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November 22, 2005

IBM introduces e-forms from PureEdge acquisition

IBM Corp is adding e-forms to its Lotus Workplace portfolio, capitalizing on the technology it acquired with PureEdge back in the summer.

By CBR Staff Writer

In so doing, it has consolidated the dozen-plus offerings from PureEdge into three product lines, including a rich client viewer, server, and forms designer. It is being branded IBM Workplace Forms.

In some ways, the technology is similar to PDF, in that it renders forms to look like hard copy. However, the underlying XML technology makes IBM’s e-forms offering far more dynamic than PDF documents, which are simply intended for screen rendering and printing.

The engine is based on Xforms, the W3C standard for XML forms, which provides standard headers and support of XML Schema. By using XML, the forms can be made dynamic.

If rendered using the native IBM viewer, you could embed conditional or branching workflows, so that the content of the form can vary based on the input, or the form can embed one or more workflows that are useful for the routing and approval of documents.

IBM’s forms server supports rendering to the native forms client, or as HTML for zero deployment web pages. However, as plain HTML, the forms operate like any other web form, carrying zero business logic and requiring round-trips back to the server for all interaction.

Unfortunately, IBM has declined to support rendering using Ajax technologies, which could have delivered much of the dynamics and programmatic support of the native viewer in a plain vanilla browser client. This is a major shortcoming of the product.

The initial releases are primarily a consolidation and rebranding of the former PureEdge products. On the horizon, IBM is looking at embedding the e-forms capability into other offerings, such as WebSphere Process server for BPM, or WebSphere Portal.

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As it embeds the capabilities in other products, IBM will continue to offer e-forms as standalone Workplace product as well.

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