Wednesday

Wednesday 13/11/2002Forms. Ugh. Speaking as a man with a 30-letter full name, an address that doesn't fit into the normal number/street name format and handwriting that defeats GCHQ's finest decryption experts, I rarely manage to fill forms out without hitting major snags.

Wednesday 13/11/2002
Forms. Ugh. Speaking as a man with a 30-letter full name, an address that doesn't fit into the normal number/street name format and handwriting that defeats GCHQ's finest decryption experts, I rarely manage to fill forms out without hitting major snags. You'd hope that online forms would be much easier -- but not a bit of it. How many times have you sworn mightily at a registration page that refuses to accept your phone number as valid, or won't let you go on without a US format Zip code? We won't even mention the ones that just spit up "Error: re-enter data" when as far as you can tell everything is exactly as required. And there we were, thinking computers were there to make such things easier. Microsoft has the answer: give Microsoft all your data, and let it give it out to people who want your registration details. Thanks, but no thanks. Now, however, there's an alternative: Xforms. This is an XML-based standard for online forms, courtesy of the World Wide Web Consortium. Not only does this mean that stuff like address and name fields will be recognisable as such to your computer, but you'll be able to have your own automatic filling-in software that completes the things for you exactly as you wish -- and with no need for a centralised database holding the information. Boring? Yes. Worthwhile? Absolutely. This one development could make the online world much less frustrating and a much better place to do business. It's often the unsexy things that matter most, as I so frequently put in my online dating profiles...

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