Excel and XML export

Availability

[SINCE Orbeon Forms 2021.1]

This is an Orbeon Forms PE feature.

Context

Orbeon Forms includes a few ways to export form definitions and form data. This page documents a very specific capability: exporting a form definition, optionally alongside a single piece of form data, in Excel or XML format, appropriate for importing the data into Orbeon Forms at a later time.

For a different type of export, see also Form definitions and form data batch export.

How to use the feature

Locations

You can export using an "Excel Export" or "XML Export" button from the following locations:

Exporting from the Form Builder Detail page

With Form Builder, the Excel Export button is available by default. You can control its availability with the following property, by adding the excel-export button token. We show here the default value of this property for Orbeon Forms 2023.1:

<property as="xs:string"  name="oxf.fr.detail.buttons.orbeon.builder">
    home
    summary
    new
    form-definition-xhtml-export|excel-export|xml-export
    test|test-pdf|test-offline|test-formulas
    publish
    save
</property>

Note the | which denotes combined buttons.

Exporting from the Form Runner Summary and Detail pages

With Form Runner, you can enable the export button with the following properties, by including the same excel-export button token. Summary page:

<property as="xs:string"  name="oxf.fr.summary.buttons.*.*">
    home review pdf delete duplicate excel-export new
</property>

Detail page:

<property as="xs:string"  name="oxf.fr.detail.buttons.*.*">
    summary clear pdf excel-export wizard-toc wizard-prev wizard-next save-final review
</property>

In addition, you must set the following property to enable export with data on the Summary and Detail pages:

<property
    as="xs:boolean"
    name="oxf.fr.export.page.enable.*.*"
    value="true"/>

The reason for this extra setting is that, even if the user has read access to the form, exporting a form in Excel or XML format can reveal some hidden data.

Formats

Form Runner can export in two formats:

  • excel-named-ranges : Excel document containing the structure of the form, using named ranges (see below) to map form controls to cells

  • xml-form-structure-and-data: XML document with indications about the form structure, alongside XML data

In each case, when form data is requested, the export is done on the basis of a single document.

Excel with named ranges format

Introduction

The Excel export feature is aimed at organizations whose users are familiar with Excel spreadsheets. Users can export a form to a spreadsheet and fill it out on their computers. They can pass the spreadsheet around for other users to complete it. When they are done, they can import the resulting spreadsheet back to Orbeon Forms, where the data is captured, validated, shown to the user for review, and then saved to the Orbeon Forms database.

For more about the import feature, see Excel and XML Import.

The Excel document contains all the fields of the form, attempting to mirror the layout of the original form. This includes section titles and field labels.

The export feature produces an Excel document that look like this:

Named ranges

Orbeon Forms includes, in the generated Excel document, so-called named ranges which match the control names assigned in Form Builder. This allows reimporting data in those cells during a subsequent import.

Excel names do not support all the characters supported in Form Runner names. In addition, Excel has some very specific and poorly documented rules for name ranges for names that look like cell references. Such names are modified by Orbeon Forms when needed with an _ prefix. The following shows some modification that are performed by Orbeon Forms:

Excel allows you to see the name of a given cell or range:

Repeated content

In the case of repeated grids, groups of cells share the same name.

Repeated grids, or repeated sections containing only non-repeated grids, are "flattened". That is, all form controls are presented in a single Excel row, with one row for each repetition.

Lists of choices

Lists of choices are exported as text, showing the value of the choice between parentheses, and the label next to it.

When importing, the cell value must contain the value of the choice, not the label.

Multiple-selection controls require entering the values as a space-separated list of tokens.

Limitations

As available in Orbeon Forms 2021.1, the new Excel export feature has the following limitations:

  • The 24-column mode is not supported.

  • Dynamic list of choices (for example dynamic dropdowns) are not supported.

  • Nested repeats are not supported.

  • Repeated grids or sections are always flattened.

  • Section templates are not supported.

  • Some form controls are not supported, including:

    • Formatted Text

    • Handwritten Signature

    • Attachments

  • No calculations or validations are exported.

XML with form structure and data format

Introduction

This format exports an XML document with the form structure and the data.

The purpose of this export is to allow you to save the form data in a format that can be reimported into Orbeon Forms at a later time. The form structure is included to provide context for the data. It doesn't replace the form definition as you can seen in Form Builder's Edit Source as well as Form Definition Format.

Format of the XML document

The XML document is structured as follows (with ... indicating omitted content).

<orbeon-export
    export-date="2024-04-26T23:50:35.423Z"
    export-lang="en"
    export-format-version="2021.1">
  <form-metadata>
    <application-name>acme</application-name>
    <form-name>contact</form-name>
    <title>ACME Contact Form</title>
    <description>The Contact form is a simple form which can be created in a few minutes with Form Builder.</description>
  </form-metadata>
  <form-structure>
    <section name="contact">
      <label>Contact Information</label>
      <grid name="grid-1">
        <control name="first-name" required="true" datatype="string" control-type="xf:input">
          <label>First Name</label>
          <hint>Your first or given name</hint>
        </control>
        <control name="last-name" required="true" datatype="string" control-type="xf:input">
          <label>Last Name</label>
          <hint>Your last name</hint>
        </control>
        ...
      </grid>
    </section>
    ...
  </form-structure>
  <form-data>
    <form xmlns:fr="http://orbeon.org/oxf/xml/form-runner"
          fr:data-format-version="2019.1.0">
      <contact>
        <grid-1>
          <first-name/>
          <last-name/>
          <email/>
          <phone/>
        </grid-1>
      </contact>
      <message>
        <grid-2>
          <order-number/>
          <topic/>
        </grid-2>
        <grid-3>
          <comments/>
        </grid-3>
      </message>
    </form>
  </form-data>
</orbeon-export>

The XML document contains the following sections:

  • orbeon-export: root element

    • export-date attribute: date and time of the export

    • export-lang attribute: language of the form at the time of the export

    • export-format-version attribute: version of the export format

    • form-metadata: enclosing element for form metadata

      • application-name: application name

      • form-name: form name

      • title: form title

      • description: form description

    • form-structure: enclosing element for the structure of the form

      • section: form section

        • label: section label

        • grid: grid in the section

          • control: control in the grid

            • label: control label

            • hint: control hint

    • form-data: enclosing element for the form data

The form-data section contains the form data in the version indicated by the fr:data-format-version attribute, see Form data format.

Exporting through a service call

You can also export to Excel and XML through a service call.

See also

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