A brief form server history

I was reading a posting recently on FlexLive.net about how Live Cycle has yet to cross the technology chasm. This got me thinking about Live Cycle Forms and in particular its form server component. Did you know that this core piece of LiveCycle Forms is now seven years old?

The form server began as a research project back in 1999 in order to leverage the power of another fledgling technology called XFA. The idea was that with form templates being defined in XML one could dynamically generate forms for a variety of clients. The form server was first released as ReachForm and marketed as the easy way “for people to access and submit forms online using the Internet”. The major feature of ReachForm then was its ability to generate form content for any browser from a single XFA definition. One could even generate multi-page HTML applications complete with client and server side scripting!

The form server was originally a Windows only COM-based solution written in Visual Basic. As a result it was a Windows only solution but could also be accessed by non-Windows platforms using SOAP.  Over the next four major releases new transformation formats were added (including PDF!) as well as digital signature support and higher performance.

Today, COM is long gone and has been replaced by Java and J2EE. Some old features have been dropped but new ones have been added as well. Even still, while its implementation is vastly different the underlying architecture and core capabilities of the form server has largely remained the same.

My point here is that while LiveCycle does indeed have a chasm to cross the chasm itself keeps moving.  What makes a good technology great is its ability not only to cross the chasm-of-the-day but also manage to keep up with change. Technology is liquid and any great software must be able to mold and transform itself in order to meet the demands of technology. The form server has proven itself over the past seven years that its core architecture is able to keep up with the pace of changing technology in the enterprise and still deliver the same great results.

The form server technology that is now part of Adobe LiveCycle Forms has stood the test of time and will continue to be innovative well into the future.

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