Firms team on e-forms

In an attempt to unseat the federal leader in the electronic forms market, Adobe Systems Inc. and Cardiff Software Inc. have created an end-to-end solution for online forms based upon Adobe's Portable Document Format.

In their expanded alliance, announced March 12, Cardiff will offer LiquidForms — an Extensible Markup Language-based e-form management system — to enhance the use of PDF. LiquidForms will add design capabilities and Web-enabled routing, approval and submission functions, said Robert Weideman, vice president of marketing for Cardiff.

When asked if LiquidForms was an attempt to cut into JetForm Corp.'s federal market lead, which includes 3 million users, Weideman did not mince words: "We're doing it to take advantage of a technology shift and blow them out of the water," he said. LiquidForms uses Adobe's Acrobat 5.0 and PDF to provide a client interface for interactive form filling without the use of plug-ins or Java applets, Weideman said. Therefore, agencies won't be bogged down by the delays or glitches associated with products that use proprietary plug-ins and applets — like those used by JetForm, he said.

"We're happy they recognize that to play in this market, you have to play at our level," said David Welch, vice president and general manager of JetForm's e-forms business group. But he said the proprietary argument was hogwash. "Our ReachForm tool is XML-based and can be used with any browser and with any product at any time, and there's no download required like with Adobe."

Cardiff and Adobe have signed three federal agencies and two state organizations for beta testing in April, one month before LiquidForms' official release.

LiquidForms has three main components:

Designer, which enables users to create forms with drag-and-drop applications. Web Server, which connects users to an intranet or extranet. Web Desktop, which is the browser presentation.

LiquidForms comes in two configurations: Workgroup pricing starts at $15,000 for 100 users, and the enterprise version costs $30,000 for 100 users, but log-in accounts can be added, Weideman said.

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