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Subject: Input specification documentation for UBL

Hi All,

I have just joined the group at Ken's suggestion with a view to seeing 
if I can help devise a way to create useful documentation to record the 
requirements for creating input mechanisms for UBL XML.

I have been working with electronic forms for some years now - 
initially working with EDI, and latterly with XML. I have been a member 
of the W3C XForms WG for some years now, and my current employer, 
PicoForms has XForms implementations that run in desktop browsers and 
mobile devices.

Until recently I worked for a UK standards body, (Origo), that works on 
XML standards for the UK Life and Pensions Industry. We had the same 
requirement to specify generic rules for creating input applications to 
populate documents conformant to our Schemas. 

Historically this was achieved by producing prose documents that 

 - The logical grouping of fields and groups of fields in an electronic 
 - The order in which fields should be presented to the user (if 
 - Where data cross-population was valid (e.g. if the same address 
could perform more than one role).
 - Where and how values could be calculated internally (e.g. 

The documentation was somewhat flawed as it assumed a visual 
presentation on a computer desktop, and all rules were expressed, often 
poorly, as prose. It was nevertheless a useful starting point.

More recently we started to look at using XForms + XHTML + CSS to 
produce better documentation. XForms lends itself well to use as a 
"meta" forms description language. It is a largely declarative language 
designed to capture the intent of a form author without imposing any 
particular presentation mechanism. It consumes XML Schema and 
instances, and allows for the creation of XPath based constraints 
(similar to Schematron) and calculated values.

I am now keen to explore a similar approach in he context of UBL. I 
recently built a simple, generic form that allows a user to walk an XML 
instance and view associated annotations from the UBL schema (see: 
and am now looking to see how this can be adapted.

Ken pointed me at the specification for calculating totals ( 
from which I can derive XPath expressions that I can use with an XForm 
to test that they work. So this looks like a nice, simple next step.

It has been suggested that it would be best for me to create 
implementation-technology-neutral documentation to describe rules for 
building input applications, and then to test by generating XForms that 
implement the rules from the documentation. The resulting XForms could 
also serve as interactive appendices to the main documentation. This 
seems a reasonable approach to me.

Anyway, I would really appreciate thoughts and ideas from others with 
experience in this field. Does the general approach sound reasonable?

My employer is happy to allow people to use our XForms implementation 
freely to access the forms I produce - so I will let you know when 
there is something to play with.  

All the best

Mark Seaborne
Senior Standards Architect
web:    http://www.picoforms.com
e-mail: mark.seaborne@picoforms.com
tel: +44 131 2080031
mobile:  +44 787 2180215

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