We've been using Orbeon forms for about a year now for cataloging our digital collections.  We use Fedora Commons, so using the XML as input and outputting to XML seemed a no brainer.  It has worked very nicely for editing VRA Core4 records. But, instead of doing anything terribly fancy with Orbeon, we simply use the little sandbox application that comes with Orbeon (there's an online demo [1]).  The URL to the XForm is part of the query string. This solution has greatly reduced our time investment in making Orbeon part of our workflow and, more importantly, getting Orbeon to work for us.  All that being said, Ethan's sharp looking EAD editor makes me jealous that we haven't created our own custom editor.

As for Orbeon's performance, once we worked out some quirks, we've been quite happy with Orbeon.  Orbeon hosts a useful performance and tuning page [2].  We also learned that it is helpful to stop the Orbeon app and restart it about once every two weeks as performance can become progressively slower.  It seems to need a little reboot.  In any event, a typical XForm for us is about 200k, with a number of authority lists, one of which includes nearly 1500 items.  Orbeon loads and renders the XForm fairly quickly (less than 4 seconds) and editing performance hasn't been an issue either, which is great considering that a 1500-item-subject-authority drop down list is created for each subject being added to a record.

Moving such a large XForm to a server-based solution was necessary.  Our XForm cataloging application, which began with a simple DC record and focused on producing a viable XForm, initially used the Mozilla XForm add-on [3].  The Firefox add-on, which of course runs on the client, easily scaled for a VRA Core4 record, but it couldn't handle a burgeoning subject authority file.  Hence the need for an alternative solution, quick.



Kevin Ford
Library Digital Collections
Columbia College Chicago

-----Original Message-----
From: Code for Libraries [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Andrew Ashton
Sent: Friday, November 13, 2009 8:37 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [CODE4LIB] XForms EAD editor sandbox available

Nice job, Ethan.  This looks really cool.

We have an Orbeon-based MODS editor, but I have found Orbeon to be a bit
tough to develop/maintain and more heavyweight than we really need.  We're
considering more Xforms implementations, but I would love to find a more
lightweight Xforms application.  Does anyone have any recommendations?

The only one I know of is XSLTForms ( but
I haven't messed with it yet.


On 11/13/09 9:13 AM, "Eric Hellman" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> XForms and Orbeon are very interesting tools for developing metadata
> management tools.
> The ONIX developers have used this stack to produce an interface for ONIX-PL
> called OPLE that people should try out.
> Questions about Orbeon relate to performance and integrability, but I think
> it's an impressive use of XForms nonetheless.
> - Eric
> On Nov 12, 2009, at 1:30 PM, Ethan Gruber wrote:
>> Hello all,
>> Over the past few months I have been working on and off on a research
>> project to develop a XForms, web-based editor for EAD finding aids that runs
>> within the Orbeon tomcat application.  While still in a very early alpha
>> stage (I have probably put only 60-80 hours of work into it thus far), I
>> think that it's ready for a general demonstration to solicit opinions,
>> criticism, etc. from librarians, and technical staff.
>> Background:
>> For those not familiar with XForms, it is a W3C standard for creating
>> next-generation forms.  It is powerful and can allow you to create XML in
>> the way that it is intended to be created, without limits to repeatability,
>> complex hierarchies, or mixed content.  Orbeon adds a level on top of that,
>> taking care of all the ajax calls, serialization, CRUD operations, and a
>> variety of widgets that allow nice features like tabs and
>> autocomplete/autosuggest that can be bound to authority lists and controlled
>> access terms.  By default, Orbeon reads and writes data from and to an eXist
>> database that comes packaged with it, but you can have it serialize the XML
>> to disk or have it interact with any REST interface such as Fedora.
>> Goals:
>> Ultimately, I wish to create a system of forms that can open any EAD
>> 2002-compliant XML file without any data loss or XML transformation
>> whatsoever.  I think that this is the shortcoming of systems such as Archon
>> and Archivists' Toolkit.  I want to integrate authority lists that can be
>> integrated into certain fields with autosuggest (such as corporate names,
>> people, and subjects).  If there is demand, I can build a public interface
>> for viewing the entire EAD collection, complete with solr for faceted browse
>> and search, but this is secondary to producing a form that people with some
>> basic archiving knowledge and EAD background can use to easily and
>> effectively create finding aids.  A public interface is the easy part, in
>> any case.  It wouldn't take more than a week or two to build something
>> fairly nice and robust.
>> Here is the link:
>> I should stress that the application is *not complete.*  I am using cocoon
>> for providing a list of EAD content in the system.  I will remove that
>> application eventually and utilize Orbeon's internal pipelining features to
>> achieve the same objective.  I haven't delved too deeply into Orbeon's
>> pipelines yet.
>> Here are some things to note:
>> 1. If you click on a link to open the main part of the guide or any of its
>> components, you have to click the "Load" link on the top of the form.  Forms
>> aren't being loaded on page load yet.
>> 2. Elements that accept mixed content per the EAD 2002 schema (e.g.
>> paragraphs) only accept PCDATA.  I haven't worked on mixed content yet; it
>> is by far the most challenging aspect of the project.
>> 3. I only have a few C-level elements available to add.
>> 4. Not all did elements are available yet.
>> 5. A lot of the generic attributes, like type and label, are not available
>> for editing yet.  This may be the type of thing that is best customized per
>> institution relative to their own best practices.  I don't want more input
>> fields than necessary right now.
>> 6. The only thing you can add into the archdesc right now is the <dsc>.
>> Once I finish all of the c-level elements, I can just put some xi:includes
>> into the archdesc XForm file to show them in the archdesc level.
>> I think those are the major issues for now.  As I stated earlier, this is
>> sort of a pre-alpha.  The project is open source and available (through svn)
>> to anyone who wants it. .  I have put
>> together an easy package to get the application up and running without
>> difficulty.  All you have to do is unzip the download, go into the apache
>> tomcat folder and execute the startup script.  This assumes you have nothing
>> running on port 8080 already.
>> Download page:
>> Wiki instructions:
>> dated=QuickstartInstallation
>> Comments, questions, criticism welcome.  The editor is a sandbox.  Feel free
>> to experiment.
>> Ethan Gruber
>> University of Virginia Library
> Eric Hellman
> President, Gluejar, Inc.
> 41 Watchung Plaza, #132
> Montclair, NJ 07042
> [log in to unmask]