InfoPath Alternatives from Altova


InfoPath, the popular business forms software from Microsoft, was sunset by the company starting in 2016. Without a direct replacement, customers have turned to InfoPath alternatives to facilitate forms creation and automated data collection.

Altova offers two alternatives that meet different customer implementation requirements. This article will walk you through some background information and help you decide which product to choose.

XML forms
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How to Debug XSLT and XQuery


Nothing’s more frustrating than getting unintended results from an XSLT or XQuery transformation and having to spend hours tracking down the issue – especially if you’ve inherited the project from another developer or haven’t looked at the code in a few months.  Of course, XMLSpy has long included an XSLT debugger and XQuery debugger for setting break points and stepping through transformations to identify problems.

For a more interactive debugging process, XMLSpy also includes XSLT/XQuery back-mapping.

With back-mapping enabled, you can simply click on or hover over the portion of your output document you want to zero in on, and XMLSpy will immediately highlight the source XML and XSLT or XQuery instruction that is responsible. Let’s see how it works.

Debug XSLT with back-mapping

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MapForce Data Mapping Tutorial (Video)


Altova MapForce is an any-to-any data transformation, conversion, and ETL tool for integrating data.

A graphical data mapping tool, MapForce has an intuitive drag-and-drop interface that lets you easily convert data between any two formats, such as XML, JSON, relational databases, NoSQL databases, EDI, and more. It also features an extensive library of conversion functions that can be chained together to form custom functions that can be reused throughout your projects.

Data translated by MapForce can be pulled to or pushed from a relational or NoSQL database and all data management products, and it can be adapted to customize in-house data management solutions.

The MapForce tutorial video below covers all major features offered by the data integration tool and shows example mappings between several different types of files.

You can try MapForce yourself with a free, 30-day trial.

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Transforming and Converting Protobuf


MapForce supports mapping protocol buffers (Protobuf) to and from other structured data formats as mapping sources or targets. In the constant quest for more efficient ways to transfer, manipulate, and manage large structured data sets, Google has created a language- and platform-neutral data format similar to XML, but smaller, faster, and simpler than even JSON data. Tools are available to generate and work with Protobuf using Java, Python, C++, C#, Ruby, and other programming languages.

The structure of any Protobuf message is defined in a .proto file that defines each field name and value type. Altova MapForce lets users drop these .proto files into a data mapping as a source or target along with any other data, including XML, JSON, relational databases, Excel, flat files, REST and SOAP web services, and others.  .proto files versions 2 and 3 are supported.

A MapForce data mapping creates compatibility between existing XML, JSON, database or legacy data formats and new applications leveraging the efficiency of Protobuf.

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How to Compare XML and Other Files


The ability to diff and merge files is a necessity for every developer. This can be especially troublesome when trying to compare differences between files containing structured data, such as XML.

The video tutorial below provides an explanation on how to compare XML files – and more – using both XMLSpy and DiffDog. These powerful utilities perform diff and merge operations in an XML-aware manner, which reduces the number of false positives seen when comparing files.

Compare XML files with XMLSpy

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XML Reports to Text


Creating business reports from data stored in XML and relational databases is a common requirement in most organizations. However, it’s often complicated by the need to have information available in both web formats and print-ready formats such as PDF. Altova StyleVision takes a unique approach to report creation by letting users design reports from XML, databases, and even XBRL in a visual way – and output them in multiple formats simultaneously.

Over the years, support has been added for output to HTML, RTF, Word, and PDF – and now, based on customer feedback and requests, StyleVision also supports direct output to text. Let’s take a look at how it works.

Report designer
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Learn About OIM for XBRL


XBRL – the eXtensible Business Reporting Language – is a global framework for exchanging business information. The standard, maintained by XBRL International, is based on XML and designed to offer a standards-based approach to communicating and exchanging financial information between business systems.

The current version of the standard was finalized in 2003 and since then has received widespread uptake and eventual mandates from numerous countries and regulatory agencies, including the United States SEC. Adoption of the standard is due to advantages that include enabling automation and cost savings, better quality of reported data, improved analysis, and better quality of information used for decision making.

Despite its benefits, the complexity of XBRL presents a sharp learning curve for accountants and other stakeholders not familiar with XML, leading to errors and increased consultancy costs. In addition, coinciding with the adoption of big data technologies, XBRL has been used to represent ever growing datasets, which can be resource intensive.

XBRL International has worked over the years to modernize and simplify the standard in response to those challenges, and the Open Information Model (OIM) is an exciting and innovative solution.

Accountants learning about OIM XBRL
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