10 things you need to know about XDocs

Jean Paoli, the architect of Microsoft Office's XML capabilities, recently spent several hours showing me Microsoft's newest Office family member, InfoPath (formerly XDocs, originally NetDocs). Here are 10 things you should know about this revolutionary piece of software. [Full story at InfoWorld.com.]

Yesterday I ran across a posting on xml-dev from Bill Humphries Len Bullard (thanks, Dare) that elaborates on one of Jean Paoli's key objectives, namely to make XML data visible and tangible:

How can XDocs help? One optimistic vision based on real world experience: systems that do away with the need to heavily front load the downstream analysis tools really do improve the process because they enable fused views, eg, quick visibility into decisions made over months by multiple lightly coupled human entities as they affect the next stage of a process. [ xml-dev]

Well said! In my interview with him, Paoli put it this way:

The thing I always am afraid of, because it gates the acceptance of XML, is that XML files could not be seen. ( audio)

I shoot you an XML, and if you don't know what to do with it -- and I'm talking here the information worker, not the IT or developer, that's not my problem anymore, that was six or eight years go -- I really need to make sure the IT department can directly let end users see this information, at least. And so, here I have stylesheets, and everybody now has an XSL processor somewhere, so at least you can see it. ( audio)

Back in April 2001, I attended the XML DevCon in New York and came home truly depressed. In my column that week, I wrote:

Where are the XML apps we can see and touch?

Don't get me wrong, I've been saying for years that XML-oriented web services would be huge. Now they are, and I'm delighted. But I'm also starting to wonder if there's something missing from the picture that's developing. I started to say so in my panel discussion, but I didn't want to rain on the web-services parade, which I am greatly enjoying. Nevertheless, I've got to ask at some point: where and how do all these web services intersect with people?


Where's the viral app that does, for the end user, by means of XML, what the browser did for the end user by means of HTML? Where are the XML-enabled tools for writing, for personal information management, for knowledge capture and refinement?

I'm happy to report that XDocs (excuse me, InfoPath) begins to answer those questions.

Update: Dave asks: "What does it look like?" I haven't been given the beta code yet, unfortunately, so the best I can do is point to Microsoft's preview site. It looks like, and is, a forms designer and forms filler. Paoli believes -- and I agree -- that it is much more. But of course the proof's in the pudding, so I eagerly await the software.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2003/02/21.html#a614