Using XForms and the OpenDocument format in OpenOffice.org and StarOffice
This paper addresses the use of the W3C XForms standard http://www.w3.org/TR/xforms/ in the OpenOffice.org office suite.
OpenOffice.org is a cousin to the StarOffice suite. They are both very versatile and standards compliant office suites. StarOffice was originally developed by StarDivision and acquired by Sun Microsystems in August 1999 who released the source code as open source calling it OpenOffice.org http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenOffice.org. After this source code was released, it gathered a large developer base. As of November 2008, OpenOffice.org supports over 45 languages and installs on a number of different computer operating systems.
The ISO/IEC standard OpenDocument format (ODF) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenDocument is a generic file format for electronic office documents (such as spreadsheets, charts, presentations, word processing, and form documents). While the specifications were originally developed by Sun, the standard was embraced by the Open Office XML technical committee of the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) consortium and is now considered the base on which the XML format is structured.
The eXtensible Markup Language (XML) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XML is a general-purpose specification for creating customized markup languages. It is extensible because it allows the user to define custom mark-up elements. XML's purpose is to aid information systems in sharing structured data as well as separate the data from the presentation of that data.
One component of XML in OpenOffice.org version 2.0 and beyond is the use of XForms http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XForms. XForms with complex data can be processed locally while providing instant feedback to the user without sending or receiving data across a network connection. XForms may be saved to disk, submitted to the Internet, or even a file server. Selections made in XForms and saved to disk can latter be reopened with the user's selections still intact.
Another component of XML in OpenOffice.org version 2.0 is XML Path Language (XPath) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xpath. XPath is a language for selecting elements from an XML document. In addition, XPath may be used to compute values (strings, numbers, or boolean values) from the content of an XML document.
Step-by-step instructions with explanations will be given on how one might set up a practical and useful XForm using XPath in the OpenOffice.org suite. Before showing how OpenOffice.org allows a user to graphically create XForms, a very quick and basic explanation of XML and XForms will be given to help the user with the fundamental concepts of what is happening under the graphical interface. If you are familiar with these concepts, then please feel free to skip them and go directly to the "XForms and XPath in OpenOffice.org" section.
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