Re: Question about xforms:instance @src/@resource and inline instance

Hi Erik,

I think you mentioned the Feb. 3 version only to ensure it was clear you 
were reading the latest editor draft as opposed to the CR, and not that 
you read actual diff marked text to suggest something has changed recently 
regarding src/inline content/resource processing of instance.

Nothing has changed recently.  So, yes if you put an src attribute on an 
instance, then it overrides both inline content and a resource attribute, 
which in turn means that if you use an src attribute, and it fails to 
resolve, then you get an xforms-link-exception and it's game over.

The resource attribute is used on an instance, but if the instance is 
non-empty, then the resource attribute is ignored, so again you are right 
that an author would not put a resource attribute on an instance that 
contained inline content.

The resource attribute supports a processing model for documents that 
admits the save/reload pattern to alter the instance relative to the 
initially authored instance.  The initial form would include this:

<instance resource="emptyTemplate.xml"/>

If you load the document containing this declaration, the 
emptyTemplate.xml content will be obtailed as the live instance.  Suppose 
it contains this:


OK, now suppose the document also contains a UI control like this:

<input ref="name"><label>Name:</label></input>

And finally suppose you type your name into the input so that the empty 
template data is changed to this:


If this markup is part of a document, e.g. an ODF document, that you want 
to save to the local disk, then the instance is written with the latest 
data stored as inline content:

<instance resource="emptyTemplate.xml">
<name xmlns="">Erik</name>

And now when you reload the document, the inline content takes precedence 
over the resource attribute, so the latest data entered by the user before 
the save operation is preserved.

As a final point, note that we could instead have simply said that we use 
the src attribute but when we have to serialize a document, we would put 
the inline content into the instance and then remove the src attribute. 
The is another solution but it is not the better one.  There are two 
problems with it.

1) The resource attribute above (and/or the src attribute) is part of the 
form template, not part of the content we expect to be mutable by the 
end-user, so it would break layer encapsulation to modify the logic of the 
form (e.g. where to get the data template) destroyed by virtue of adding 
end-user content. 

An example where this can have a negative effect is a form template 
digital signature (i.e. XForms application signing).  I like to be able to 
say "sign the whole document except the internal content of the xforms 
instance elements.  This protects the presentation layer, the model layer, 
the controller layer and not the data layer, which achieves XForms 
applications signing.  It is irritating to have to say sign everything 
except the content of instance elements... and their src attributes.

2) When the source URI points to a query of some kind that gets the latest 
data for the form, then I actually do want to use the src attribute and 
not the resource attribute.  However, when serializing the document, it 
may still be beneficial to write the instance data inline *even though* 
there  is a src attribute.  For example, this allows me to create a 
digital signature over the whole document, including the latest data 
provided by the end-user.  Then, next time the document is loaded, if 
anybody changed the data pointed to by the src, then that new data written 
to the inline instance as part of the serialization for signature 
validation, which makes for a different document than the one that was 

Hope this helps.

John M. Boyer, Ph.D.
STSM, Interactive Documents and Web 2.0 Applications
Chair, W3C Forms Working Group
Workplace, Portal and Collaboration Software
IBM Victoria Software Lab

Blog RSS feed:

Erik Bruchez <>
Forms WG <>
02/16/2009 07:25 PM
Question about xforms:instance @src/@resource and inline instance


I seem to be missing something.

Checkin the 03 February 2009 version, it seems that XForms 1.1, allows
both @src and an inline instance, or an inline instance and @resource,
or possibly all three, at the same time.

Now I am puzzled as to the reason we need @resource at all, or both an
inline instance and @src/@resource.

The spec says in "1.5.1 Model and Instance" [1]:

"The instance element now has a resource attribute that allows
  instance data to be obtained from a URI only if the instance does not
  already contain data. By contrast, the src attribute overrides the
  inline content in an instance. The resource attribute is more useful
  in systems that must support save and reload of XForms-based

Since an error while handling @src causes form processing to halt, why
would anyone put an inline instance then?

Similarly, if an inline instance is present, why would anyone put the
@resource attribute in, since the inline instance will be used and
therefore @resource ignored?


Orbeon Forms - Web Forms for the Enterprise Done the Right Way

Received on Tuesday, 17 February 2009 06:41:51 UTC