Friday, November 12, 2021

Orbeon Forms 2020.1.5 PE

We just released Orbeon Forms 2020.1.5 PE!

For details, see the release notes.

You can download the latest version of Orbeon Forms from the downloads page.

We hope you enjoy this release!

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Testing PDF production in Form Builder

Background

Orbeon Forms both features PDF production and the ability to test a form in Form Builder. The latter allows you to run your form in a special “test” mode, where you can test a few of the form’s features without having to deploy it.

But so far there wasn’t a way to test PDF production without publishing your form. This is now improved with Orbeon Forms 2021.1, which allows you to do just that!

How to test PDF production

There are two ways to access the “Test PDF” function:

  1. directly from the Form Builder’s main window’s new “Test” menu
  2. from the “Test Form” window
The new Test menu
The new “Test” menu

In either case, selecting “Test PDF” shows the following dialog:

The Test PDF Production dialog
The “Test PDF Production” dialog

You have access to the following options:

  • “Disable the evaluation of ”Initial Values“ formulas”: when selected, all “Initial Value” formulas are disabled, as if they were not present.
  • “Disable the evaluation of ”Calculated Values“ formulas”: when selected, all “Calculated Value” formulas are disabled, as if they were not present.
  • “Show controls, grids, and sections with dynamic visibility”: when selected, all controls, grids, and sections that can be dynamically shown are shown. This means that those with visibility “Yes” or “Formula” are always shown. Controls with visibility “No” remain not visible.

Use cases for enabling the last option include:

  • Verifying that every control, grid, or section that can appear in the PDF appears correctly.
  • Exporting the PDF file for printing and manual filling.

Selecting “Continue” simply opens the resulting PDF, which will show in your browser window.

When you access the “Test PDF” feature from Form Builder’s “Test Form” window, any data currently entered in the form will show in the PDF.

PDF templates

Form Runner has allowed you to optionally attach one or more PDF templates to a form, in which case the templates are used by Form Runner to fill out fields.

Now the “Test PDF” dialog lets you choose between the automatic PDF or one of the available PDF templates when testing.

Selecting a PDF template for PDF testing
Selecting a PDF template for PDF testing

We hope you will enjoy this new feature of Orbeon Forms 2021.1!

Friday, October 29, 2021

Enhancements to the Actions Editor in Orbeon Forms 2021.1

The Actions Editor in Form Builder allows you, as a form author, to run services. Services are of 2 types: HTTP services (to call web services or REST services) and database services (to run SQL on your relational database). In the Actions Editor, you define: when those services run (e.g. form load, value change, user clicking on a button…), what the input of the service, and what to do with what is returned by the service (e.g. populate fields, dropdowns).

In Orbeon Forms 2021.1, we've made 2 enhancements to the Actions Editor:

  1. You can now provide a formula which defines whether the action must run. Say you have a form that is used within your company, have in your form a service loading information about the current employee, and you may or may not know what the employee id of the current user is. The following screenshot illustrates how you can handle such a case by providing a formula for "Run condition".

  2. You define the values to pass to the service in the Service Request Actions tab. Typically, you will pass the value of a field. You can now also pass a value returned by a formula that you provide. For instance, in the example below we're passing an employee id that we're receiving through an HTTP header to the service.

    You could have done this before by adding a field to your form, using a Calculated Value formula on the field, making that field always hidden, and passing the value of that field in your action, but of course just using that formula in the Actions Editor is simpler and more direct.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Enhancements to grids

Grids are among the most powerful features of Orbeon Forms. With Orbeon Forms 2021.1, we are improving grids in two ways.

First, the Grid Settings dialog now shows the number of grid rows in the grid. This parallels the number of grid columns, with some differences.

Grid Columns Grid Rows
12 or 24 arbitrary
set in dialog set in editor area
view in dialog view in dialog
Number of grid rows
Number of grid rows

Second, for repeated grids only, an option allows you to automatically show a row number at the beginning of each grid repetition. You enable this in the Grid Settings dialog as well.

Enabling showing the number of grid rows
Enabling showing the repetition number

The number automatically shows to the left of the grid and updates as the user add or remove repetitions.

Number of grid rows
Repetition number

We hope you will like these enhancements to grids!

Monday, September 6, 2021

Orbeon Forms 2020.1.4 PE

Today we released Orbeon Forms 2020.1.4 PE!

For details, see the release notes.

You can download the latest version of Orbeon Forms from the downloads page.

We hope you enjoy this release!

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Excel export and import

Introduction

Orbeon Forms 2021.1 includes a new feature to import and export Excel files. [1]

Previous Orbeon Forms versions already supported an Excel import feature. Here are the main differences between the two types of Excel imports:

Existing import feature New import feature
multiple form documents at a time (batch) one form document at a time
row and column-based named range based
no repeat support repeat support
fixed layout customizable layout

The new document-based import feature does not replace the previous one but complements it. Each feature might be improved in the future.

The Excel export feature, on the other hand, is entirely new.

Scenarios

This feature is aimed at organizations whose users are familiar with Excel spreadsheets. Users can export a form to a spreadsheet and fill it out on their computers. They can pass the spreadsheet around for other users to complete it. When they are done, they can import the resulting spreadsheet back to Orbeon Forms, where the data is captured, validated, shown to the user for review, and then saved to the Orbeon Forms database.

In addition, you don’t have to export a form to Excel to import data: as long as you have a spreadsheet that includes the appropriate named ranges (see below), you can use it for importing. This means that you can reuse existing spreadsheets with a few additions, and keep a spreadsheet layout that users are familiar with.

The export feature

The Excel export feature allows you to export a form definition to an Excel file. The Excel document contains all the fields of the form. Say you have the following form in Form Builder:

Example of form in Form Builder
Example of form in Form Builder

Form Runner attempts to mirror the layout of the original form and includes section titles and field labels as well.

Example of exported form
Example of exported form

Named ranges

The Excel file format supports so-called named ranges. This allows you to give one or more cells a name. Orbeon Forms uses this feature to assign every cell, or, in the case of repeated grids, groups of cells, a name which matches [2] the control name assigned in Form Builder. This also allows reimporting data in those cells.

Named ranges in Excel
Named ranges in Excel

Repeated grids

Repeated grids are supported. When repeating over more than one row, they are flattened to show one Excel row for reach repetition. [3]

Repeated grid
Repeated grid

Here is how the repeated grid appears in the Excel document:

Repeated grid in Excel
Repeated grid in Excel

Selection controls

Selection controls are represented with a list of items above the field. The user can then enter the value in the field for import. [4]

The import feature

How it works

You use the same Excel Import page as before. The page is configured to support the document-based Excel import. You start by uploading the document.

Upload
Upload

The uploaded document then goes through validation, and a summary is provided. In this case, there is a missing required field.

Validation summary
Validation summary

Finally, you have the opportunity to review the entire data before saving it. The user can choose to fix the error directly in the form and then save, or can fix the error in the Excel file and start over with the import process.

Data review
Data review

Cells in the Excel document are matched with the form’s cells using the named ranges. If you use an Excel document that has been exported by Orbeon Forms, then the named ranges are already included. But you can also modify the document produced by Orbeon Forms, or create your own spreadsheet from scratch. You just need to include the proper cell names that you need. You can even have field values that are calculated in your Excel document, although this is not generated by Orbeon Forms, and the result will be imported. [5]

Limitations

As available in Orbeon Forms 2021.1, the new Excel import and export feature has the following limitations:

  • no 24-column mode
  • no dynamic list of choices (for example dynamic dropdowns)
  • no calculations or validations are exported
  • no nested repeats
  • repeated grids or sections are always flattened
  • no section templates support
  • some form controls are not supported, including
  • Formatted Text
  • Handwritten Signature
  • Attachments

Conclusion

We hope you will like this new and improved Excel import and export feature! It will be available with Orbeon Forms 2021.1 PE.


  1. We refer to “Excel files” also as “Excel spreadsheets” or “Excel documents”.  ↩

  2. Excel names do not support all the character supported in Form Runner names. So the names are modified when needed.  ↩

  3. This might become optional in the future.  ↩

  4. In the future we might contemplate generating a menu or other in Excel.  ↩

  5. As long as the calculated value is cached by Excel in the document, which is usually the case.  ↩

Friday, May 14, 2021

Making one of two fields required

Say you have a form that contains 2 fields, a and b, and you want users to provide a value for a or for b; it is ok if they provide values for both a and b, but it isn't ok if they leave both a and b empty. A practical example would be a form where you have 2 fields: "Home phone number" and "Mobile phone number", and you need users to leave at least one of those two numbers.

In Form Builder, with the UI shown below, you can declare a field to be required (the "Yes" radio button), or not required, which is the default (the "No" radio button), but you can also write a formula which determines dynamically whether the field is required (the "Formula" radio button), and this is what allows you to handle a case as the one we're considering here.

Say your two fields are named home-phone and mobile-phone. You want to say that the home phone is required if no mobile phone was provided. You can do this with the formula xxf:is-blank($mobile-phone). Conversely, the formula for the mobile phone will be xxf:is-blank($home-phone).

At runtime, the asterisk to the left of the label also updates as you interact with the form, becoming:

  • A red asterisk if a value is required, and none is provided
  • A black asterisk if a value is required, and one is provided
  • No asterisk if a value is not required, because another phone number was provided