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Book Review - XForms Essentials by Micah Dubinko

Category Book Reviews

One of the recent IBM acquisitions leads me to believe that the XForms standard will begin to play a larger part in my area of software expertise.  To that end, I got a review copy of XForms Essentials by Micah Dubinko in order to try and get a basic understanding of the standard and technology.  The book does a pretty good job of that, but is probably more useful for someone who is all ready to dig in and use it.

Contents:  Introduction to Web Forms; XForms Building Blocks; XPath in XForms; XML Schema in XForms; The XForms Model; The XForms User Interface; Actions and Events; Submit; Styling XForms; Form Accessibility, Design, and Troubleshooting; Extending XForms; Examining Microsoft InfoPath; The GNU Free Documentation License; Index

Dubinko starts off by examining how HTML forms work, and then transitions into how XForms addresses some of the problems (heavy reliance on scripting, restriction to flat key/value data pairing, etc.).  Chapter 2 does a pretty high-level overview of an XForms document and what components do what in the layout.  From there, you start to get pretty deep into the different areas that make up the entire XForms family, like XPath and XML Schema.  At this point, having a solid footing in XML technology is probably required (or highly suggested), because the terminology gets technical and a fair amount of reference material starts to creep in.  If you're actually using XForms in your application development, then you'll be able to use those reference sections to understand and use things like datatypes and computed expressions.  I also really liked the appendix section on the comparison between XForms and Microsoft's competing InfoPath implementation.  It does a nice job highlighting the major differences in a really short number of pages.  

While this might not have been the best "first" XForms book for me to read, it definitely does a good job in covering the information for the right audience.  If someone were faced with a software application that used XForms and they needed to support it, I'd definitely suggest getting a copy of this book.  The technical nature will help as you get your hands dirty on a daily basis.  If you're simply looking for a high-level understanding of XForms, there's a fair amount here that will cause your eyes to glaze over...


Gravatar Image1 - Micah is a nice fellow readily sharing his xForms knowledge. He is now with Yahoo. His blogs are here:
Patternalia sounds interesting....
I found xForms a VERY dry topic until I got an implementation to play with. There are a number around (including Firefox 1.5). My favorite is OpenPresentationServer (OPS). This OpenSource project can be found here: http://dubinko.info/blog

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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