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'Great deal of attention is now being paid to e-forms'

April 27, 2004

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"Electronic forms have long resided in a sleepy corner of the content-management landscape, perched somewhere between scan-and-capture applications and records management," writes Bill Trippe in his Seybold Reports article published earlier this month titled "eForms Matter."

But times are changing, he explains, due in part to recent product announcements from Adobe Systems and Microsoft, and the publication of the XForms recommendation by the World Wide Web Consortium.

"But first," writes Trippe, president of New Millennium Publishing, a Boston-based consulting practice and a keynote speaker during the eForms Summit at the recent Seybold Amsterdam conference, "all the contenders must figure out how to displace today's de facto standard, the vanilla HTML form."

Trippe notes that even though electronic forms "have not stood out as a big business in and of themselves," Adobe has long shown an interest, seeking to establish PDF-based forms as a key feature and capability of its Acrobat solutions. (Trippe says that forms-related features began appearing with Acrobat 4, but in fact, Adobe introduced forms in the previous version.) Citing the company's 2002 acquisition of enterprise-oriented Accelio, he says that "e-forms provide Adobe an opportunity to sell more enterprise platforms such as Adobe Form Server and the Adobe Document Server."

Noting Adobe's revamped Form Designer and the related server solutions, Trippe says "the clear emphasis of these products is not just to give professionals tools for creating forms that use Acrobat as the display format; rather, Adobe is fully embracing XML as the data-transport mechanism for e-forms."

After a similar summaries of Microsoft's InfoPath, Trippe opines that in comparing the two companies' solutions, "Adobe would seem to have the advantage today." He explains that "Acrobat alone seems to give Adobe the ability to offer a more feature-rich and flexible design tool for creating e-forms."

He concludes:

"The use of electronic forms is vast, but up until now has been dominated by essentially free technology: HTML forms. Perhaps these new technologies can bring added functionality and improved ease of use to the end user and usher in a new generation of applications that are fueled by greatly improved content and data capture at the front end."

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