Rule Forms

Managing web forms and interaction processes using OpenRules Excel rules and layout tables


“A form is a living, breathing transactional document that interacts with users and information and systems across the enterprise. Today more than 80% of the processes in public and private businesses depend on forms. In each case the form is what initiates the process, it’s the vehicle that drives the process through its lifecycle and that kicks off other related processes, and it’s the surviving record of all approvals and transactions once the process is complete.” Paul Chan, IBM

OpenRules Forms
Contrary to traditional Web development techniques oriented to software developers only, OpenRules allows business analysts to become active participants in the Web development process.  A non-technical user can implement and maintain complex Web Forms and related interaction logic using simple Excel tables only.  OpenRules supports rules-based interaction process modeling with a quick and intuitive GUI.  It provides tools and methodology to define and maintain the frequently changing business and presentation logic of complex interaction processes.  This section provides an overview of OpenRules Forms.  Click here to read detailed documentation about OpenRules Forms.  The links below will walk you through concrete OpenRules Forms examples.

   Sample "ClinicalGuidelines"   Sample "LoanDynamics"   Dynamic Interaction Processes  ORD - Questionnaire Builder

Excel as a Web GUI Editor
With OpenRules, a non-technical user can implement dynamic web-based interaction processes by defining complex Web forms and the associated interaction logic in simple Excel tables.  When used as a web GUI editor, Excel allows a user to define complex web page layouts in a WYSIWYG manner without knowledge of HTML, JScript, etc.  However, experts can always add more programming details directly to Excel-based forms and decision tables.

Layout Spreadsheets

Forms drawn in MS Excel spreadsheets are automatically translated into HTML pages without limitations on the expressiveness of HTML.  A non-technical user can define web page layouts using simple Excel tables.  Here is an example of a Layout table created in Excel and the corresponding Web page it produces:


A complete example is included in the OpenRules delivery in file Hello2.xls.

Without learning a new formatting language or tool, a more experienced user can add any standard HTML tags and properties directly into Excel layouts to modify the generated forms.  Excel layouts may have parameters that are objects whose types are defined in Java classes, Excel tables, XML files or databases.  OpenRules automatically associates input fields with these parameters.

Interaction Logic
A user can harness the power of business rules (decision tables) to define complex relationships between fields inside forms or among different forms.  Based on user input and previously entered information, the logic of presenting forms and their content to end users can be changed dynamically during the interaction process.  Here is a simple example of a decision table that defines processing flow rules for a health care application:

A complete example is included in the OpenRules delivery in file HealthCareForms.xls.

Embedded Layouts

Excel-based form layouts can be embedded inside each other or embedded further inside larger external HTML documents.  This provides for a very convenient form management functionality.  You can put the name of another layout (with its parameters in the parentheses) inside any cell of the Layout table.  For instance, you can have a predefined layout for a social security number as a separate layout that consists of three strings as in the following example:

This way, anytime you want to enter a SSN, instead of repeating all three fields, you can just write something like SSN(person) in the proper cell of the "parent" layout.  It enables you to share common layouts across different web applications.  You need not worry about low level details when you define high level forms (top-down form development).

Libraries of Predefined Web Development Solutions
A user can create his/her own library of Excel files with predefined forms, associated data types and processing methods.  Such libraries can contain Excel files, XML files, and Java classes.  The libraries can also include company specific style sheets or other predefined elements that can be shared by all applications based on OpenRules.  OpenRules comes with a standard library known as "openrules.forms.lib" that, among other things, provides a Dialog Manager to support complex interaction processes.

Customized Style Sheets
As in any other web application, a user can define different cascading style sheets (CSS) to control the appearance of multiple Web pages created with OpenRules.  It allows a company to define standard styles and use them across different projects while adding project specific details as needed.

Generating PDF Documents
OpenRules provides the ability to create complete PDF documents using information entered during OpenRules interaction sessions and predefined PDF forms.  PDF document generation requires just a simple mapping between business objects defined during interaction and fields on the PDF form.  An example of the interactive filling of tax form 1040EZ and the automatic generation of the proper PDF document is available from here.

Web Development Framework
In conjunction with Excel and Eclipse, OpenRules forms a simple lightweight framework for building Web-based applications.  Being functionally similar to the JSP technology, OpenRules Forms provide a much more intuitive and simplified way to create and maintain dynamic web content.  A natural integration of Web Forms and Business Rules in Excel, gives you a very powerful yet simple mechanism for creating intelligent web applications.  Builders of web interfaces do not have to become experts in HTML, JScript or Java.  All they need is the popular Excel interface along with their own business objects to express both the presentation logic and business logic of their applications.

Web applications created with OpenRules tools can be deployed on a Java application server in accordance with server instructions.
 The target web servers include but are not limited to, Apache Tomcat, IBM WebSphere, BEA WebLogic.  You can make changes to form layouts and/or interaction rules and save your changes in Excel.  Then, with a push-button mechanism you can re-deploy your updated application thereby avoiding complex web server configuration problems.

Dynamic Interaction Processes
OpenRules supports complex interaction processes when interaction logic cannot be predefined in advance and is dynamic by its nature.  Read more

Detailed instructions on how to create Web applications with OpenRules can be found here.




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