Web Forms - XForms 1.0

Steven Pemberton, CWI, Amsterdam and W3C
Chair, W3C HTML and Forms Working Groups

XForms 1.0: en route to success!

XForms 1.0 was released October 2003

On the day of release there were more implementations than any other W3C specification on the day of release, ever

Around 30 implementations announced so far, including plugins, native implementations, proxies, 'zero install' implementations, a voice-browser, an editor, a validator...

Major companies and industries are already using XForms (e.g. Bristol-Myers-Squibb, Frauenhofer, Daiwa - a Japanese Bank, the British Life Insurance industry... and more I can't tell you about yet: watch this space!)

Why XForms?

Introduced in 1993, HTML Forms have become a great success: the basis of the e-commerce revolution!

What do we use forms for?





Logging in


Configuring hardware

Linksys router

Reading mail

Reading mail

Composing email

Composing email

Etc etc

So why XForms?

After a decade of experience with HTML Forms, we now know more about what we need and how to achieve it

What's wrong with HTML Forms?

So what does XForms do to change all this?

The central ideas of XForms are that:The data/UI split

Ineluctable modality of the visible

Most forms designs start from a premise of how it should look.

As we now know, this is wrong! You should:

  1. Start with structured content
  2. Layer presentation on top of it


One HTML document

A breathtaking collection of hundreds of stylesheets all applied to the same HTML document

(Mantra when you visit this site: I am looking at the same HTML document)







XForms improves the user experience

XForms has been designed to allow much to be checked by the browser, such as

This reduces the need for round trips to the server or for extensive script-based solutions, and improves the user experience by giving immediate feedback on what is being filled in.

It is easier to author and maintain complicated forms

Because XForms uses declarative markup to declare properties of values, and to build relationships between values, it is much easier for the author to create complicated, adaptive forms, and doesn't rely on scripting.

An HTML Form converted to XForms looks pretty much the same, but when you start to build forms that HTML wasn't designed for, XForms becomes much simpler.

It supports common use cases

Repeating structures: for instance adding items to a shopping basket, adding items to an expense declaration...

Wizards: exposing successive parts of the form without returning to the server

Multiple submission: submitting the results to different servers

Loading and saving to files

It is XML, and it can submit XML

XForms is properly integrated into XML: it is in XML, the data it collects in the form is XML, it can load external XML documents as initial data, and can submit the results as XML.

By including the user in the XML pipeline, it at last means you can have end-to-end XML, right up to the user's desktop.

However, it still supports 'legacy' servers.

XForms is also a part of XHTML2


It combines existing XML technologies

Rather than reinventing the wheel, XForms uses a number of existing XML technologies, such as

This has a dual benefit:

Tries to remain recognisable for HTML community

It integrates into existing data streams

Data can be pre-loaded into a form from external sources

Existing Schemas can be used

It integrates with SOAP and XML RPC

Doesn't require new server infrastructure

It is device independent

Thanks to the intent-based controls, the same form can be delivered without change to a traditional browser, a PDA, a mobile phone, a voice browser, and even some more exotic emerging clients such as an Instant Messenger.

This greatly eases providing forms to a wide audience, since forms only need to be authored once.

It is internationalized

Because the data submitted is XML, it is properly internationalised.

It is accessible

XForms has been designed so that it will work as well with accessible technologies (for instance for blind users) as with traditional visual browsers.

It is royalty-free and unencumbered

An open standard

With wide industry support

That is widely implemented

(If you think this is a good idea, join W3C and support our efforts!)


It looks like it is going to be the year of XForms

XForms has hit a nerve, and is supplying a need: industry reponse has been incredible.

More information: www.w3.org/Markup/Forms