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Learn a New Programming Language this Summer


What better goal to set for your summer than learning a new programming language? Forget the “beach books” this summer and set your sights on diving into a new coding language – but which one should you pick?

As reported by IDC there are approximately 11 million professional software developers on Earth, and around 690 notable programming languages (according to Wikipedia). I would wager a bet there is a staggeringly equal number of places online where you can learn one programming language or another. Whether you are already one of those 11 million coding experts or a newbie to programming, there is a plethora of information out there to sort though.

For the purposes for this blog post, we will certainly look at the world’s most-widely-used programming languages in 2016 (see this IEEE article), but also at important languages for data manipulation and querying, so we’ll discuss: C and its derivatives (C++, C#, and Objective-C), Java, Python, R, JavaScript, Ruby, SQL, and XQuery.

Deciding where to start depends entirely on the kind of development scenarios you have in mind, so we’ve broken things down for you to make it easier. It doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned programmer looking to add a new language to your repertoire or a novice who doesn’t know the difference between C, C++, Objective-C, or C# yet. We have assembled a list of explanations to help you choose which language you may want to conquer next.

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UML Class Diagrams in Altova UModel


Altova products have long been recognized for their rich, intuitive user interface. One example is the UModel diagram window, which includes multiple display options for class diagrams to facilitate ease of use and improve information clarity in objected-oriented models. Class diagram style for projects that generate .NET (C# and Visual Basic) application code UModel 2011 Release 3 includes a new option for displaying class diagrams for .NET programmers. If your project will generate source code in .NET programming languages (C# or Visual Basic), your classes may contain .NET properties that can be called from outside like attributes, but are implemented internally as methods. To better organize .NET classes, UModel offers an option to display .NET properties and methods in separate operations compartments inside classes. UML class diagram for .NET This view is an optional setting in the Styles helper window for class diagram display and editing. Choosing to display separate .NET properties compartments or a single traditional UML operations compartment has no influence on code generated from the class.

View or Hide Class Properties and Operations Developers can collapse Properties and Operations compartments using convenient grab handle tools along the right edge. They can also customize the display of classes to show or hide individual class properties and operations. The right-click context menu offers a Visible Elements dialog for any selected class. UML class diagram showing properties and operations

Altova UModel visible elements dialog

This feature lets users simplify the diagram to focus on the properties and operations relevant to the task at hand. Hidden items are indicated by ellipses. UML class diagram with some properties and operations hidden Clicking on an ellipsis re-opens the Visible elements dialog. Options for Interface Notation UModel 2011 supports alternate diagram styles for interfaces between classes. By default, new interfaces are created in class diagram style with arrowhead styles and notations to indicate the interface creator and interface users. In the class diagram below, the developer wants to concentrate on class relationships and interfaces, so all the properties and operations compartments are collapsed. UML class diagram showing interfaces Interfaces have a special Toggle Notation quick-editing button to switch from the class diagram style to the UML ball and socket interface notation. UML class diagram toggle notation helper UML class diagram with alternate interface notation Visibility Icons vs. Mathematical Operators The UModel visibility icons, along with the visibility pull-down menus in the drawing window and properties menu, have been praised because they avoid confusion with common mathematical operators that can also appear in definitions of properties and operations. But users who prefer the traditional view can choose UML Style in the Project Styles helper window. Altova UModel Styles window and traditional visibility notation All the style settings selected to display class diagrams on screen are also applied when rendering project documentation in Word, RTF, or .html formats Find out for yourself how you can improve development of your object-oriented application by customizing the display of class diagrams with Altova UModel – download a free 30-day trial today!

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Harness the Power of Chained Transformations in MapForce


MapForce 2011 introduced an exciting enhancement we like to call chained transformations. Chained transformations let you create complex mappings where the output of one mapping becomes the input to another. In other words, two or more components can be directly connected to a final target component. MapForce chained transformation example MapForce has long supported intermediate components and generation of intermediate output that is supplied as input further down the line in the mapping. The new enhancement provides a direct route from your original input to your final target output. Pass Through for the Express Route to Data Integration Mapping and debugging a series of intermediate components can prove to be time consuming and cumbersome, especially when you are working with huge data stores. The new Pass Through button lets you efficiently go straight to your final target. The intermediate components of a chained transformation include a Pass Through button and a Preview button, and the final component also includes a Preview button. MapForce Pass-Through and Preview buttons Activating the Pass Through button on the intermediate component disables the Preview button for that component, and the intermediate output is sent directly to the next component for transformation. You don’t have to explicitly specify input and output data file names for the intermediate component in the component’s Properties dialog. Instead, MapForce automatically supplies default file names. The MapForce Output Preview window displays the final target output from the last component in the chain. MapForce chained transformation preview window In case you want to examine the intermediate output as you design and verify your mapping, the arrow buttons at the top left or the drop-down menu at the top right let you preview intermediate data. MapForce chined transformation preview window If our mapping included multiple intermediate components, the Pass Through feature would let us inspect each stage of the transformation in a single output window. Integrating All the Local Components In other data integration projects you may want to save the data from intermediate transformations as well as the output from your final target component. When you deactivate the Pass Through button of the intermediate component, you can select either component for preview. Note that you can specify the name of the output file for the intermediate component in the Properties dialog, or you can let MapForce supply a default name. MapForce Preview button If you select the intermediate component for preview, as shown above, the Output Preview Window displays only the intermediate output. MapForce Output Preview window If the Pass Through button is deactivated and you select the final component for preview, only the final result is displayed in the Output Preview window. MapForce Preview button MapForce Output Preview window Generate Code for Your Mapping If you will need to perform repetitive transformations, MapForce lets you generate royalty-free code for your chained transformation in XSLT 1.0, XSLT 2.0, XQuery, Java, C#, and C++. All this functionality is designed to give today’s developers and data management professionals ultimate flexibility and automation to meet 21st-century data communication requirements. See for yourself how easy it is to build a chained transformation for your own data integration project. Download a free 30-day trial of MapForce!

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Altova MapForce Brings Powerful Data Transformation Capabilities to Quark Dynamic Publishing Solution


This week Altova announced the integration of Altova MapForce, its conversion and data mapping tool, with Quark® Dynamic Publishing Solution. Through Automation Services™, a component of Quark’s dynamic publishing software, MapForce transformations translate XML into Web publishing formats, transform QuarkXPress® layouts for digital publishing, and convert XML to print pages, providing multi-channel publishers with a complete, automated XML-based publishing solution. This solution highlights two powerful features of MapForce that have demonstrated benefits to users with a wide range of data conversion needs: The MapForce visual data mapping interface supports integrating data as the source or destination in virtually any format, including XML, databases, flat files, EDI, Excel 2007+, XBRL, and Web services. MapForce includes the ability to automate data integration and repeatable business processes through an automation interface that lets developers access its advanced features programmatically. Users can also automate MapForce through the command line interface, or by using MapForce generated royalty-free code in XSLT 1.0/2.0, XQuery, Java, C++ or C#. mapforce_data_mapping_thumb “Having the ability to transform and publish data to multiple channels using an automated process helps users improve productivity and cut costs,” said Alexander Falk, President and CEO for Altova. The Altova Web site features a series of MapForce flash videos that each demonstrate a significant feature in 4 minutes or less. The Altova Online Training page offers three free MapForce self-paced training modules for Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced data integration needs. Find out for yourself how convenient and cost-effective can be to solve your data conversion requirements. Click here to download a fully functional, free 30-day trial of Altova MapForce 2010!

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Splitting Large UML Sequence Diagrams


A new feature introduced in UModel 2010 release 2 allows you to split large sequence diagrams when you reverse engineer existing Java, C#, or Visual Basic source code. What are the advantages of splitting a sequence diagram, and how should you decide to split or not? Obviously, a single diagram makes it easy to examine in one view all the interactions that occur during the execution of a class operation. On the other hand, a large, complex diagram can be cumbersome to view, navigate, analyze, and print in a readable format. Fortunately, UModel 2010r2 makes it quick and easy to experiment. After you generate your sequence diagram, if you don’t like the results, just click the Undo button and you can create a new variation by choosing different options in the Sequence Diagram Generation dialog. Or, you can even apply the Generate Sequence Diagram feature more than once to the same class operation, and maintain multiple versions of the sequence diagram in your model. For instance, if you plan to modify the existing code, you might want to keep a permanent record of the “before” and “after” editions to document your changes. We recently adapted our analysis of a bank ATM legacy application to create two new Technical Briefs in the Reference Library section of the Altova Web site, titled Analyze a Legacy Application with Altova UModel and Enhance a Legacy Application with Altova UModel. Enhancement of the code included adding a new method called getFinalOkay directly in the original source code file for the Withdrawal class. When we completed the round trip by synchronizing our UModel project with the application code, the split version of the sequence diagram included a dedicated sub-diagram for the new method. The sub-diagram is automatically labeled with a note and hyperlinked to the main diagram. UML_sequence_diagram If you’re ready to see for yourself how a visual software model can help you work with your own legacy application, click here to download a fully-functional free trial of Altova UModel!

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Part 5 – Analyzing a Legacy Application with Altova UModel


Previously in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of this series we applied Altova UModel reverse-engineering functionality to create UML diagrams for an ATM banking simulation application. After analyzing the existing architecture, we planned and implemented a new feature, the withdrawal fee. Even in a reduced size, our updated sequence diagram for the withdrawal transaction clearly represents in graphical form the nested logic structure of the source code. UML sequence diagram (reduced size) This morning we happened to run into the ATM product manager at the coffee machine. “You’ve been working on that ATM code for over a month now,” he said. “When am I going to see what you’ve accomplished?” We can take advantage of the UModel Generate Documentation feature to satisfy this request. UModel will automatically create customized documentation for our project in HTML, Microsoft Word, or RTF formats. The Include tab in the Generate Documentation dialog box lets us choose which diagram types to include, and to specify the level of detail for our report by allowing us to expand each diagram element type. Altova UModel Generate Documentation dialog box For an overview report, we can select all diagram types. We’ll also select class from the Elements list to show further information about the classes in our application. UModel helpfully asks if we want to add elements derived from class as well. Altova UModel Generate Documentation helper After we have selected or adjusted other document parameters, including fonts and sizes, UModel generates the report in just a few seconds. At the top of the first page, the report begins with an index of diagrams and a separate index of elements. Each indexed item is hyperlinked to a bookmark in the document. Altova UModel project documentation in Word format Regardless which format you choose, the resulting report is fully editable. For instance, we can add a footer that includes page numbers and a tag line recording the document creation date. We can grab the tag line UModel created to create our footer. Altova UModel project documentation tag line Our completed report contains all the UML diagrams that describe the legacy ATM application, with detailed class diagrams that show the class properties and operations. Additionally, the illustration of each class is accompanied by a hierarchy diagram to show the class relationships, and a list of all the class associations. Later on as our project evolves further, we can easily generate an updated version of the report. We could even take advantage of the UModel command line functionality or the UModel API to automate creation of project documentation, or we could attach the .html version of the report to our developer team wiki. But for now all we have to do is email the report to the ATM product manager. Conclusion We hope you’ve enjoyed following along with this exercise in Analyzing a Legacy Application with Altova UModel. Although we are ending the series here, in the real world there is much more work to do on our ATM application. For instance, the feature to permit users to accept the fee or cancel a withdrawal remains to be implemented. Or, we could update the legacy code with newer Java language constructs such as generics, annotations, and enumerations. If you’re already experienced with UML we hope we’ve shown you a new trick or two. If you are a developer who’s never tried UML, we wanted to give you some of the flavor and benefits of visual software modeling. Either way, if you’re ready to go further on your own project, click here to download a fully-functional free trial of Altova UModel.

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Part 4 – Analyzing a Legacy Application with Altova UModel


In Part 1 of this series we imported source code into Altova UModel to create a UML project and we examined a class diagram of our legacy ATM application. In Part 2 we created a series of UML use case diagrams to describe user interactions with the system and we planned an application enhancement to implement a withdrawal fee. In Part 3 we designed a UML state machine diagram to further analyze and document the operation of our system. In this installment we will return to our planned enhancement. We’ve been assigned to implement an ATM withdrawal fee of $2 for withdrawals less than $100 and $4 for withdrawals of $100 or more. In Part 2 we drew a use case diagram to show how users will interact with the new feature: UML use case diagram From our original analysis of the object-oriented classes in Part 1, we know our system contains a Withdrawal class, which is the logical place to implement our new feature. We can display a new class diagram for the Withdrawal class by selecting it in the Model Tree and choosing from the right-click context menu to create a new diagram. UModel Model Tree helper window UML class diagram We chose to create a hierarchy diagram so all the properties of the Withdrawal class are visible, including inherited properties from the Transaction class. Before implementing the fee feature, we have a related leftover question to investigate. We wanted to verify that the current code includes a test to make sure a withdrawal amount requested by the user does not exceed the current account balance. A UML sequence diagram will let us trace the execution flow of a withdrawal. UModel can automatically generate sequence diagrams from the operations of reverse-engineered classes. We can select the execute operation in our class diagram and choose Generate Sequence Diagram from the UModel right-click context menu to create the diagram we need. Altova UModel Sequence Diagram Generation dialog The UModel Sequence Diagram Generation dialog offers several options that will assist with our implementation of the new feature. We selected Automatically update because we will want to update the diagram later after we modify the code, and showing the code in a separate layer can help us focus on the withdrawal logic. UML sequence diagram The size of the scroll handles indicates we are only seeing a small portion of the sequence diagram in the current window. We can shrink the view to fit the window, but the text will probably be illegible. Instead, let’s take advantage the flexible UModel user interface to auto-hide the Diagram tree and Properties windows, which allows us to enlarge the Overview helper window: UModel Overview navigation window We can explore the sequence diagram by dragging the red square in the Overview window. This lets us quickly locate the comparison of the withdrawal amount and account balance. UML sequence diagram We can also see the error messages that display if the ATM does not contain enough cash or if the account balance is too low. UML sequence diagram Returning to the Withdrawal class diagram, we can add the fee property and set its default value: UML class diagram We’ll make a first pass through implementation of the fee logic without including the user cancel option. Updating the source code from our model adds the fee property to the Withdrawal class. Then we’ll jump into our favorite source code editor to implement the fee logic directly in the Withdrawal.java file. Testing our recompiled application shows the following: ATM Simulation The starting balance was $147. After withdrawing $100, the new balance is $43. The fee is displayed in a new message, and the ending balance is correct. But now the sequence diagram in our UML model is inaccurate because it doesn’t include the fee feature. We can correct the sequence diagram by updating the UML project from the revised source code. The UModel Messages window indicates that changes in the Withdrawal.java file caused the sequence diagram to be regenerated. And, we can easily navigate the diagram to locate our new test of the withdrawal amount to see if the fee needs to be increased to $4. image10a Now that our modified sequence diagram graphically represents updated operation of the ATM, we can be assured the harried driver we met in Part 3 of this series has enough cash to buy that ice cream cone! In our next installment we’ll take advantage of another UModel feature to generate rich project documentation for our work so far – one more advantage of keeping our UML model and application source code synchronized. If you’re ready to try Altova UModel on your own Java, C#, or Visual Basic legacy application, click here to download a free fully functional 30-day trial.

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