Vendors vie to set electronic forms standard

Vendors vie to set electronic forms standard

Two companies ask Web consortium to base forms on their architectures

By Chris Driscoll

GCN Staff

JetForm Corp. of Ottawa has asked the World Wide Web Consortium to include part or all of its XML Forms Architecture (XFA) in developing an electronic forms standard for the Extensible Markup Language.

The Cambridge, Mass., consortium's federal members include the Library of Congress and NASA.

JetForm designed XFA for the Web's XML metalanguage. XML descriptive tags tell a browser how to handle data. For example, invisible XML tags could indicate whether a word is a name, a street or a ZIP code.

Sally McCallum, director of the Library of Congress standards office, said she expects XML to make document management and searches a lot easier.

Another electronic document company, Uwi.com of Concord, Calif., a year ago submitted to the consortium a similar proposal for the Extensible Forms Description Language, or XFDL.

Uwi.com has users at the IRS, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Defense Automated Printing Service and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Both companies' proposed specifications can handle electronically signed forms, which the consortium said 'are expected to be important as a basis for electronic commerce and for workflow where forms are signed off by one person before being passed to another.'

Andy Bridge, vice president of government sales for JetForm, said XML will foster more standardization and interoperability in the exchange of information.

The forms company claims 2 million federal users at the Postal Service, the departments of Agriculture and Defense, and the Health and Human Services Department's Child Welfare Division.

Bridge said the Government Paperwork Elimination Act brings the need for a standard into greater prominence.

'XML is standard, and no matter what you use'a Hypertext Markup Language form or something else'you will be able to read it,' he said.

JetForm built into XFA some earlier work by Microsoft Corp. and advice from users of its existing forms development products. 'By and large, we developed it on our own and from scratch,' Bridge said.''

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