What are XForms?

XForms are considered the alternative to the relatively limited form element in standard HTML. Like XHTML, XForms are based on the Extensible Markup Language (XML) — but XForms are different from XHTML forms.

XForms provide several advantages and benefits over traditional HTML-based forms that is making it a more popular choice for many web developers:

  • Structured data support. XML is all about providing a format for more structured data, allowing for easier manipulation and handling of information. Because of its XML foundation, XForms ensures that form data follows XML’s structured data principles.
  • Less reliance on scripting language. The standard HTML language used for many websites comes with a built-in form function that uses the <form> tag. However, because of its limitations, traditional HTML forms must use scripting languages (such as Ajax, PHP, Javascript, etc.) to create more dynamic forms on websites. For example, to create a calculating form (such as with a calculator), HTML forms will need to use a scripting language to run the calculation. This leads to web pages and files that require more server processing time and document complexity.
  • Easier process for initializing form data. Though human website visitors never see what happens when they use a website form, traditional HTML forms actually use a convoluted process for defining initial data, which leads to increased use of the CPU and servers. Because of its XML backbone, XForms typically use XML files to initialize form data.
  • Fewer limits to form data types. HTML forms use a limited set of available data formats. Because of its XML core, XForms give website developers more options for designing and using data encoding formats in their website forms.
  • More options for handling form data. Traditional HTML tends to follow a very simple one-step process when a form is submitted: the data is sent to the website’s server, where the processing ends. Unfortunately, that means that the form data cannot be used for other functions, such as workflows (without additional script programs). Using XML files, XForms provide more flexibility in how form data can be handled and continually processed at multiple stages.
  • One form across multiple pages. It’s somewhat complicated to design traditional HTML forms that span two or more web pages. A scripting language is necessary to save the data collected from one page and insert it into the separate form of the next page. XForms solves that dilemma by creating an XML file that manages and handles the data from the XForm, while also allowing it to be amended with inputs from multiple pages.
  • Multiple forms on one web page. It’s also difficult to create a multiple forms on one page. For example, each HTML form normally only supports one submit button, unless special scripting language is used to handle the form data. Again, because of XML, XForms are better able to handle this level of form complexity.
  • Easier to design for mobile devices. XForms are more self-contained than traditional HTML, allowing it to function with fewer interactions with the server. XForms is also able to work independently of device type, making it easier for developers to create forms for all devices.



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