XForms and the Semantic Web

Steven Pemberton

CWI and W3C
Kruislaan 413
1098 SJ Amsterdam
The Netherlands


This is: www.w3.org/2004/Talks/05-18-Steven-WWW2004-SemWeb/

About the Speaker

Steven Pemberton is a researcher at the CWI, The Centre for Mathematics and Computer Science, a nationally-funded research centre in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, the first non-military Internet site in Europe.

Steven's research is in interaction, and how the underlying software architecture can support the user. At the end of the 80's he built a style-sheet based hypertext system called Views.

Steven has been involved with the World Wide Web since the beginning. He organised two workshops at the first World Wide Web Conference in 1994, chaired the first W3C Style Sheets workshop, and the first W3C Internationalisation workshop. He was a member of the CSS Working Group from its start, and is a long-time member (now chair) of the HTML Working Group, and co-chair of the XForms Working Group. He is co-author of (amongst other things) HTML 4, CSS, XHTML and XForms.

Steven is also Editor-in-Chief of ACM/interactions.


HTML Forms, introduced in 1993, were the basis of the e-commerce revolution. After 10 years experience, it has become clear how to improve on them, for the end user, the author, and the owners of the services that the forms are addressing. XForms is a new technology, announced in October 2003, intended to replace HTML Forms.

The advantages of XForms include:

The presenter is one of the authors of the XForms specifications, and is chair of the Forms Working Group that produced the technology.

This tutorial works from a basis of HTML Forms, and introduces XForms step-by-step. It covers essentially all of XForms except some technical details about events, and no more than a passing reference to the use of Schemas.

Emphasis is on how to improve the user experience, and how XForms improves accessibility and device independence, and makes the author’s life easy in producing a better experience.

HTML Forms

Soundbite: "Javascript accounts for 90% of our headaches in complex forms, and is extremely brittle and unmaintainable."

The Approach

The essence is to separate what is being returned from how the values are filled in.

Basic structure of XForms

Take this simple HTML form:

    <form action="http://example.com/search"
         Find <input type="text" name="q">
         <input type="submit" value="Go">

The main difference in XForms is that details of the values collected and how to submit them are gathered in the head, in an element called model; only the form controls are put in the body.

... basic structure

So the equivalent XForm is:

   <instance><data xmlns=""><q/></data></instance

The <form> element is now no longer needed; the controls in the body look like this:

<input ref="q"><label>Find</label></input>
<submit submission="s">

Complete XForms search example

<h:html xmlns:h="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml"
        <instance><data xmlns=""><q/></data></instance>
            method="get" id="s"/>
    <input ref="q"><label>Find</label></input>    <submit submission="s"><label>Go</label>

Getting Initial Values From Elsewhere

'Editing' any XML document

... example

Editing example

Suppose a shop has very unpredictable opening hours (perhaps it depends on the weather), and they want to have a Web page that people can go to to see if it is open. Suppose the page in question has a single paragraph in the body:

<p>The shop is <strong>closed</strong> today.</p>

Well, rather than teaching the shop staff how to write HTML to update this, we can make a simple form to edit the page instead:

Editing XHTML page

      method="put" id="change"/>
<select1 ref="/h:html/h:body/h:p/h:strong">
<label>The shop is now:</label>
<submit submission="change"><label>OK</label></submit>


FoaF interface (link is to an out-of-date version)

Webservices interface


"The age of the fat client is past" -- an implementor


A new serialisation of RDF, rdf/XHTML, coming in XHTML2. (Link is to an early version)

<h1 property="dc:title">XForms and the Semantic Web</h1>
<p property="dc:creator">Steven Pemberton</p>

More Information

The origin: www.w3.org/Markup/Forms, and if your company is a member: www.w3.org/Markup/Forms/Group

XForms: http://www.w3.org/TR/xforms/

XPath: http://www.w3.org/TR/xpath

XPath quick reference: http://www.mulberrytech.com/quickref/XSLTquickref.pdf

XML Events: http://www.w3.org/TR/xml-events/

validator: www.xformsinstitute.com