Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The state of Orbeon Forms, Part 10.2

This is the second and last part of "The state of Orbeon Forms, Part 10", covering the changes that have taken place since the release of Orbeon Forms 3.9 (part 1 is available here). This time we focus on Form Builder and Form Runner improvements:
  1. Form Builder
    • Access control for deployed forms. When using Oracle and MySQL, Form Builder can now specify fine-grained role-based access control for deployed forms. This will have to be implemented for eXist as well.
    • Services and actions in section templates. Form Builder services and actions now work within section templates. This is a long-requested feature! See also the section templates documentation.
    • Conditional actions. The Form Builder Action Editor now supports Run always/Run on creation only. See also the Action Editor documentation.
    • Grids withs more than 4 columns. Form Builder grids by default have a maximum of 4 columns. You can now optionally allow Form Builder to support more columns with a new property.
    • "Save as". Form Builder now has a "Save As…" button to save a form definition as a new document.
  2. Form Runner
    • reCAPTCHA. reCAPTCHA is now integrated with Form Runner. See Stop spammers by adding a CAPTCHA to your forms.
    • Improved persistence configuration. The main goal is to allow multiple SQL databases, each using its own datasource. See the compatibility notes.
    • Excel import. Quickly import form data from an Excel spreadsheet. See Excel import in Form Runner.
    • Required fields have an asterisk. See Styling required fields with a star.
    • Improved Liferay support. Liferay support had been improved quite a bit for 3.9, and has improved even more since then. In particular, there is a new asynchronous portlet content loading mode which provides better performance with slower browser, and many bug fixes to both the full portlet and the Form Runner proxy portlet.
    • XBL sections and grids. Form Runner sections and grids used to be implemented in XSLT, back when XBL support was not available. They have now been rewritten using XBL. See section.xbl and grid.xbl.
    • Font embedding in PDF files. See the documentation.
    • Third-party Alfresco persistence layer. See this blog post by Alexey, this presentation, and the source on github.
    • MongoDB persistence layer. This is still experimental. We got a nice contribution to support form definitions and attachments. See the source.
  3. Form Builder "next"
    • Dynamic XForms architecture. The next version of Form Builder uses a different approach at edit time. See Dynamic XForms and a new grid editor for Form Builder "next". This is cool because it is a solid foundation for nested sections, repeats, tabs, and live XBL controls in the builder.
    • New cell editor. A good part of the cell editor (in charge of editing a control's label and hint in particular) is now written in CoffeeScript on the client, the idea being to make it more responsive.
    • Nested sections. Some support for nested sections is now in. See also Dealing with nested sections in Form Builder.
    • Repeats. Support for repeats is partially implemented. Some rough edges still have to be handled.
As usual this does not include bug-fixes and other smaller improvements which you can follow on github.

Right now we are working hard on a couple of things, in particular:
  • Event handling refactoring. There are some unfortunate bugs related to event handling, especially in relation with XBL, which are hard to fix at the moment. Now that Form Runner sections and grids are implemented in XBL, it has become important to fix those issues. So we are refactoring the code in charge of events to make things easier to maintain.
  • Form Builder "next". This is the big piece! We are learning from our experience with Form Builder over the last few years and building on that for the next major release of Orbeon Forms. Things are starting to fall into place.

-The Orbeon Team

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