By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Nov. 05, 2002) -- A new software tool designed to improve the efficiency of the Air Force information system is now available across the service.
The new Information Management Tool viewer software from PureEdge Solutions Inc. is a replacement to the long-used FormFlow form filler software and is available from local computer system administrators.
According to Carolyn Watkins-Taylor, the Air Force Departmental Publishing Office director, users do not have to worry whether their computers will be able to support the new software. In fact, the program requires very little hard-drive space - about six megabytes or half of what FormFlow required - and can be installed as a stand-alone program or as a plug-in to a web browser, she said.
"The IMT software is just a small plug-in," she said. "It has a very small footprint."
Users familiar with FormFlow will notice the new software stores the IMT, along with the user's data, as a single computer file. This is a departure from the FormFlow model, where a user often had as many as five saved files to represent one electronic form.
Because the IMT software stores the user's data and the IMT in one file, the user will be able to easily e-mail that file to others. In fact, the PureEdge software has e-mail capability built in.
"That's called ad-hoc routing," Watkins-Taylor said. "You can e-mail an IMT to another user, and (he or she) can e-mail it back to you."
The IMT viewer has a built-in spell-check system with a user dictionary, which allows users to build their own dictionary of common Air Force terms. The software also has improved text-editing capability.
"The text-editing capability is like it would be in Microsoft Word," Watkins-Taylor said. "And we specifically asked for the spell check. A lot of people wanted to ensure we had that."
Another feature of the IMT software is that it is equipped to handle digital signatures. When the Air Force implements digital document signing, users will be able to "sign" an IMT without a pen, using their password and their common access card instead.
One thing that will remain the same during the transition to the new software is the appearance of the IMTs.
"An IMT will look just like the FormFlow form, only it will be using IMT technology," Watkins-Taylor said.
Some 18,000 Air Force forms are being converted from the FormFlow format to the new IMT format. According to Watkins-Taylor, the conversion of forms is projected to be complete by February 2003. Many IMTs are now available on the Air Force's e-publishing website, and new ones are added as they are converted.
While conversion is the top priority, FormFlow is not going to disappear anytime soon, she said.
"We are not taking FormFlow away from anyone," Watkins-Taylor said. "The FormFlow Filler software can still be used to open archived documents. In fact, we are planning to keep the FormFlow forms up on the e-publishing website, in a separate archived section."
As part of the first phase, electronic forms will be converted to IMTs and will closely resemble the FormFlow version. Subsequent phases will include ad-hoc routing, digital signatures and interactive interfaces.