Example query

A search query uses HTTP POST to provide an XML document containing the search criteria as well as information about the response to provide.

The request MUST have a Content-Type: application/xml header.

The following shows for example a search from the demo Bookshelf form:

    <!-- Free-text search query -->
    <!-- Structured search query -->
    <query name="title"
    <query name="author"
    <query name="language"
    <!-- Paging -->
    <!-- Language -->

Query elements

The query element is the most complex element. It is used for full-text and structured search. Full-text search and structured search are exclusive: either Form Runner performs one, or the other.

The first <query> element is used for free text search: its attributes, if any, are ignored, and its text content, if present, it taken to be the text of the search. The result details to return is still determined by the subsequent <query> elements with summary-field set to true. See below for more information about the response format. The exact semantic of the full-text search is implementation-dependent.

When building a structured search query, Form Runner first looks at all controls in the source form that have the class fr-summary or fr-search. These are used to build the request.

For each such control found, a <query> element is added to the request, with the following attributes and text value:

  • name attribute:
    • contains the control name as entered in Form Builder
  • path attributes:
    • contains the path to the XML element or attribute storing the data in XForms, relative to the root element
    • [SINCE Orbeon Forms 2016.2]
      • Paths generated by Form Runner (including from the Summary page) no longer contain [1] suffixes.
      • The built-in relational search implementation assumes paths which do not contain such suffixes. Orbeon Forms 2016.2.1 strips such suffixes for backward-compatibility (see #2922).
    • [UNTIL Orbeon Forms 2016.1 included]
      • Paths generated by Form Runner (including from the Summary page) contain [1] after element names, to guarantee the query only returns one node.
      • This is done to make it easier to implement the persistence layer for databases like MySQL that don't allow multiple values to be handled in a custom way. (Specifically with MySQL, if multiple values are found, extractValue always returns a space separated string.)
  • label attribute:
    • informative only
    • the control's label in the current language used by Form Runner
  • type attribute:
    • contains the datatype associated with the field in Form Builder
    • default: xs:string
    • other possible values include
      • optional/mandatory string: xforms:string/xs:string
      • optional/mandatory date: xforms:date/xs:date
      • optional/mandatory time: xforms:time/xs:time
      • optional/mandatory dateTime: xforms:dateTime/xs:dateTime
    • other values are possible, including XML Schema data types as well as user-defined data types
  • control attribute:
    • informative only
    • the XForms control type used in the form, including:
      • input
      • textarea
      • secret
      • select
      • select1
      • range (rarely used)
  • search-field attribute:
    • whether this is a search field
    • if true, the field might contain a search string entered by the user as text value
    • NOTE: Only the controls with class fr-search are shown to the user to enter search criteria.
  • summary-field attribute:
    • whether this is a summary field
    • if true, search must return a result detail value fo this field (assuming there are search results)
  • match attribute:
    • whether a substring or an exact match is requested
    • possible values
      • exact: an exact match is requested
      • substring: a substring match is requested
    • this is useful only for <query> elements with search-field set to true
    • exact is used only when querying the Form Builder summary page's app and form names, but this might be extended in the future
    • NOTE: The exact semantics for substring is not specified at the moment (the search implementation may use a "starts-with", a "contains" logic, or something else).
  • text value of the <query> element:
    • the search string entered by the user, if any
    • this is useful only for <query> elements with search-field set to true

Search paths

The path attribute can be looked at a search key. Say your documents looks like this:


Then the path personal-info/first-name matches XML elements following the XPath notation, relative to the root element of the document.

Note that for a given form definition, there is a limited number of search paths, which are fully determined by the XPath expressions present on the form definition's control bindings and model binds for controls that have the fr-summary or fr-search classes.

The paths sent by Form Runner are usually simple paths, but there are some exceptions:

  • Form Builder uses more complex paths out of the box, for example:

        xforms:model[@id = 'fr-form-model']/
          xforms:instance[@id = 'fr-form-metadata']/
              description[@xml:lang = $fb-lang]
  • Forms where user has entered XPath expressions manually to bind controls to XML data will contain those paths.

If the persistence layer is able to run XPath expressions (as eXist or other XML databases can), then the path provided by the search request can be executed. However, XPath evaluation is not absolutely required. For example with non-XML (relational, key/value) data stores, it is easier to consider the search path as an opaque search key that uniquely identifies the field to search.

Old query elements

  • 2013-05-24: Removal
    • All the previously deprecated elements mentioned below have been removed, and are not sent to the search API.
  • 2011-11-22: Deprecation
    • app and form elements:
      • these elements are deprecated and will be removed in the future. As of Orbeon Forms 3.9, they are present but empty
      • to obtain the app and form name being queried, extract them instead from the search URL
    • sort-key element:
      • this element was present but never used and will be removed in the future


The page-size and page-number elements control paging.

  • page-size attribute: how many results to return at the most
  • page-number attribute: page number to result, starting with 1


Since 2016.2

The Form Runner home page doesn't send the <lang> element, and the implementations of the API that ship with Orbeon Forms don't use it if provided. Instead, when the persistence knows about multiple values corresponding to different languages for a "field", it returns all the values. In turn, the summary page displays all the values. This is inline with what is done for fields inside repeated grids or repeated sections, which can have multiple values.

Up to 2016.1

The lang element contains the current language used by the user in the summary page. If the form contains language-dependent fields, this information can be used to refine the search. Only Form Builder makes use of this capability.

For example, Form Builder allows storing a form title and description in more than one language. When searching the form title field, the expectation of the user is likely to be that, if the user interface is in English, the English title will be searched and not, for example, the Italian title. In this case, the search path contains a special variable, $fb-lang, which allows the persistence implementation to discriminate on the language:

  xforms:model[@id = 'fr-form-model']/
    xforms:instance[@id = 'fr-form-metadata']/
        description[@xml:lang = $fb-lang]

In persistence implementations that support XPath, the variable can be either scoped or replaced in the path by the value provided by the incoming <lang> element.

In persistence implementations that don't support XPath, this kind of queries are a little more tricky. The path can:

  • either be used as a plain key and ignore the <lang> element (therefore ignoring the language-sensitive search)
  • or be translated to the native query language of the persistence implementations


The <drafts> element is used to tell the implementation of the persistence API which documents we're interested in, and thus which documents it must return:

  • If the element is present, it must contain one of the following values:
    • exclude: don't include drafts. This value isn't used by Form Runner, but could be used in the future, and [SINCE 2016.2] is supported by the persistence for relational databases.
    • only: only return drafts.
    • include: return both drafts and non-drafts. This is the default if the <drafts> element is missing.
  • If the element isn't present, then the persistence must return drafts and non-drafts alike.

NOTE: exclude is not used in 4.6.2, but it could be used in the future.

If the value of <drafts> is only, then the <drafts> element can optionally have one of the following attributes:

  • for-document-id="$document-id" instructs the persistence to only return drafts for the given document id, of which there can be 0 or 1. This is used by Form Runner's /edit page to check if a draft exists for a given document that is being opened, so it can, when appropriate, ask users if they prefer to open the draft or non-draft document.
  • for-never-saved-document="true" instructs the persistence to only return drafts for documents that were never saved. This is used by Form Runner's:
    • /new page to check if existing drafts already exist, in which case it might ask users if they prefer to start a new document or edit one of those drafts.
    • /summary page if that page gets drafts-for-never-saved-document=true in the URL.

Here are examples of requests/response in edit mode. Only zero or one document can be returned:

    <drafts for-document-id="fbba3db82e7fb1e0054e97d49026b5d303a1fa2f">only</drafts>

<documents search-total="1">
    <document created="2014-08-15T17:12:04.570Z" last-modified="2014-08-15T17:18:50.993Z" draft="true"
              name="fbba3db82e7fb1e0054e97d49026b5d303a1fa2f" operations="*">

And in new mode, zero or more documents can be returned:

    <drafts for-never-saved-document="true">only</drafts>

<documents search-total="2">
    <document created="2014-08-15T17:05:11.563Z" last-modified="2014-08-15T17:05:11.563Z" draft="true"
              name="dac2971cca0e71e36880e890297ab8818a5298e0" operations="*">
    <document created="2014-08-15T17:04:55.383Z" last-modified="2014-08-15T17:04:55.383Z" draft="true"
              name="b0e28c1ed4ea6cfab445b40bb9dcb8bc6c296c92" operations="*">

Query response

The persistence layer must return a document of this form:

<documents search-total="4" page-size="10" page-number="1" query="">
    <document created="2011-05-06T14:58:40.376-07:00"
            <detail>The Terror</detail>
            <detail>Dan Simmons</detail>
    <document created="2011-05-06T14:58:39.611-07:00"
            <detail>The Little Prince</detail>
            <detail>Antoine de Saint-Exupéry</detail>
    <!-- ... more <document> elements ... -->

The root element contains these attributes:

  • search-total attribute: number of documents matched by the current search.
  • [Up to 2016.1] total attribute: total number of documents in the database for this app/form.
  • [Up to 2016.1] page-size attribute: echos of the query's attribute.
  • [Up to 2016.1] page-number attribute: echos of the query's attribute.
  • [Up to 2016.1] query attribute: echos of the full-text query text.

For each of the documents found, a <document> element is returned:

  • created attribute:
    • creation date in ISO format
  • last-modified attribute:
    • last modification date in ISO format
  • name attribute:
    • document identifier,
    • this must match the identifier created by Form Runner when saving the data
  • draft attribute:
    • true or false, depending on whether the form data is a draft (autosaved) or not
  • operations attribute:

Each document contains one element in the order determined by the <query> elements with a summary-field set to true in the request. The text value of the <detail> element is the value of the field in the document found.

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