Information Today
Volume 19, Issue 2 — February 2002
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Sparrow Web Editing Tool Now in Beta Testing

Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) has announced that it is now making its Sparrow Web Java-based Web-editing program available for beta testing. Sparrow Web is a system that adds structured, in-place editing to community-shared Web pages. It allows contributors to add and modify information on a Sparrow Web page using simple fill-in forms specified by the author/manager of the page. The pages support a variety of activities, including listing upcoming events, scheduling meetings, and gathering project proposals.

A community-shared page is originally crafted by a single author who defines the initial content and scope of the document. But it can be modified or added to by any interested contributor, and the barriers for doing so are lessened by allowing changes to be made in a "lightweight manner." Community-shared pages increase the collaborative capability of the Web.

With Sparrow Web, users don't need to change to a different application and find the place in the file system where the page is stored. They can click on the page they're viewing within their browser.

Sparrow Web also allows editing in place. During editing, the context of the rest of the page remains in place. The metaphor used is that of the "outliner": The triangle graphic turns downward to "open" up an editing region. Meanwhile, the page contents above and below the editing region remain unchanged and visible.

Sparrow Web also provides structured editing. The page author specifies the fields in the Sparrow Web items, and the program presents a form for contributors to fill out or edit. The form can be very general (a large text-editing area) or very specific (many different form elements to handle many kinds of entries), as the author desires.

There's no need to know (or see) HTML. Contributors fill out forms rather than see the actual HTML that's generated to format their inputs. The author has already specified the formatting for the Sparrow Web item. And there's no need to explicitly lock the file. Sparrow Web handles concurrency and merging behind the scenes.

Information about Sparrow Web and a demo are available at The Sparrow Web package comes with sample pages—a set of commonly used templates that can be cloned and used immediately—and a complete author's manual for creating new pages.

Sparrow Web is available for a free 90-day trial at is a collaborative effort developed, designed, and owned by Xerox Corp. ( and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT; According to the company,, which launched in November 2001, is designed to make new technology available more quickly to more people.

In December 2001, Xerox Corp. announced that it would create an independent company from PARC, which would function as a wholly owned Xerox subsidiary. At that time, Xerox was in discussions with potential strategic partners for the new company.

Source: Xerox PARC, Palo Alto, CA, 650/812-4000;

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