The importance of Forms Processing cannot be understated. Enterprise Application Integration is the marching orders of the day (and have been a top CEO/CIO priority for the past ten years - according to Forrester and Cambridge Technology Partners). This integration is being seen in ERP, SCM, CRM, and other unifying enterprise applications. But even those silos of information are being interconnected with Web-based Portal interfaces or Digital DashBoards and Forms-based messaging workflows and services. Portals combined with Forms-based messaging will be the essential glue that helps unite processes and data at the front-end just as CORBA, J2EE, and Web Services unites them on the back end in the server space.
Adobe Acrobat/XML Architecture
Adobe Acrobat has become the preferred delivery vehicle for cross platform high quality document publishing. While Microsoft's Excel, PowerPoint, and Word formats have greater market volume, their lack of cross platform delivery capability and overlapping functionality cut off their appeal in data integration settings. The move to an XML file format in Office 2003 might have changed things; but proprietary extensions, no cross document integration and a confused VBA/VSA scripting model continue to cripple the Microsoft Office entry. However, there is a significant challenge with Macromedia's FlashPaper and RoboHelp's FlashHelp with their embedded ActionScript and cross platform delivery coupled with an efficient storage of the many elements of a document, including many multimedia types. But Acrobat still has the lead because Acrobat files not only carry bitmap images, vector graphics, audio, animation, and highly formatted text with fonts; but also increasing access control functionality - encryption, signatures, partial or complete access privileges, etc. Add to this the ability to control whether users can or cannot copy, markup and/or review content; plus advanced forms display, entry and handling including import and export from a variety of flat file, database, and Soap/Web Services connectors - and suddenly Acrobat can be seen as having a major role in forms as well as document management.
The bottom line is that Adobe Acrobat has become a front runner not only in completed document distribution (through its PDF-extended position), but also with cross platform forms processing. While there are still issues with cost/licensing, performance, and efficient deployment, Acrobat with XML has become a major player position with forms as well as document processing.
Microsoft InfoPath 2003
At its core, InfoPath 2003 is a forms designer and filler application that
is part of the Office 2003 professional edition (as well as a standalone product
- about $200US). InfoPath is heavily committed to XML using XML 2, XML Namespaces,
and XSD for basic XML data access and validation operations. XPath and XSLT
is used to format and transform both internal and external data to and from
forms and persistent datastores. DOM, CSS, and XHTML is used for data form display
and entry, while XSD, DOM, and JScript is used for data validations and error
control. XML DSig is used for data signatures tied in with Windows security
services; and SOAP, WSDL, and UDDI is used for Web Services read/write access
to external datasources. The only major XML technologies that InfoPath is not
using are XACL for access control, XML Encryption for security, XML Query for
accessing data from XML files, SVG and SMIL for graphics display, and XForms
for forms design.
Created: March 27, 2003
Revised: March 10, 2004