form may wish to use a specialised binding in order
to avoid ambiguity problems.

References

[HTML2.0]
     Hypertext Markup Language - 2.0 T. Berners-Lee, D. Connolly, W3C.

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