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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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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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XML & Digital Textbooks


Last Sunday’s New York Times had an interesting article on the front page about digital textbooks for the K-12 market. The piece was undoubtedly partially inspired by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (he’s from California by the way) recently announced initiative that will replace some high school textbooks with digital versions. In fact, compared to standard printed texts, digital textbooks:

  • Can be more quickly and readily updated by publishers
  • Can often be purchased as individual chapters or a complete text
  • Are easier to store and transport, if downloaded to a portable computer
  • Can be combined with other digital materials, such as portions of other textbooks, periodical articles, instructor-provided materials, etc.
  • Can offer enormous cost-savings of because of elimination of materials, shipping and storage costs that are partially passed on to purchasers
  • Provide purchasing and procurement efficiencies
  • May feature learning tools content such as hyperlinks to related learning modules, electronic annotation by students, keyword searches, additional graphics and pop-up modules that furnish additional information

And so XML will finally have a chance to truly demonstrate its power in the K-12 market. For my part, I cannot think of a better example of the efficiencies of XML publishing than for education. Certainly most, if not all, of the major educational publishers are already using XML workflows internally because of benefits like validation, single source publishing, amenability to standards and metadata tagging, etc. XML also gives publishers the ability to easily manage multi-dimensional educational content. Educational content, like textbooks and other learning materials, is usually structured around a fairly simple content model using word forms such as titles, paragraphs, quotes, etc. The second dimension of the content is contextual information – footnotes, glossary terms, highlighting items – anything that may be necessary to target a specific audience. For instance, if a piece of content is to be included in a sixth grade textbook it would have different markup than if it were to be used for an eighth grade classroom. The third dimension of K-12 educational content is the standards dimension. Standards are in most cases on the state level and are used to ensure that teachers know exactly what topics they are teaching in a particular piece of the content, ensuring they are covering the complete set of standards for state aptitude tests, like the MCAS. The standards dimension itself has the potential for further layering as content producers adopt their own standards to guide teachers to other relevant standards and topics that the content is aligned to. XML is particularly well-suited to digital publishing of educational content for its ability to easily separate or layer these dimensions and repurpose it in nearly unlimited ways without the need for rekeying information. For example, one company in the article, CK-12 Foundation, develops free “flexbooks” that can be customized to correlate with state standards. Without XML, this would be a nearly (if not completely) impossible undertaking – with XML you can use many of the existing XML content creation tools to streamline the process. So what has taken so long for the K-12 market to embrace XML-enabled digital learning materials? Well, it appears that the issue is an economical one. We still live in a country where many students do not have access to a computer, and few school districts have the means to provide them. Perhaps in the near future there will be a solution for this problem – and perhaps, just perhaps, California has just taken the first steps to lead us in the right direction. So, where does Altova fit into this equation? Well, the Altova MissionKit offers support for intelligent XML content creation and editing for both technical and non-technical users. These tools give educational publishers and other content contributors the ability to work with structured XML content in a comfortable atmosphere, with easy-to-use interfaces, entry-helpers, drag and drop functionality, and a wide variety of options that make working in a team environment a flexible and even seamless process. Visit the Altova website to read more about the MissionKit – or download a free 30-day trial today!

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Wrycan / NAVSEA Case Study



Overview

The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, is a division of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), the largest of the United States Navy’s five systems commands. They approached Wrycan, an Altova partner focused on content-centric XML expertise, for help converting some of their legacy format technical manuals to XML based on the Navy ETM XML DTD and recreating them as PDFs. The shipyard had been given a mandate to start utilizing XML as their primary data and storage format and needed a low cost and reliable publishing solution that could be easily maintained by their in-house workforce. Wrycan had some experience working with the Altova MissionKit for XML development, as well as a broad expertise in XML technologies including XML, XSL:FO, and DTD. They chose to use XMLSpy, StyleVision, and Authentic as the development tools for this implementation because of their intuitiveness, ease-of-use, and low price tag.

The Challenge

The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard needed to convert about 10,000 pages of content from a legacy format into XML that was conformant to their DTD. This included an automated conversion, manual review and cleanup, and a command line tool to publish the XML back into its original PDF format. As with any large publishing and conversion operation, the project required heavy QA review post-conversion, much of which could be done by non-technical shipyard employees if they had a mechanism to help them interpret and access the XML markup. In addition, because of the relative complexity of the documentation format, which included complicated page layout details such as a variable number of columns per page and different margin widths, callouts interspersed with sections and enumerated lists, as well as many large schematic models, some of which were on foldout pages, the XSL:FO coding promised to present a formidable challenge.

The Solution

Wrycan performed the bulk of the content conversion in-house using custom scripts and some manual processes, along with some technical QA. After the content was converted, Wrycan used StyleVision’s drag and drop design interface to create Authentic e-Forms for editing using the Navy ETM XML DTD as the structural component. Advanced stylesheet functions such as conditional templates and auto-calculations were inserted to facilitate QA and editing workflows. navsea_design After the content conversion, Wrycan implemented a command line processing tool that includes multiple steps such as:

  • Volume assembly from chunks of XML files
    For greater flexibility and usability, the Navy technical manuals were divided up into sections including Front Matter, Chapters, Back Matter, and image files. This enabled Wrycan to make certain parts of these files available for reuse. Components that appeared identically in more than one place within the manuals could be segmented so that changes made in one place would iterate throughout the documentation.
  • XML to XSL-FO conversion
    Wrycan used XMLSpy, Altova’s full-featured XML editor , to hand-code the advanced XSL:FO that was needed for the manuals. The complexity of the XML and PDF output can be seen in the following examples: Volume source, Front Matter source, Chapter source, and Final document (3.8 MB PDF).
  • Custom page formatting
    This project required various page sizes within one document, such as a portrait page followed by a foldout 11″ x 17″ landscape page. There are Naval documentation requirements specifying that different page formats have different printing requirements. For example, foldout pages are printed on one side only while other pages are double-sided.
  • Post processing steps
    There were also page numbering requirements, such as every chapter must start on an odd numbered page. If this causes a page to be blank, a message indicating that the page was intentionally left blank is placed on the page. These requirements are automatically satisfied by Wrycan’s processing tool.
  • PDF creation
    Wrycan integrated RenderX’s XEP software into the processing pipeline to convert the XSL:FO output, including all images and common content, into one PDF file.

The editing of the content is done with Authentic via Stylevision, which was recently upgraded to the most recent release for more advanced table support and authoring options. Below is a sample screenshot of one of the Authentic e-Forms for WYSIWYG XML editing that was generated for NAVSEA based on the StyleVision stylesheet design. navsea_doc

The Results

The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard now has an XML publishing solution with native XML editing capabilities. They can reproduce their technical manuals in PDF using XML as the content source. They are now ready to move onto the next step, which is implementing a full scale content management system with workflow and custom publishing capabilities. Find out how Altova tools can help with your documentation and publishing challenges. Download a fully functional free trial of the Altova MissionKit today!

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New Table Design in StyleVision


v2009 brought a lot of exciting new features to StyleVision, Altova’s graphical stylesheet design tool. Some, like an all-new design for tables and XPath filtering, are welcome byproducts of our support for XBRL and XBRL Dimensions, but still have far reaching uses for working with XML and databases. Let’s take a quick look at StyleVision’s new table design to illustrate what I’m talking about. stylevision_tables If you’re already a seasoned StyleVision user, it’s probably already obvious to you that we’ve changed things up a bit. You can now very easily select entire columns or rows for editing. Rearrange, delete, add styles, and even resize using the drag and drop UI or common Windows shortcuts on your keyboard. Of course, any of the designs that you’ve created in a previous version of StyleVision will inherit this functionality as well. For any of you not familiar with StyleVision, it is an award-winning stylesheet design tool and report builder with support for XML, database, and XBRL source content. Using the drag and drop GUI and style entry helpers, you create reusable design templates for output to HTML, RTF, PDF, Word 2007 (OOXML), and Authentic e-Forms. If you chose to take advantage of the cost savings in the Altova MissionKit, you will find that you already have StyleVision on your hard drive and just need to open it up for a test drive. Visit the new features index to view all of the functionality that has been added to StyleVision since your last upgrade or download a free trial of StyleVision 2009 today!

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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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Technical Brief: Streamlining Localization Processes with Altova Tools


Rapid globalization has had a profound effect on the documentation requirements of many forward-thinking companies. The need to quickly and accurately localize content for distribution to a host of different languages, while at the same time adhering to strict budgetary requirements, means that many companies have to rethink their legacy documentation technologies and workflows. XML and single source publishing have revolutionized content management, document exchange, and 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. However, in order to take advantage of the full benefits XML provides, changes must be made in the traditional documentation workflow process. Throughout the documentation workflow, checks and balances are underway to ensure high quality content delivery. The single source concept ensures that these 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. In a global setting, where documentation needs to be simultaneously distributed to a variety of different languages, archival XML source documents can easily be translated by applying translation scripts as well as rendering scripts that can localize formatting attributes based on language-specific requirements. In addition, translation and maintenance costs can be significantly reduced by normalizing content for an international market.

XML Documentation

XML has long been lauded by the publishing industry as a cost-cutting solution to many process-related issues in content production and delivery. Having content converted to XML allows for enhancements in content organization, indexing, linking, storage, reuse and delivery/display. But just having content converted to XML does not allow it to reach its full benefit. XML and its associated technologies call for redesigned workflows to demonstrate their enormous potential. An optimized workflow for content publishers requires minimal process repetition. Once content is delivered, it is edited and converted to XML and stored in a centralized single source repository within the content management architecture. The XML files themselves will be minimally defined (tagged) so as to allow maximum flexibility. This repository now becomes the core storage mechanism for all deliverable content. It is on the delivery side that this process model demonstrates its primary benefits. Storing content in the single source repository transforms exporting the content to different formats and applications for delivery into a primarily automated process. There is no need for additional conversions or edits each time content is to be delivered to a different medium. In addition, any complications that arise will now be instantly recognized as process-oriented rather than data-oriented.

Translation

Legacy translation memory databases attempt to modularize content by segmenting source and translated text and storing it in a searchable database for reuse. Though these partially automated systems have been proven to reduce costs when compared to manual processes, the fact that translation is generally done at the sentence level means that is often taken out of context and therefore often loses its meaning. XML documents, on the other hand, are inherently modular and do not require the extensive parsing applied by traditional translation memory systems. In addition, XML assets can easily be encoded (with metadata, for example) and tracked throughout the translation process, ensuring that it remains closely associated with the contextual information often required by translators. An XML-enabled single source publishing model is designed to leverage content reuse, enabling organizations to save significant time and money through reducing or even eliminating repeated translations. XML gives publishers the ability to conceptually segment content assets for translation purposes, while at the same time keeping them closely tied to context. In the case of document frameworks, such as technical publishing, where text is often repeated in many different places, the ability to consolidate resources offers potentially enormous savings in translation costs alone.

Standards

A growing number of emerging standards are designed to aid in the localization of document frameworks. Methodologies for translation workflows and document exchange are designed to streamline content management architectures for multilingual environments. These include:

  • Translation Memory eXchange (TMX) – a vendor-neutral XML standard for the exchange of translation memory data between tools and/or translation vendors
  • Term Base eXchange (TBX) – an open XML-based standard for exchanging structured terminological data
  • Open Lexicon Interchange Format (OLIF) – an open, XML-compliant standard for the exchange of terminological and lexical data
  • XML Localization Interchange File Format (XLIFF) – an XML-based vocabulary for the exchange of localizable software and document-based objects and related metadata (XLIFF is also represented in the DITA Translation Subcommittee)
  • Translation Web Services (TransWS) – specifies the calls needed to use Web services for the submission and retrieval of files and messages relating to localization projects
  • XML-based Text Memory (xml:tm) – an open XML standard for embedding text memory directly within an XML document using XML namespace syntax

The extensible nature of XML lends itself to the creation of a wide variety of industry specifications, many of which enable businesses to streamline business processes and improving communication.

Formatting

In today’s global marketplace, organizations are often challenged with having to produce content in a variety of different languages. In a traditional documentation workflow model, this is an extremely arduous process. Legacy publishing software such as Quark, PageMaker, FrameMaker, etc. require expensive and resource-intensive desktop publishing and engineering processes for repurposing. In addition, these page layout applications are generally not well suited for delivery to multiple output formats. XML is inherently extensible, offering an infinite number of ways to define and structure markup. This flexibility also enables it to handle arbitrary data structures and convey information for both human users and machines for processing. In addition, XML also provides broad support for Unicode characters, enabling the automation of text normalization processes and making it natively accessible to multilingual environments. An XML documentation framework offers significant productivity enhancements to the localization workflow. The separation of content from structure and appearance that is inherent to XML gives companies the ability to translate text while at the same time maintaining the document structure dictated by an XML Schema or DTD. Any additional formatting that is required can also be simultaneously implemented through the application of XSLT and/or XSL:FO stylesheets.

Altova Tools for XML-based Single Source Publishing in a Global Environment

There are, of course, several different methods for internationalizing content with XML technologies. Included below are just a few of examples of how Altova tools can be used to streamline global publishing workflows. Multiple Output Formats
StyleVision is a graphical stylesheet design tool that enables users to create one design for simultaneous output to HTML, RTF, PDF, Word 2007 (OOXML), and Authentic electronic forms. stylesheet_designer Language-specific Stylesheets
StyleVision also supports user-defined parameters that allow designers to maintain the modularity of their XML assets through the application of variables. This enables publishers to add unlimited new languages to their documentation by importing language-specific stylesheets and leaving XML content untouched. Design Overview Of course, this approach to multi-lingual publishing can lead to the creation of an enormous number of stylesheets that are increasingly difficult to maintain. SchemaAgent, Altova’s XML-based file management system offers advanced support for managing XSLT (as well as XML Schema and WSDL) document relationships in a large publishing environment. xslt_component  XSL Lang() Function
StyleVision also supports the XSL lang() function, which pulls the correct translation from XML source document(s) based on the xml:lang attribute. In this scenario, the translations could be stored together in one XML instance as specified in the xml:tm standard, or stored separately in language-specific directories. Properties WYSIWYG Authoring Tool
Authentic gives content contributors the opportunity to edit XML directly through e-Forms based on the stylesheet design created in StyleVision. Authentic is available through a free license so that it can be deployed to an unlimited amount of users without increasing costs. This enables translators to work directly with XML, rather than having it transposed at a later date for publishing. Authentic e-Forms tool Authentic also includes a multi-lingual spell-checker that references built-in dictionaries in 18 different languages and vocabularies, allowing writers and translators to ensure the accuracy of their work. Spelling options

Conclusion

Single source publishing calls for the creation of a centralized store of content that can be accessed, reused, and deployed to a variety of different mediums. This enables the integrity of the content to be maintained throughout an infinite number of iterations. In a large documentation localization pool, the ability to adapt to different language and formatting requirements provides significant business advantages. There are several different approaches to maintaining single source content for a global audience. A careful and informed approach to preparing and storing content assets can ensure a variety of benefits including increased quality and consistency, reduction of translation costs, and increased longevity of translation investments. In addition, the XML-enabled single source publishing model facilitates document repurposing for delivery to a variety of different formats, making it accessible to end-users in HTML, RTF, PDF, Word 2007 (OOXML), etc. Incorporating this system within organizations documentation workflow processes enables the presentation accurate, consistent, and standardized information. XSL transformations apply format-specific processing instructions while ensuring that document content and structure remain intact. Migrating content to XML-based single source publication workflows requires some initial planning and technology investment, but the rewards are numerous. Cost reductions in translation and type-setting, faster time-to-market, and the ability to adapt to new language and data structures requirements in the future make the relatively small investment worthwhile. Discover how single source publishing can optimize your global documentation workflows with a free trial of StyleVision.  Please note that StyleVision and the other products mentioned above are available as part of Altova’s software bundle, MissionKit, which offers XML and data management tools for distributed publishing environments.   This technical brief and other resources are available in the Altova Library.

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