BFMA Symposium 2005
Form Containers, Content, and Controls
An important concept to introduce in an intermediate HTML class is the idea of Form Containers, Content,
and Controls. HTML forms exist primarily as containers for fill data. The fill data that is keyed or
computed or retrieved and displayed inside fill fields is called content. The buttons, tabbing order, field
highlighting, and other navigational functions within the form are called controls. The controls for an
HTML form also include web server and database connectivity. To successfully implement and deploy
Internet forms solutions, one must be equipped to create and maintain Form Containers, Content, and
Although the basic HTML tags allow online forms to be developed with a simple text editor, it is not
productive to build and maintain an enterprise solution by hand-coding HTML. There are great forms
design and development tools from several of the companies sponsoring the BFMA Symposium. Form
development is simplified by using software that automatically converts a form design into HTML code
while generating the server-side form handler software.
Creating Database-Connected HTML Forms
After designing an HTML form, there are several steps necessary to make database connections. For OFDP
users, these steps are simplified through menu functions and dialog panels that help the form designer to:
Insert a Submit button
Insert necessary hidden fields
Link data tables
Input tables (Read Only)
Output tables (Allow Write)
Link form fields to data table columns
Identify input Trigger fields
The first step is to make the I-form submittable by inserting a Submit button. Note that the OFDP Submit
button uses the “HTML Post” method for transmitting the field name/value pair data to a server script
Several hidden fields must also be inserted onto the I-form so that when the I-form is served to the client,
navigational information and transaction status are preserved. This insures that the correct next page will be
presented to the client when a form is submitted.
Before making database connections, it is important to identify the data tables that are going to be used
with the I-form. Typically there is an Output table where form fill data is stored. Sometimes there are one
or more Input tables used to populate fields on the I-form. Oftentimes, an Output table for an I-form is later
used as an Input table for a subsequent I-form.
Next, each I-form fill field is linked to a Output data table column name. Some fields may have links to
both Input and Output tables. In many cases, the I-form field list is used to create a new Output table where
each I-form field name is mirrored as a table column name.
Finally, for each input table, there must be a “trigger” event to force a data table record to be retrieved and
I-form fill fields to be populated. Typically a fill field is designated as a trigger field, and an event occurs
when the client keys a value (i.e. account number) into the field and presses the tab key. This causes other
fields (i.e. name and address) to be populated.