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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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Part 3 – Analyzing a Legacy Application with Altova UModel


In Part 1 of this series we applied the reverse engineering functionality of Altova UModel to import source code from an existing ATM simulation application. We created a UML class diagram to illustrate the application’s class hierarchy and class relationships. In Part 2 we drew a UML use case diagram to document user interactions with the system and we drew several additional use case diagrams to document interaction details and a planned enhancement. In this installment we’ll look at the ATM from another point of view. On a hot summer afternoon, a harried driver spots an ice cream stand with a drive through lane up ahead. Just one problem – no cash! So he turns in at the strip mall parking lot and parks by an ATM in a glass kiosk. Before he even gets out of the car, our overheated bank customer wonders about the state of the ATM. Is another customer with complicated banking business already using it? Even if no one is inside kiosk, could the ATM be out of service? A UML state machine diagram (also called a state diagram) will let us map the states of our simulated ATM and the triggers, events, and transitions between states so we can better understand how our legacy application operates. Let’s return again to our experience running the simulation to get started: ATM Simulation Log In menu ATM Simulation Transaction Menu When we launched the legacy application, our simulated ATM entered its idle state, awaiting the first customer: UML State Machine Diagram start Next, it can be helpful to identify and draw additional states in disconnected ovals. We’ll be able to move these ovals around like pieces of a puzzle to find the logical sequence without worrying about the transitions from one state to the next. UML state machine diagram - preliminary This preliminary list of the ATM states is only our first rough draft. The state descriptions were suggested by our legacy application’s menu entries, and it’s obvious we can simplify: · There is no difference between Selecting First Transaction and Selecting Next Transaction, so these should be combined · Logging Out is probably not a state, but an instantaneous transition when our user presses 4 at the Transaction menu · We can assign user entry of a withdrawal amount or a deposit amount as sub-states within the Performing Transaction state The third item simplifies our diagram and would also be consistent with our treatment of user entry of the account number and PIN as part of Authenticating User. After we make these changes and add transitions, our diagram looks like this: UML state amachine diagram with transitions The simple transitions we’ve added are triggers that cause the ATM to leave one state and enter the next. Also, notice every state has at least one entry and one exit – otherwise the legacy application could force our user into a dead end. The diamond element between Selecting Transaction and Performing Transaction is the UML symbol for a choice of flows. At first it may seem illogical for the application to allow the user to sign out before performing any transaction, but that is an option our legacy application offers in the Transaction menu. And users in the real world have been known to change their minds at the last minute! We were careful to use consistent language wherever possible for our element names and descriptions. The states are named with verbs in the present tense that end in -ing. Transitions are labeled to indicate completion of the action that causes the state to change. Consistent element naming enhances diagram clarity. Once we have a working overview state diagram like the one above, it’s worthwhile to consider what happens if a transition is attempted, but not completed successfully. The ATM user might enter an invalid account number/PIN combination, or an authenticated user could request a withdrawal amount that exceeds the account balance. We can enhance our state diagram to include these possibilities: Complete UML state machine diagram Now our state machine diagram shows many alternate paths through the application execution, not just the single, all-successful “Happy Path.” We chose a vertical orientation for the layout of our diagram, but there is no rule dictating that form. Some applications will lend themselves to a horizontal layout, or maybe that is simply your personal preference. This illustration shows a small portion of our state machine diagram in horizontal form: UML state machine diagram in horizontal layout Whichever state machine diagram layout you choose, you should not draw transition lines that intersect or overlap. Drawing a UML state machine diagram may seem like overkill for our ATM simulation, since the legacy application is small, and we are all familiar with the way ATMs work. However, these techniques can be very illuminating when you have to work on a much larger application operating in an unfamiliar or complex subject domain. If you are ready to create UML state machine diagrams for your own Java, C#, or Visual Basic legacy application, click here to download a free fully functional 30-day trial of Altova UModel. In our next installment we’ll look in detail at the withdrawal transaction and the new feature we planned in Part 2.

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Part 2 – Analyzing a Legacy Application with Altova UModel


In Part 1 of the Analyzing a Legacy Application series we introduced our ATM simulation app, imported the Java source code into a UModel project, and refined a class diagram to see an overview of the application classes and their relationships. In this entry we will create use case diagrams to document the current functionality of our ATM app and we’ll add to one use case diagram to plan a future enhancement. As we saw in Part 1, when a user runs our ATM simulation, he is asked to log in with an account number and PIN, then is presented with a transaction menu that summarizes all available interactions with the application: ATM Simulation transaction menu With the Transaction menu as a guide, we can create an overview use case diagram that documents user interactions with the ATM simulation: ATM Simulation overview use case diagram If you are familiar with UML notation, the first thing you may have noticed is the actor in our diagram doesn’t look like the typical UML stick figure. UModel lets software modelers assign any Windows .bmp image file to represent an actor in a use case diagram. We used the Properties helper window to assign an image from the library provided with UModel. Altova UModel Properties Window A use case diagram is not the appropriate place to define application flow or object-oriented classes, but simply to document how a user (an actor in UML terminology) interacts with the system. We can create additional use case diagrams to show more detail about each interaction. Expanding each interaction in a separate diagram improves clarity by keeping each layout simple and uncluttered and leaves plenty of space to try out different options. Detailed user sign in use case diagram We added authentication of the account number and PIN in a note instead of a use case oval because the ATM user is not the actor who performs that step. From real-life ATM experience we can guess (because we haven’t looked at the code yet) that a withdrawal will be cancelled if the amount requested is larger than the account balance. But comparing the withdrawal amount and account balance is not done by the user, so that activity is also not drawn in a use case oval. Withdraw cash use case diagram The arrow inside the Withdraw Cash use case indicates a hyperlink. UModel lets you can attach one or more hyperlinks to any element in your diagrams. A hyperlink can reference a URL, an external file, or another diagram. The hyperlink dialog even lets you define helper text for your hyperlinks. Altova UModel hyperlinks dialog Hyperlink pop-up text in use case diagram If you define more than one hyperlink, your helper text becomes a pop-up selection menu. Let’s say we’ve been assigned to modify the existing ATM Simulation to charge a fee for each withdrawal. If the withdrawal amount is less than $100, the fee will be $2. If the withdrawal amount is $100 or higher, the fee will be $4. Since the ATM is not stocked with one dollar bills, the fee must be charged against the account, not deducted from the cash withdrawal. The fee will be disclosed before any cash is dispensed and the user will be allowed to cancel the transaction. We can add the new requirement to our ATMWithdrawal use case diagram. Enhanced Withdraw Cash use case diagram We changed the color of the Approve fee use case oval to indicate this is a planned feature that is not yet implemented. Some developers would argue that the note attached to the Approve fee oval is redundant, since the include notation alone signifies that Approve fee is a required component of Withdraw Cash. But lots of people are confused about the difference between include and extend and it’s best to be absolutely clear. We can also take advantage of the UModel Layers feature to place all elements related to the new feature on a separate layer. Altova UModel Assign Layer context menu Now the Layers helper window allows us to show or hide the planned feature in our diagram view. Altova UModel Layer helper window Real world ATM experience tells us a transaction is missing from the legacy ATM simulation. The transaction menu does not offer an option to transfer funds between accounts. From the diagrams we’ve already created, we can see the original application design will make a transfer operation difficult to implement. The user sign in is based on the account number, and it appears that the legacy application does not understand the concept of a single bank customer who has both a checking account and a savings account. If our manager requests the transfer funds feature, we’ll need to have a conversation with our company’s enterprise software architect. A user ID linked to multiple accounts will need to be implemented not only in our ATM Simulation app, but also in the bank database. The Jolt award-winning Altova MissionKit for Enterprise Architects is a collection of eight XML, database, and UML tools for the enterprise software architect who may require UML modeling and database management tools in addition to advanced XML, Web services, and data integration capabilities. Click here to download a fully-functional 30-day trial. In the next installment we’ll look at the legacy ATM simulation from a completely different perspective as we prepare to dive into the code. See ya later!

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New DatabaseSpy Video: Exploring Databases


We’ve just launched the third video in the DatabaseSpy series. Exploring Databases is a tour of the DatabaseSpy Online Browser, a powerful tool for viewing, searching, and analyzing one or more connected databases. Exploring Databases demo Exploring Databases builds on the preceding video, Database Connections, which demonstrated how easy it is to use DatabaseSpy to connect to one or more databases. You can even simultaneously connect to databases of different types. And DatabaseSpy supports the most popular databases in production today, including Microsoft SQL Server, IBM DB2, Oracle, Sybase, MySQL, and more. Once you’re connected, the DatabaseSpy Online Browser shows you an expandable hierarchy of the database structure. It’s a great place to start exploring an unfamiliar database or quickly navigate to any specific element you need to work with in a familiar one. The Altova Flash videos are proving to be a popular feature on our Web site, with close to 350,000 views in all. If you haven’t seen an Altova product video yet, you’re missing a great opportunity to get a flavor for components of the award-winning Altova MissionKit by seeing them in action. If you’re already a fan, check back again soon — we’re in the studio working on more videos right now.

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Altova Software Version 2009 SP1 Available


Today we released Service Pack 1 of Altova Version 2009 product line (v2009 SP1), which includes helpful bug fixes and other enhancements, as well as a new feature in the MapForce data mapping tool (detailed below). v2009 SP1 is a free update for all v2009 customers, as well as any customer with a valid Support and Maintenance Package. Note that v2009 SP1 is a new product version, and not a patch – you can simply visit the Altova Download Page to download and install the latest version of your product(s) to update.

Recursive User Defined Functions

Added based on feedback from Altova partners, this new feature in MapForce 2009 SP1 provides support for non-inlined user-defined functions in data mapping projects. Now users can create recursive function calls, enabling them to map data dynamically by expressing operations in terms of themselves. In hierarchical data structures like XML, for instance, it is possible for an element to contain itself or be referenced, in some way or another, by a descendant. Creating a recursive user-defined function allows you to process this data, looping through the elements incrementally and returning data that has been evaluated dynamically.   Update to get this new functionality and all the v2009 SP1 enhancements across the Altova product line. If you’re not already a v2009 customer, you can download a free, fully functional trial using the same link. 

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SOA and Cloud Services Within Your Budget


The hardships affecting today’s economy present new challenges for organizations. Interdepartmental budgets are being cut, and large purchases are being carefully scrutinized. Costly enterprise software and mainframe computing systems that once held promise are being reconsidered on a global scale in favor of more agile, component-based systems that cut costs and increase efficiency with forward-thinking concepts like Service-oriented Architecture (SOA) and cloud computing. These architectural concepts incorporate modern technologies and object-oriented approaches to solve real-world technology issues in complex environments while decreasing maintenance, integration, and deployment costs with modular design and component re-use. The Altova MissionKit is a highly affordable toolset uniquely suited to address this shift toward more flexible and lightweight infrastructure. With strong support for XML, UML, databases, and data integration technologies, the MissionKit offers all of the tools necessary to build agile architectures replete with repeatable services, reusable components, and scalable resources.

SOA & Cloud Computing

SOA and Web/cloud services are two of the strongest buzzwords in technology today. Though they have some clear differences, both of these concepts represent a paradigm shift from large-scale enterprise systems to service-based architectures built on modular components and reusable functionality. The SOA approach aims to help organizations respond more quickly to business requirements by packaging processes as a network of interoperable and repeatable services. This modularity creates system flexibility and gives developers the agility required to build new capabilities into the current system as needed – without reinventing the proverbial wheel. SOA is essentially a series of interconnected and self-contained services, the functionality of which is dynamically located and invoked based on certain criteria, communicated in messages. At the heart of SOA is a high level of component reuse that drives down costs and increases efficiency in a fully scalable architecture. Cloud services build upon the concept of interoperable services, adding a virtualization component to help relieve internal servers from being overtaxed by the constant reuse of these services within the system. This paradigm uses the Internet and Internet-enabled technologies to increase performance and processing speed by storing information permanently in the "cloud" and caching it only temporarily on client machines. Cloud computing implementation is a powerful option for increasing system capacity and capabilities by leveraging next-generation data centers in combination with the World Wide Web. Both SOA and cloud computing seek to alleviate problems created by inflexible architectures that rely heavily on tightly coupled enterprise application infrastructure. This focus on interoperability and independent software services reveals a distributed solution that is event-driven, flexible, and cost conscious in almost any setting.

Anatomy of a Service-based Architecture

Since their inception, XML and Web services have been continuously gaining notoriety as the standards of choice for secure, efficient, and platform-independent data exchange between software applications and over the Internet. XML provides the foundation for the protocols that power Web services infrastructure: WSDL (Web Services Description Language) and SOAP, an XML-based messaging standard. Web services are hardware, programming language, and operating system independent, meaning that they are duly amenable to the seamless and interoperable exchange of data over a network and uniquely suited to component-based systems. Web services architecture Web services architecture Both SOA and cloud-based architectures generally rely on WSDL to describe interaction and functionality and locate operating components within the system. WSDL works hand-in-hand with SOAP, a messaging protocol used by the client application to invoke the methods and functions defined in the WSDL description. The example below is the stock quote example used in the W3C WSDL specification and describes a simple, single operation service that retrieves real-time stock prices based on ticker symbol input. Of course, most services that exist within enterprise architectures are far more complex. Graphical WSDL editor Take, for example, the publicly available Amazon Web services, which provide accessible Cloud services and infrastructure to a growing number of companies worldwide, including Twitter, SmugMug, and WordPress.com. These services essentially allow independent organizations to rent some of the immense power built into the Amazon distributed computing environment and add the same scalability, reliability, and scalability to their online presence at a fraction of the price. The much anticipated Windows Azure from Microsoft® operates on a similar model, giving developers the opportunity to build and deploy cloud-based applications with minimal on-site resources. Amazon provides a WSDL file that contains the definition of the Web service, the requests that the service accepts, and so on. Developers can then write a SOAP-based client application that invokes the Amazon Web service for the functionality it provides. (At this time Amazon provides a number of Cloud-based services for application hosting, backup and storage, content delivery, e-commerce, search, and high-performance computing.)

Altova MissionKit

Recently named "Best Development Environment" in the Jolt Product Excellence Awards, the Altova MissionKit is a diverse set of software tools that provides scalable options for leveraging your current software assets in an SOA or cloud-enabled environment. Strong support for XML, Web services, data integration, process automation, and databases, as well as accessibility to powerful APIs give developers flexible options for creating service-based solutions and an affordable alternative to costly consultant fees, extract/transform/load (ETL) tools, and/or enterprise service bus (ESB) products. The Altova MissionKit* supports end-to-end Web services development and includes a graphical WSDL editor, visual Web services builder, advanced capabilities for managing WSDL and other XML file relationships, a SOAP client and debugger, WSDL data integration, code generation, and more. Together, all of these features provide a robust solution for integrating disparate services and systems in a distributed computing environment, whether the components be in-house, network, or Cloud-based.

WSDL Editor

The XMLSpy XML editor provides a graphical interface (GUI) for designing and editing WSDL documents. The structure and components of the WSDL are created in the main design window using graphical design mechanisms (with tabs allowing users to toggle back and forth between text view), and additional editing capabilities are enabled from comprehensive entry helper windows. Users can easily create and edit messages, types, operations, portTypes, bindings, etc., inline. In addition, publicly maintained WSDL files like the Amazon Simple Storage Service, or Amazon S3, (below) can be opened instantly using the Open URL command in XMLSpy. WSDL editor Amazon Web services XMLSpy’s WSDL editor gives developers a sophisticated environment for rapid Web services development, managing WSDL syntax and validation through an intuitive, drag and drop graphical interface. The addition of a documentation generation feature makes it possible to share the complete details of a Web service interface with non-technical stakeholders in HTML or Microsoft Word.

SOAP Client

SOAP requests can be manually created in XMLSpy’s SOAP client based on the operations defined in the WSDL. Once an operation is selected, XMLSpy initiates the request based on the connections provided in the WSDL and displays the XML syntax of the SOAP envelope in the main window. The message can then be sent directly to the server for an immediate response. SOAP client for Web services

SOAP Debugger

XMLSpy also includes a SOAP debugger, which acts as Web services proxy between client and server, enabling developers to analyze WSDL files and their SOAP message components, single-step through transactions, set breakpoints on SOAP functions, and even define conditional breakpoints that are triggered by a stated XPath query. SOAP debugger

Building Web Services

Once a WSDL definition is complete, it can also be visually implemented using MapForce, Altova’s any-to-any data integration tool. MapForce gives users the ability to map data to or from WSDL operations and then autogenerate program code in Java or C#. Tight integration with Visual Studio and Eclipse makes it possible to then compile the code within either of these IDEs and deploy the service on the client machine. When you create a new Web service project by specifying a Web services definition file (WSDL), MapForce automatically generates mapping files for each individual SOAP operation. MapForce project The SOAP input and output messages can then be easily mapped to other source data components (XML, databases, flat files, EDI, XBRL, Excel 2007) to create a complete Web services operation. Data processing functions, filters, and constants can also be inserted to convert the data on the fly. Web services mapping MapForce can autogenerate Web services implementation code in Java or C# for server-side implementation, and it is also accessible for automation via the command line.

File Relationship Management

For complex Web-based applications that include a large number of disparate files and project stakeholders, the MissionKit offers an advanced graphical XML file relationship management tool in SchemaAgent. SchemaAgent can analyze and manage relationships among XML Schemas, XML instance documents (SOAP), WSDL, and XSLT files. The client/server option enables any changes to be visualized in real time across a workgroup. Managing XML files This gives organizations the ability to track and manage their mission critical SOA files as reusable individual components, reducing development time and the occurrence of errors.

Data Integration

A key factor of any SOA is the ability for disparate systems to communicate seamlessly via automated processes. As an any-to-any graphical data integration and Web services implementation tool, MapForce facilitates this undertaking with support for a wide variety of data formats including XML, databases, flat files (which can be easily parsed for integration with legacy systems with the help of the unique FlexText™ utility), EDI, XBRL, Excel 2007, and Web services. MapForce data mapping in Visual Studio MapForce supports complex data mapping scenarios with multiple sources and targets and advanced data processing functions. Transformations can easily be automated via code generation in C#, C++, or Java, or the command line. Full integration with Visual Studio and Eclipse also makes this an ideal development tool for working in large-scale enterprise projects – without the heavy price tag. This gives developers a flexible and agile middleware component that can work in virtually any service-based architecture. The ability to integrate disparate data in on-the-fly is a key requirement in real-world enterprise and cross-enterprise systems where legacy systems and other less flexible formats co-exist with XML and other modern, interoperable standards.

Database Management

Even in the rapidly evolving semantics-driven macrocosm that is Web 2.0, most companies still use one or more relational databases to store and manage their internal data assets. The Altova MissionKit supports working with the most prevalent of these systems (see listing below) in a wide variety of different ways. Database support is offered in XMLSpy, MapForce, StyleVision, and, of course, DatabaseSpy.

  • Microsoft® SQL Server® 2000, 2005, 2008
  • IBM DB2® 8, 9
  • IBM DB2 for iSeries® v5.4
  • IBM DB2 for zSeries® 8, 9
  • Oracle® 9i, 10g, 11g
  • Sybase® 12
  • MySQL® 4, 5
  • PostgreSQL 8
  • Microsoft Access™ 2003, 2007

DatabaseSpy is a multi-database query, editing, design, and comparison tool that allows users to connect directly to all major databases and edit data and design structure in a graphical user interface with features like table browsing, data editing, SQL auto-completion entry helpers, visual table design, content diff/merging, and multiple export formats. In a service-based architecture, the ability to compare and merge data directly in its native database format is an enormous asset to developers who need to locate changes, migrate differences, or synchronize versions of database tables across test and live environments. Database tool and SQL editor   As a component of the MissionKit, DatabaseSpy gives disparate groups within organizations the flexibility to work with data from multiple databases in one central interface simultaneously. Whether this data is eventually integrated into other systems or applications or lives permanently in the database, DatabaseSpy provides a simple and flexible solution to managing and maintaining massive data stores.

Single Source Publishing

In today’s world of highly automated data transfer and management, it is still necessary for human readers to ultimately consume the data in some format or other. Of course, the problem that organizations often run into is what format to publish to. XML and single source publishing have revolutionized content management, document exchange, and even multilingual communications by separating content structure from appearance. An XML-based documentation system can greatly reduce costs through facilitating ease of conversion for delivery to many different data formats and types of applications. The single source concept ensures that workflow processes (i.e., conversion, edits, etc.) do not have to be repeated or reworked – that all content in the repository requires only minimal restructuring and promotion before being loaded to respective applications for delivery. Altova StyleVision is a graphical stylesheet design tool that enables users to easily apply single source publishing to XML, XBRL, and database content, without having any affect on the source data. In this way, companies can create reusable template designs for data that can then be rendered automatically in HTML, RTF, PDF, Microsoft Word 2007, and even an Authentic e-Form for immediate publication to any conceivable medium without any process disruption – resulting in the presentation of accurate, consistent, and standardized information in real-time. StyleVision stylesheet designer Single source publishing gives organizations the ability to add a human component to their highly automated data processing workflows, enabling them to view transmission reports at any stage. For example, in a world where compliance management plays such a large role in day to day enterprise operations, StyleVision can be integrated into any SOA to provide a sort of visual audit trail for manually reviewing XML, XBRL, and database transactions. StyleVision’s template-based approach to stylesheet design makes it an ideal addition to a distributed development environment, where repeatable processes are an integral part of the system’s overall efficiency.

Conclusions

Financial downturns can make investing in technology a difficult decision. However, forward-thinking organizations will find that focusing on restructuring the legacy assets they already have in place, automating internal processes, and adding virtualization layer to their application infrastructure can lead to increases in efficiency, speed, and potentially enormous ROI. The Altova MissionKit gives businesses all of the tools that they need to augment their enterprise architecture with iterative, process-driven solutions that will recover costs through the reuse of current assets and the ability to deliver Web-driven automation within and across organizations on a global scale. The MissionKit is a highly affordable solution that offers developers, software architects, and IT users all of the tools they need to build flexible and powerful technology solutions and efficiencies that advance component-based service-oriented infrastructure – without breaking the budget.

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Exploring Large XML/XBRL Documents with XMLSpy


Last week, while giving a demo of the new XBRL capabilities in the Altova MissionKit, we stumbled across an interesting question: What is the best way for a semi-technical SME (in this case a CPA) to navigate a large XML/XBRL document for data entry? XMLSpy, which is included in the MissionKit tool suite, has a lot of cool features and different views for XML data, including the ever-popular grid view for visualizing the hierarchical structure of an instance document in a graphical manner. The ability to easily expand and collapse containers and drag and drop to change position makes XMLSpy’s grid view a pretty good choice for the task.  XMLSpy grid view Of course let’s not forget that the XMLSpy XML editor also has a Find feature that would enable users to simply press Ctrl F or use the Find in Files window to find any element that they are looking for… but alas, in the case of XBRL, where element names are mindbogglingly verbose, this may be a challenge. Consider, for example, the US-GAAP’s aptly named <us-gaap:IncomeLossFromContinuingOperationsBeforeIncomeTaxesMinorityInterestAnd IncomeLossFromEquityMethodInvestments>. Not so much fun to type into a Find dialog… Our solution, therefore, and the winner for the easiest and most comprehensive way for even a non-technical user to find XML elements in a large document, utilizes a combination of longstanding XMLSpy features (the XPath Analyzer window) and a new feature in XMLSpy v2009, XPath auto-completion. Simply begin typing the element name in the XPath Analyzer window, and XMLSpy will show you all of the possibilities. Next, choose the one you are looking for, and XMLSpy will navigate directly to that node in the XML document.   xpath auto-completion in XMLSpy   Now that was easy! And better yet, you get to tell your friends that you know XPath. 😉 Of course, for developers, intelligent XPath auto-completion provides a lot more than the ability to find a node quickly. As you type, it provides you with valid XPath functions, as well as element and attribute names from the associated schema and XML instance(s). XMLSpy accounts for namespaces when listing options and even provides deep path suggestions when the required node is not in close proximity to the current context. XMLSpy is available standalone or as part of the award-winning MissionKit tool suite.

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