StyleVision Review and Video Demo


As the XML Aficionado reported over on his blog, Dave Gash recently published an in-depth review of Altova StyleVision 2010 on the WritersUA Web site. The review provides an excellent synopsis of how the StyleVision stylesheet and electronic forms design tool works and even covers some of the exciting new features in the recently released 2010 version, including absolute positioning, electronic forms design, blue print support, and more. Gash notes that StyleVision helps take the pain out of creating XSLT stylesheets to render XML or database data:

"In a nutshell, StyleVision generates standards-conformant XSLT and XSL-FO stylesheets based on your design, enabling true single-source, multi-output, dynamic-content publishing. Believe me, that’s a neat trick if you can do it, and StyleVision can."

During the rest of the review, Gash walks through some common tasks (illustrated with screenshots) that users may accomplish using StyleVision and concludes:

"StyleVision is one of the most interesting software applications I’ve seen in years. Without question, it offers a new and unique approach to XSLT transform authoring, a skill formerly reserved for beanie-wearing, pocket-protector using, syntax-obsessing code jockeys such as your humble reviewer. It allows more of the tech pubs workforce than ever to transform raw data into aesthetic, useful pages."

Please check out the StyleVision review for all the details.

UPDATED: StyleVision Demo

To see a brief overview of the features highlighted in the review above, check out our Intro to StyleVision video demo, which has been recently updated to include new functionality in Version 2010. This three-minute video will give you a good idea of what you can accomplish with StyleVision. StyleVision Demo   And when you’re ready to test drive StyleVision for yourself, grab a free trial from our Web site.

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A Developer’s Life is Never Simple


Earlier this month in our blog post on Comparing XML Schemas we showed a realistic – but simplified – example to illustrate a slick new feature of DiffDog 2010 to compare XML Schemas and update corresponding XML data files by generating XSL transformations.
A real-life XML developer’s project is rarely as small and straightforward as the example we used. In this post we will take a look at some typical complications developers face every day and how the Altova MissionKit cuts through complexity to enhance productivity.
Longer XML Schemas and Larger Mappings
Your XML Schemas are not likely to be as short and simple as the ones in our earlier post, and you will likely want to save your work while you are mapping your XML Schema migration. DiffDog lets you save your mapping in an XML Schema comparison file that you can reload later to continue your work, or to share with a colleague.
DiffDog Save XML Schema Comparison dialog
If you need to compare two XML Schemas on a regular basis, the XML Schema Comparison Document can be a valuable time saver.
Embedded XML Schema Assignment
The screen shot below shows the XML data file from our original example with one important difference. In this version the story element includes an embedded reference to the XML Schema on line 2.
XMLSpy XML Editor view
When we transform this file with the simple XSLT we created in DiffDog, the new XML data file will not include the updated XML Schema reference. In our earlier blog post embedded XML Schema references weren’t an issue because we used the XMLSpy Project / Properties menu option to assign default XML Schemas for each folder.
If there are many XML data files to transform, and they require embedded XML Schema references, we can take advantage of an additional feature of MapForce. We can export our mapping from DiffDog to MapForce, as we did in the earlier post, and then use the Component Settings dialog for the MapForce output component to include the XML Schema reference.
MapForce Component Settings dialog
Document Your Work
Developers can lose productivity trying to retrace history when a project needs additional work months or even years after an early iteration. The MapForce Generate Documentation feature can help us avoid this frustrating experience.
MapForce will document the mapping of each element in the XML Schemas in Microsoft Word, RTF, or HTML formats. Regardless which format we choose, the resulting document is an excellent stand-alone project artifact, or it can be further edited and included in a larger report.
MapForce Generate Documentation dialog
We can even combine the MapForce mapping documentation with full descriptions of each version of the XML Schema generated with the XMLSpy XML Schema Editor documentation feature.
Source/Version Control
Source/version control systems let teams of developers work closely together on the same project without a risk of overwriting each others’ changes. Because a version of the source code is saved at each stage of the design process, it is very easy to look at or revert to an earlier version when needed.
Altova has implemented the Microsoft Source Code Control Interface (MSSCCI) v1.1 – v1.3 in XMLSpy and tested support for many popular source control systems, so we can manage the files in our XML Schema evolution project across the development enterprise. Additionally, DiffDog can be integrated with source control systems as the default comparison tool. DiffDog can even generate differences report files in a variety of formats.
See for yourself how the tools in the Altova MissionKit can cut through the complexity of your own XML, Web Services, data integration, XML publishing, XBRL, and UML modeling development projects – download a free 30-day trial!

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Curl up with a good book from the Altova library


Remember when a reference book was the only place to look up information? Today information is available at your finger tips, but there is still something to be said about turning the pages of good book. Altova products are highly regarded by authors of books focusing on XML and related technologies. Whether you need an overview of XML technologies or steps on how to transform XML files using XSLT, or want to delve into Web services, you’ll want to check out the Altova Reference Books page on our Web site.   These recently published books provide in-depth discussions on topics ranging from SOA and Web services interface design to dynamic Web application development; and many of the books include examples using XMLSpy and other tools available in the Altova MissionKit, our suite of XML, database, and UML tools.

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Comparing XML Schemas with DiffDog 2010


DiffDog 2010 includes a powerful new tool to compare XML Schemas that XML developers and others can use to update existing XML data files as XML Schemas evolve. This post takes a look at an example scenario for this feature.Before we drop into the new functionality, let’s take a quick look at two XML Schemas using the DiffDog File Compare feature. Of course, just like in previous versions, DiffDog 2010 users can compare XML Schemas as .xsd documents and display differences in a color-coded, XML-aware format.DiffDog file comparison view of XML Schemas This is a good way to identify and manage differences in XML Schemas, especially when you want to review revisions to industry-standard XML Schemas that evolve over time.What’s new in DiffDog 2010 is an additional XML Schema Differencing option that graphically displays two XML Schemas side by side, identifies identical elements automatically, and lets users map differences and generate XSL transformations to update XML data files.Here’s our first view when we open the same two XML Schemas shown in the file comparison above, using the new XML Schema Differencing feature.Initial DiffDog XML Schema Differencing view of XML Schemas The root elements of the two XML Schemas are automatically connected. We can click the Compare button in the toolbar to automatically connect identical elements in the two XML Schemas.DiffDog XML Differencing (Of course we could also select Compare XML Schemas from the right click context menu, or choose Start Comparison from the Diff and Merge menu, or press the F5 keyboard shortcut – DiffDog gives you many options to perform the same task, so you can work the way you like.)Next, we can map elements with different names in the two XML Schemas by manually connecting the pointer arrows between them. In this example most of the changes to the version of the XML Schema on the right simply give elements new names that will be more clear when the XML Schema and its data files are distributed through our enterprise.User-mapped XML Schemas in DiffDog XML Schema Differencing view When all the elements are mapped, we can generate an XSLT file to transform existing XML data files based on the XML Schema on the left to reflect revisions in the newer version on the right. This feature is designed to rescue XML developers from the tedious tasks of writing and debugging XSL transformations by hand.DiffDog Diff and Merge Menu Here is an example of an original XML data file based on the XML Schema on the left side, as viewed in Altova XMLSpy:XML data file viewed in XMLSpy The output file after applying the XSL transformation we created with DiffDog 2010 appears below. Note the substitution of the author element for writer, email for feedback, and so on.XSL output viewed in XMLSpy If there are many existing XML files that need to be transformed, the Project Management features of XMLSpy can help us automate the process. We can add external folders to an XMLSpy project.XMLSpy Project Helper Window Using the XMLSpy properties dialog for each project folder, we can assign default values to assign an XML Schema for validation, the XSL transformation, and the destination of the output.XMLSpy project folder properties dialog Now we can select the input folder in the XMLSpy Project helper window and transform all the files in it with the single-keystroke F10 shortcut.When we originally mapped the XML Schema elements in DiffDog, we left the publication element on the left side unconnected, since it had no corresponding element in the earlier version of the schema. That means when we transform XML input files using the XSLT, the resulting output will not contain the publication element. If publication is a required element, we can call on Altova MapForce for a quick solution.One of the options in DiffDog is to generate a MapForce mapping rather than XSLT. When we choose this option, MapForce launches with our DiffDog mapping already loaded as a new MapForce design, as shown below.MapForce New Design It’s easy to enhance the mapping by adding a constant as a default value for the publication element.MapForce enhanced design Now we can save an XSL file from MapForce that reuses all the element mappings we originally designed in DiffDog and adds the constant. When we apply the new XSL to transform our original XML data file, we get a result that includes the default value for the publication element.Final version of output viewed in XMLSpy This post started by describing the new XML Schema Comparison feature in DiffDog 2010. Fleshing out a simple – but typical – real-world example quickly highlighted additional tasks easily completed by taking advantage of tight integration with XMLSpy and MapForce.All three of these tools and more are available at substantial savings in the Altova MissionKit 2010, the integrated suite of XML, database, and UML tools designed to meet the diverse development and data management needs of today’s software architects and XML developers. Click here to download a free trial today!

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Report from Microsoft PDC


We always enjoy meeting developers who currently use Altova tools and others with projects our tools can help them complete. This year’s PDC in Los Angeles was no exception – great weather, great camaraderie, and a brand new Version 2010 of the Altova MissionKit to demonstrate and talk about. Below is our short YouTube video of PDC highlights. If you were there, see if you can spot yourself in the crowd. If you didn’t get to go this year, we’re sorry we missed you.  

  Wanted2 And don’t forget to check out Version 2010 of the Altova MissionKit online. Version 2010 is packed with over 70 new features that were requested by our current users. Our What’s New page describes highlights of the major new functionality in XMLSpy and the other Altova developer tools. If you are covered by a current SMP plan, your update to v2010 is free. If you need to purchase an upgrade, click here to visit the Upgrades page on our Web site. The Altova Upgrades page describes all the details and connects to our online Upgrade Wizard to get started right away. You may be eligible for a discount of up to 40%! Our trip to Microsoft PDC wraps up the Altova show season for 2009. We hope to see you in person at another event next year.

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New in StyleVision v2010


Over fifteen new features, and they’re not small ones either, they’re the kind that a Marketing Manager has to write about. Several months ago I was groaning (inwardly, of course) about this. But the v2010 release is out, the StyleVision v2010 feature descriptions are written, and now I am genuinely excited to share with all of you the powerful functionality in the "Most Wanted" release. All of these features, I remind you, were directly requested by our customers either in person at the Altova tradeshow booth, or online via our Support Center or user forums – so please keep them coming! I will briefly outline some of the new functionality in StyleVision v2010 below, and make sure you look out for future posts where we will be highlighting specific features in all of the MissionKit tools in more detail. The best news of all though, is that we’ve just released the updated StyleVision online training that covers many of the new features in v2010. StyleVision is a unique tool for designing stylesheets and building reports based on XML and database data and simultaneously publishing them in HTML, RTF, PDF, Word 2007, and/or Authentic e-Forms. Completely new design paradigm To call this a "feature" simply doesn’t do it justice. The StyleVision user interface has been redesigned to give you an alternative method for how you structure your templates. Current users do not panic, this is just an option and you will still be able to use StyleVision in the way that you have learned to love. The rest of you, however, can now approach StyleVision in the same way you do common desktop applications, adding style first and content afterward. Templates can now be created within layout containers, and an optional blueprint image can be inserted as a design guide. clip_image002 Layout containers can: · Be inserted within document templates or encompass the entire document. · Inherit the dimensions of the document section or have user-defined dimensions. · Be assigned any number of style properties (borders, background color, font, etc.). · Contain a blueprint image to serve as a reference template for the design. True electronic form design through absolute positioning Absolute positioning in StyleVision coupled with the new design paradigm mentioned above lets you easily and precisely design templates for electronic forms. You can insert design elements like lines, boxes, text, etc. by specifying their x and y coordinates in the document section. Take a look at the example below – an I-9 form template based on an imported blueprint image – to see how this works. clip_image004 Support for multiple page layouts in the same document This is an extremely important feature for anyone working with print formats in StyleVision where it is not uncommon to find pages with many different requirements in the same document. For example, you may need to intersperse pages of different sizes, landscape and portrait modes, different headers and/or footers, etc. You can now use document sections to specify different layout properties for your templates. clip_image006 Column formatting for print output formats Another great new feature for print output in StyleVision is the ability to add automatically formatted columns in template designs – columns that flow content from the bottom of one column to the top of the next. clip_image007 Inline HTML, XSLT, XSL:FO processing commands And now let’s delve a little into the more technical new features in StyleVision… You can now insert processing commands at virtually any point in your design templates. This gives you the flexibility to call upon functionality that is not necessarily natively supported in StyleVision. clip_image009 Ability to import external XSLT files StyleVision now also allows you to import external XSLT files as part of their template designs. This adds an xsl:import statement to the StyleVision stylesheet and enables you to add your hard coded XSLT files to styles and other integrated features from the StyleVision design interface. clip_image010 Extension templates based on any XPath StyleVision now also supports the use of XPath wildcards: (*, node(), etc.) and the | operator, for example, can now be used for user-designed templates that can output a wide range of variable data based on the referenced XML source code. This allows for full flexibility in selecting nodes and values from any XML location and in any combination within your document(s). clip_image011 Additional new features in StyleVision v2010 That is a brief list of my favorite new features from the StyleVision v2010 "Most Wanted" release, but we have also included many others such as: · Ability to print design templates · XHTML output option · Disable-output-escaping function · Ability to modify output DPI · Support for variables in design · Native code calls (.NET, Java, JavaScript, etc.) in XPath statements   Download a free trial of StyleVision v2010 – or if you have active SMP, download your upgrade today!

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Altova at Microsoft PDC


clip_image001The Altova road trip continues as we head west to Microsoft PDC in Los Angeles from November 17-19 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. If you’ll be attending PDC, make sure to stop by and meet with the Altova team at booth 517. We’ll be demonstrating all the Most Wanted features of Version 2010, our latest software release that includes XBRL enhancements in XMLSpy, support for WSDL 2.0 in XMLSpy and MapForce, a new absolute positioning design paradigm in StyleVision, database schema conversion in DatabaseSpy, and much more. With the new emphasis on software modeling in Microsoft development tools, you’ll want to check out SysML and all the other new functionality in UModel 2010. We love L.A., but if you’re not going to PDC this year, be sure to check the Altova blog again later for updates about the event and more details about Version 2010.

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