Xerox previews DocuShare add-on

Xerox used the CeBIT America show last week to stage a sneak-peek demonstration of a new add-on program designed to give workgroup and collaboration features to the company's DocuShare Web-based document and content management software.

The new add-on program, dubbed Sparrow, is intended to let geographically dispersed users share and annotate documents over the Internet, according to Colman Murphy, DocuShare product manager. It will be available when DocuShare 3.1 is released in September, he added.

"The goal was to make publishing to the Web as easy as reading from the Web," added Tao Liang, manager for advanced development for Xerox's DocuShare business unit.

Users need only a browser to be able to use the software, Liang said. To use the software, users go to a DocuShare Web address and type in a password.

"The software was designed to let you edit documents with as little as three click of the mouse," Liang noted.

Once users gain access to Sparrow over the Web, they see documents placed within Sparrow-formatted templates. The templates are designed to let users click on documents, annotate and edit them. The changes are immediately reflected in the documents in Sparrow.

Like DocuShare, Sparrow is based on the Java programming language, and it has automated features designed to let users convert HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) documents and insert them into program templates, Liang said.

Sparrow uses the DocuShare database to store documents, and requires DocuShare to run. As such it is mainly targeted at the current crop of 40,000 DocuShare users. However, some potential users may be attracted to DocuShare specifically because of Sparrow.

For example, beta-tester Phyllis Jacobson, a consultant in Sacramento, California, who works for the state's Commission on Teacher Credentialing, said the state agency will acquire DocuShare on the basis of its test project with Sparrow.

"When I first saw it (Sparrow) I knew immediately what we could do with it," Jacobson said. "We have 254 panels -- groups of readers actively reviewing documents -- and with Sparrow we are putting custom forms online where people can access them."

At its release, the software will be available in languages including English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese. A version in Simplified Chinese is also being developed.

Pricing has not been finalized but will be similar to DocuShare pricing, Xerox's Murphy said. DocuShare pricing starts at US$3,495 for the server copy, plus $65 for each individual user. Prices vary depending on the number of end users on the system.

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