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Oracle OpenWorld Here We Come!


image The Altova team is on its way to an exciting event next week in San Francisco, Oracle OpenWorld! If you will be there, stop by booth #220 in Moscone South near the database demo grounds from September 29th – October 1st for a demo of Altova’s tools for Oracle users and to see our new cross-platform mobile development solution MobileTogether.

We would love to hear from you about your latest projects and challenges, collaborate on best  practices or let us show you some of the new exciting things Altova has to offer. While you are at our booth, spin our prize wheel for a chance to win some fun giveaways. We hope to see you next week!

 

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XBRL US National Conference in Las Vegas


clip_image002If you will be in Las Vegas next week for the 5th annual XBRL US National conference, be sure to check out the XBRL Data Forum for IT Pros & Developers. Altova is sponsoring this one day workshop that is part of the conference which consists of an intensive, practical day of discussion and presentation on XBRL dclip_image004ata, databases and opportunities for IT professionals interested in expanding their technical knowledge in the growing area of XBRL.

Along with RaptorXML + XBRL, the newest addition to our product family, Altova has a number of tools for processing and validating XBRL data such as XMLSpy, MapForce and StyleVision.

 

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Brand New Altova Web Site


We are so excited to announce the launch of our new, improved, completely redesigned Web site! The new Altova.com is cleaner, simpler, and more beautiful than ever.

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Our goal was to make our site easier to navigate so that you can find exactly what you’re looking for quickly, whether that’s Product information, Support resources, or technical reference materials. Of course, it’s as simple as ever to download a free trial or update your software to the latest version.

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At the same time, we hope the new site will help you discover a little something you didn’t know about Altova. For instance, did you know that we have a comprehensive line of Database Tools in addition to the XML Tools and Developer Tools that we’re known for? Did you know that we offer free, online product and technology training? And have you tried our new, cloud-based project collaboration and team management tool?

clip_image005You can learn all about how Altova products and supported technologies can help your team meet critical business needs in our completely revamped Technology Solutions Center.

Despite all the planning, proposals, testing, and reworking that go in to a new Web site, the true test of success is how the site works for you, our customers. Please share any feedback or suggestions you may have for the new site, either by leaving a comment here on the blog or contacting our Marketing team by email. We look forward to and greatly appreciate your input!

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Watermarks in StyleVision 2013


Watermark support has been added in StyleVision 2013, in response to customer requests. A watermark is text or an image that is displayed on the background of each page of a document section. Watermarks are often used in draft and confidential documents in order to emphasize a document’s status or security constraints.

In StyleVision 2013, watermarks may be used for print-oriented output formats, including PDF, RTF, and Word (Open XML). In keeping with StyleVision’s overall design model, with a single layout design used for multiple output types, you only need to define watermarks once, and they are applied to all print-output views.

Here’s an example of a StyleVision design containing a watermark:

StyleVision 2013 Word watermark example

Let’s take a look at the steps involved in using watermarks in StyleVision 2013 by modifying the QuickStart example (quickstart.sps) included in the Tutorials folder (installed with StyleVision), in order to produce the design shown in the image above.
In the Design view, if you select “Edit Properties” in the Initial Document Section, you’ll see a new “Watermark…” button. Clicking the button presents the Edit Watermark dialog:

StyleVision 2013 edit image watermark dialog

StyleVision supports both image and text watermarks. For both types of watermarks, the general idea is to specify:
· A condition used to determine when the watermark should be included (which can simply be “true()” in order to include the watermark on all pages)
· The watermark content (image or text, with related attribute setting preferences)
· Watermark size and position settings

For our example scenario, let’s assume we want to place a red “CONFIDENTIAL” text watermark across printed pages. To do so, we click the Text tab in the Edit Watermark dialog and:
· Enter “true()” for the condition
· Enter “CONFIDENTIAL” for the watermark text
· Select red for the watermark color

StyleVision 2013 edit text watermark dialog

StyleVision’s support for watermarks is powerful and flexible. You can include both text and image watermarks, for example, with different XPath conditional expressions used to specify what should appear when. You can also specify different watermarks (or pairs of image and text watermarks) for each document section in a StyleVision design.

Check out watermark options and the other new features in StyleVision 2013 by downloading a free 30-day trial version today!

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The Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants (MACPA) transforms data to XBRL in-house


What is XBRL and how can it help your organization? Members of the Maryland Association of CPAs (MACPA) found out how using the interactive XBRL (Extensible Business Reporting Language) format can help not only larger, public companies, but also smaller, non-profit organizations like themselves.clip_image004 MACPA invested in the Altova MissionKit tool suite to support their XBRL project. Using our XMLSpy XML editor; MapForce, our graphical data mapping, conversion, and integration tool; and the StyleVision visual stylesheet and report design tool, MACPA was able develop a comprehensive system that employs XBRL data for a variety of reporting functions, both internal and external.
For example, MACPA used the generated instance document from MapForce to populate their financial Key Performance Indicator (KPI) system, significantly reducing the amount of time and effort required to prepare the KPI documentation. XMLSpy was used to extend the US-GAAP taxonomy to accommodate entries specific to MACPA. clip_image002 MapForce also came in handy for mapping the Global Ledger (GL) Taxonomy to the extended GAAP taxonomy. clip_image004 As a result, MACPA has increased its working knowledge of XBRL, automated previously burdensome data collection and transformation tasks, and have gained more insight into their financial data. To read more about how MACPA utilized the Altova MissionKit to convert all their financial data to XBRL and create a model for public and private business of any size to leverage the powers of XBRL, the latest case study from Altova is a must read! Do you have a story to tell about your use of Altova tools? If so, we want to hear from you. Case studies generate great publicity. Check out recent press coverage from the MACPA case study. Plus, if we choose to use your story you will receive a $200 Amazon gift card!

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Switch Statement vs. Look-up Table in MapForce


One of the great things about working with software developers is you not only get to create new things that never existed before, you also get to see how other peoples’ minds work when they discover alternate solutions to any design challenge. We received a comment from a software developer on our recent post titled Expandable If-Else Works like a Switch Statement in MapForce regarding one of the examples we used. The reader suggests that our second example illustrated a problem that would be more elegantly solved in Altova MapForce with Value-Map than by our Expanded If-Else statement. Here was the original example that received the month as a string of characters and needed to generate the corresponding number: Original Expanded If_Else example in MapForce A Value-Map in MapForce is an alternate solution that functions as a look-up table, whereas an Expanded If-Else acts like a switch statement. Here is how our mapping would look with a Value-Map in place of the Expanded If-Else: Value-Map alternative in MapForce Yep, that’s it. Rather than copying, pasting, and modifying sets of elements the way we built our original Expanded If-Else, a Value-Map lets us easily create the entire look-up table in its Properties dialog: Value-Map Properties dialog in MapForce We accept the commenter’s point — Value-Map definitely works better for the problem we chose because it’s much quicker and easier to create! The table from the Value-Map properties is also more concise and easier to interpret in MapForce-generated mapping documentation than our original Expanded If-Else structure. Of course you can’t always replace an Expanded If-Else statement with a Value-Map. Data entering the Value-Map must equal a single value in the input table to generate a specific output, whereas Expanded If-Else lets you set up a series of conditions with different logical tests. Sometimes the exact nature of a data conversion project makes it a judgment call to use a switch element vs. a look-up table. Let’s say your project receives input as a number that represents a wavelength of the electromagnetic spectrum and you want to handle ultraviolet, visible colors, and infrared energy individually. In that case we could use an Expanded If-Else to test for ranges of input values. The Expanded If-Else section of the mapping might look like this: Expanded If-Else mapping in Altova MapForce If the input is an integer, you could also create a solution using Value-Map, but you would need to build a very long look-up table. And then what happens later if the project requirements change and the input becomes a decimal number, or you need to filter each visible color separately by name? Essentially Altova MapForce is a really cool graphical representation of a complete software language toolbox that insulates you from detailed programming language syntax, with a rich collection of components you can assemble creatively to solve your own data mapping, conversion, and integration challenges. Find out for yourself how easy it is to apply MapForce to your own data mapping projects. Download a free 30-day trial of MapForce.

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Using Charts to Effectively Communicate Data


Altova first added support for charts and reporting the Altova MissionKit with the launch of Version 2011 last September. The v2011 reporting functionality includes options for line charts, 2D and 3D bar charts, 2D and 3D pie charts, round gauge and bar gauge charts. Here are a few examples: Charts created with the Altova MissionKit v2011

Advanced chart features in v2011r2

Version 2011 Release 2 of the Altova MissionKit, introduced on February 16, adds an exciting group of enhancements to the chart and reporting features in XMLSpy, StyleVision, and DatabaseSpy. The chart design options and user interface work the same way in all three applications, so MissionKit users can work intuitively and productively as they move from processing XML data in XMLSpy, to preparing charts for a business intelligence report with StyleVision, and even when they create graphical displays directly from SQL query results in DatabaseSpy. The wide range of new customizable charting features introduced in version 2011 release 2 includes:

  • Stacked Bar charts
  • Area charts
  • Stacked Area charts
  • Candlestick charts
  • Chart overlays
  • Background images and color gradients
  • Ability to change position of axis labels
  • And more!

Now you can create attractive and informative charts to represent a wide variety of data sets without exporting data to a dedicated charting application. Charts created using the Altova MissionKit are not limited to any specific presentation technology – for instance you can use StyleVision to include charts in HTML, Microsoft Word, RTF, or PDF documents, or you can save charts created in DatabaseSpy in a variety of image formats at the custom resolution you specify. In this post we will show some examples of the new charts and features available in all three MissionKit reporting and charting applications – XMLSpy, StyleVision, and DatabaseSpy.

Stacked bar charts

Stacked bar charts are a variation on bar chart presentation and are especially useful when multiple ranges of data need to be illustrated. Stacked bar charts are also useful to more clearly illustrate data in a smaller area. The image below shows a stacked bar chart to illustrate the performance of a sales team by region over two years Stacked bar chart Note that the combined height of each stack in the Stacked Bar Chart represents the total sales over the two-year period for each Territory, since the sales for Last Year are added above the Year To Date numbers. Stacked bar charts complement regular bar charts and 3-D bar charts to offer users the greatest flexibility in illustrating SQL query results. If the user prefers horizontal bars, a checkbox labeled Draw X and Y exchanged in the Change Appearance tab selects that orientation. Chart orientation option Horiztonal stacked bar chart This orientation option is also available for other 2-D bar charts, line charts, area charts, and candlestick charts.

Area charts

Area charts are similar to line charts, with shading applied to make a more graphically appealing display. The area chart below shows a record of temperature and humidity changes by hour over the course of one day. Creative application of color can emphasize the point! Area chart To successfully build an area chart, the analyst must consider the values in each data category. As the area chart is constructed, each category forms an opaque layer on top of the layers for data retrieved previously. In the case illustrated above, Temperature was always a larger number than Humidity, so a SQL query was constructed in DatabaseSpy to retrieve the Temperature value before Humidity to prevent Temperature from acting like a curtain to hide the Humidity data. However, if the data columns appear in a sequence with values in increasing order, the last layer would overlap and hide all the preceding layers. In that case, the chart tab heading titled Select Data lets the user add and delete columns from the results to re-sequence the data correctly. The Select Data column also lets the user edit the names assigned to each column on the X-axis label. Select Data dialog As alternative solution, the Transparency option in the Change Appearance tab lets the user adjust color levels to allow hidden layers to show through.

Transparency dialog

Stacked area charts

As implied by their name, Stacked Area charts layer the columns of a data set to illustrate the overall sum of a data series. Stacked Area charts also eliminate the potential overlapping data problem that can occur with regular area charts. The chart below shows a table of air passenger revenue miles traveled by month, with individual regions for domestic and international travel. Stacked area chart The Stacked Area chart creates a graphical representation of the total of Domestic and International miles, even though the total miles value was not part of the provided data. This is apparent at the top of the January entry, where the International region intersects the Y axis just below 600 (the original data showed 392 million Domestic miles and 181 million International miles, for a total of 573). A strategic data analyst will always consider the nature of the data to be reported when choosing any particular chart type. For instance in the weather example we used above, adding temperature and humidity values in a stacked bar chart would not be logical!

Candlestick charts

Candlestick charts were originally developed by a wealthy Japanese businessman who began trading at the local rice exchange around the year 1750. He kept records of the local market psychology, learning to boost his profits by carefully monitoring prices and not rushing into trades. Today, charts are used to represent financial data such as stock prices over a period of time. Every day the market is open, each stock has four relevant data points that can be rendered in a candlestick chart: the price at market opening, the price when the market closed, the high price during the day, and the low price during the day. Investors and financial analysts like to view these indicators to gauge the stock’s performance over a period of time. In the candlestick chart below, each solid bar represents the range between the opening and closing price and the thin vertical line through each bar shows the extent of the high and low prices for the day. Candlestick chart In this version of the chart, following common convention, the color of each bar signals whether the stock was up or down for the day. If the bar is green, the stock was up for the day– it opened at the price indicated by the bottom of the bar and closed at the price indicated by the top. If the stock was down for the day, the bar is red and the symbolism is reversed – the stock opened at the price indicated at the top of the bar and closed at the price shown by the bottom. Numerous options are available to set line and fill colors, the Y-axis range and values, and more. Because they were intended to be printed in black and white, the original candlestick charts used empty bars to indicate the price increased and solid bars to indicate price decreases. The Altova MissionKit offers this option: Candlestick chart in black and white Another candlestick chart variation omits the opening price and simply illustrates the range by a vertical line and the closing price by a horizontal line. This option is automatically supported when a data set only includes the high, low, and closing prices. Candlestick chart without opening price

Chart overlays

The Overlays feature lets you combine multiple charts in a single image. Each overlay chart has unique settings and can even be generated from a separate data file. The image below shows a candlestick chart of a stock’s daily prices with the daily sales volume in a bar chart overlay. Candlestick chart with bar chart overlay

Support for background images & color gradients

The ability to specify background color gradients and background images gives you even more flexibility for creating customized, eye-catching charts. Overlaying one chart on another lets you visualize multiple data sets with different Y-axes and types. Area chart with a background image The Change Appearance dialog lets users select a background image, as in the Winter Games chart above, or apply a background color gradient, as in the Summer 2010 chart below. Change Appearance dialog Bar chart with a line chart overlay and background color gradient If you’d like to see for yourself how easy it is to use Altova tools to create attractive charts from XML and database data, download a free trial of the Altova MissionKit.

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