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Format Charts and Graphs for Any Mobile Device in Your BYOD Environment


One challenge in development of mobile business solutions is formatting for all the different devices end users will bring. Each mobile OS supports a family of display sizes from the smallest smartphones to the largest tablets. And when you switch to a competing OS, all the screen sizes all change again. The need to support many different mobile devices can slow down development of mobile solutions for BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) enterprises.

Pie chart for any mobile device created using Altova MobileTogether

Altova MobileTogether is a cross-platform mobile development framework that lets you build once across multiple platforms:

  • Android
  • iOS
  • Windows 8
  • Windows Phone 8
  • HTML-5 Browser Based Client

Going further, MobileTogether supports all available screen sizes for each OS, with special features to accelerate developer productivity.

Read more…

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Stop by booth 535 next week at Oracle OpenWorld


clip_image004September here at Altova means ramping up for a busy Autumn, beautiful cool crisp days in New England and… flying out to San Francisco for Oracle OpenWorld 2013! If you are planning on attending come by booth #535 in Moscone South and see Altova from September 23 – 25th for a demo of Altova’s tools for Oracle Users and to see our new line of cross-platform server software products: RaptorXML Server, FlowForce Server, MapForce Server and StyleVision Server. See first-hand how thesclip_image002e new products offer high-speed automaton for projects designed using familiar Altova MissionKit developer tools.

We would love to hear from you about your latest projects and challenges, collaborate on best practices or let us show you some of the new exciting things Altova has to offer. While you are at our booth mention this blog post to receive a special giveaway. Hope to see you next week in San Francisco!

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Data Exchange for the Mobile Workforce


Data Exchange for the Mobile WorkforceOrganizations have been forced to adapt many of their internal business processes to accommodate an increasingly mobile workforce. Although there are technological solutions that address many of today’s communication needs, the plethora of different document formats in use – even within the same organization – means that some tasks remain vexing. For example, how does an organization remain flexible enough to facilitate the exchange of data among mobile workers yet retain the ability to bring that data into internal IT systems? Altova offers an inexpensive solution with StyleVision®, a graphical stylesheet and report designer with electronic forms capability, and Authentic®, a WYSIWYG XML and database editor in which end users can view and edit electronic forms created in StyleVision. The Authentic Community Edition is available from the Altova Web site as a free download so that anyone can be brought into your workflow, whether they are internal or external to your organization.clip_image002In this post we’ll present a sample case showing you how to create an electronic form that mirrors an existing paper form (in our example it is a reimbursement form) and then we’ll follow it as it makes its way around a fictional organization. Please note that the example we use here is simplistic and was designed only to illustrate the process of developing and deploying an electronic form. Although you can add additional data sources and perform validation and other complex functions in StyleVision, we have not illustrated these here.It is extremely easy to design electronic forms in StyleVision. To start, we simply select New – New from XML Schema/DTD/XML … from the File menu, browse to an XML Schema file, and select the type of design we’d like to create. For this example we created an XML Schema and instance file in XMLSpy, Altova’s XML editor and development environment, based on the fields on the paper reimbursement form. You can also base a StyleVision design on a database or XBRL taxonomy.Below is a copy of the reimbursement form we will be using along with the XML Schema we created.clip_image002clip_image003Once we select the XML file in StyleVision, we are prompted to select either a free-flow or form-based document. In a form-based document all design elements (e.g., text boxes for user input, images, buttons) are fixed in position – ideal for data entry forms.When we create a form-based document, we can upload a “blueprint image” so that we can recreate a paper-based form exactly as it was originally designed. This is the option we’ve selected below. The image will appear in the background of the design window and we will simply place design elements on top of corresponding elements on the form. Of course, the blueprint image overlay does not appear in the final output.clip_image004The screenshot below shows the blueprint image as it appears in the design window in StyleVision – how cool is that? clip_image005Now, using the Insert menu at the top, we can simply insert design elements onto the blueprint image in the design window.Available design elements include form controls (e.g., input boxes, combo boxes, radio buttons), images, tables, charts, and “layout containers” for exact positioning.We’ll start by adding input fields to capture employee information (i.e., First [Name], Last [Name], Title, etc. from the top part of the form). Once we click Insert – Insert Form Controls and select Input Field, the Insert Design Element dialog box appears.We have highlighted the First [Name] element in the dialog box below – the input field will now be associated with the First element. This way, when the end user types data into the input field and saves the form, this information will populate the First [Name] element in the XML file.clip_image006We now add design elements throughout the rest of the form, associating input fields with their respective elements from the XML file.When we are finished adding input fields, a logo, lines, a table for the expense items, and labels, the design looks like this – we’ve set the opacity attribute for the blueprint image to 0 to make it easier to view the design elements. Please note also that we’ve done some additional design work such as adding calendars in date fields, drop down boxes, and a currency sign that changes according to user input. For more information about fine tuning your form please see the StyleVision User and Reference Manual in the StyleVision application.clip_image007We can preview how the end user will see the form we designed in StyleVision by clicking on the Authentic eForm tab at the bottom of the design window (below). Note that the end user is prompted to enter data directly into each data input field. We accomplished this by placing the prompts (e.g., Insert First Name) in between the relevant tags in the XML file associated with our design. The end user simply highlights the prompt and replaces it with text.clip_image008Once we are finished designing the reimbursement form we can save the entire design – including the XML Schema and instance files, images, and any other associated files – in a single PXF® (Portable XML Form®). Saving the design as a PXF will enable us to email the form along with data updated in the underlying XML form among people both inside and outside the company’s LAN.clip_image009Once we hit OK we are prompted to select the files to include in the PXF. Notice that we’ve selected HTML, RTF, PDF, and Word 2007+ under the Generate and store XSLT files … heading. This will allow an end user to generate the form – with data – in these formats directly from Authentic.clip_image010Now that we’ve saved it in a PXF, the electronic form we designed in StyleVision is ready to be deployed in a business environment.In our example, we have a team of salespeople working across the globe who need to request reimbursement for business and travel expenses incurred. The salespeople complete expense reports, forward them to their managers for approval, and then send approved reports to the corporate office so that the information can be added into the accounting system.The PXF makes this easy.Once a salesperson is ready to complete a reimbursement request, she simply opens the PXF in Authentic and can immediately begin entering information onto the form. Below is a screenshot of a reimbursement form that has been completed in Authentic – notice that the form still needs a manager’s signature.clip_image011Now the salesperson must send it to her manager for approval. It’s easy to initiate an email with the form attached directly from Authentic. clip_image013Once the manager receives the email, she can simply double click the attachment and it will open in Authentic. Here the manager has clicked the Approved check box and added her name and the date.clip_image014The manager can then email the updated PXF back to the salesperson, who in turn emails it to the corporate office so it can be imported into the accounting system for processing. Our fictitious corporate office of course receives hundreds of reimbursement requests each day and has established a process for importing them into the relevant Oracle databases in the accounting system.We’ll use Altova MapForce, a graphical any-to-any data mapping, conversion, and transformation tool, to populate the corporate database with the data from the quotations. After setting up the mapping, we’ll automatically generate code from MapForce so that we can automate the transformation either through batch processing or a real-time conversion.First we’ll set up the mapping.We’ve inserted the XML file ExpRpt which we’ve extracted from the PXF into the left side of the MapForce design window and then inserted the Oracle database on the right side of the design window.Now we can drag and drop fields from the XML file with the reimbursement data into the Oracle database. We can also transform data, as we’ve done with the Approved element. Here we’ve used the built-in boolean function to convert the string value stored in the XML file (“true” or “false”) into the numeric equivalents (1 or 0). We can also create our own functions.The mapping we’ve created appears below.clip_image015Please note that this post offers a very broad overview of how to use both StyleVision and MapForce. Please visit the online training section of the Altova website for more in-depth instructions on how to use these and other Altova products.And there you have it. With the PXF, the fictitious Nanonull Corporation allows a group of far flung sales reps and their managers to easily exchange and edit information via electronic form. The PXF also provides a way for Nanonull to populate the accounting database without offering these employees direct access to company IT systems. All without busting the IT budget.

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What could your organization do with a flexible, portable interactive document? Please share your ideas with other users by commenting on this blog post. Have you used StyleVision or other Altova products in an interesting project and think it would make a great case study? Email us at marketing@altova.com. We’d love to hear from you!

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It’s Here – the Industry’s First Truly Portable XML Form


Hopefully by now you’ve downloaded the 2011r3 versions of the Altova product line released last week. We’ve introduced a bunch of new features and functionalities that put even more power into the hands of IT professionals. (Note: If you haven’t already done so, you can download the latest versions of all of the tools in the Altova product suite from our Web site.)clip_image004One of the features we’re most excited about is the new Portable XML Form (PXF) file for StyleVision and Authentic. The PXF is a file into which all elements required to support a StyleVision design including XML Schemas, database connections, images, etc. can be embedded. Imagine the possibilities! In this post we’ll take an in-depth look at the PXF file format as well as some use cases.

When you create a design in StyleVision and then save it as a PXF file, all design elements including XML Schema and instance documents, SPS design files, XSLT, images, and other external files are embedded in the PXF. The PXF file can be transported, downloaded, copied, and saved like any other data file, meaning that developers no longer have to send or install multiple files to support a design. This is especially useful for integrating Authentic electronic forms into your projects – and consequently great news for business users. Authentic electronic forms created in StyleVision allow business users to edit databases and XML files without wrangling with database and XML syntax. The PXF file makes developing – and using – these forms even easier. Take, for example, the bane of many a business traveler’s existence – the expense report. Fortunately for the IT professional using Altova tools the expense report is a snap – a developer can create an eye-catching report that meets the business needs of the client by taking advantage of StyleVision’s many design capabilities. clip_image002 Once the design is complete, creating a PXF file is as easy as selecting Save As and toggling the Save as PXF file radio button. clip_image003 When prompted to select files to embed in the PXF, remember to check the output formats that end users will be able to publish content in. clip_image004 With all design elements now embedded in the PXF file, you can distribute the form easily and efficiently.

  • Is the expense form going to be integrated into a larger project? Send the PXF file to the development lead, who will be delighted at receiving a single file rather than a bunch of individual files.
  • Do business users need to access the expense form online? Rather than saving the XML Schema, instance documents, SPS, images, etc., to the server separately, simply put the PXF file on the server – everything needed to deploy the design is in the PXF.
  • Ready for QA to test it? Email the PXF to the team. They will be able to deploy it simply by opening the PXF in Authentic, just as a business user would. The schema is embedded in the PXF so you can rest assured that XML and database content is being edited and updated appropriately.
  • Are you dealing directly with the end user? Email the PXF to him – the Authentic Community Edition is free and easy to install so a business user can distribute the form and all associated files and data to relevant stakeholders across the organization.

The PXF is a boon to business users as well as developers. Depending on how you deploy the expense report, business users can access it via Authentic Desktop or in their browser with the Authentic Browser Plug-in. As he would with any Authentic form, an end user simply opens the PXF file in Authentic Desktop and can immediately begin editing or adding data. The associated XML file or database is updated automatically to reflect the changes. End users accessing an Authentic form via the Authentic Browser Plug-in likewise update XML and database data by entering and editing information in the form. clip_image005 The value of the PXF for end users is the same as for the developer – portability. Because the PXF file contains all of the files necessary to support the Authentic form, including the instance document, the business user can enter his expense data, resave the file, and then send the PXF to the accounting department. He can even email the PXF directly from the application. clip_image006 The PXF file also provides business users with the ability to publish content in multiple output formats. In our example the developer clicked HTML, RTF, PDF, and Word 2007+ in the Configure Portable XML Form (PXF) dialog box. A business user can instantly create an output document in each of these formats by clicking one of the output buttons on the menu bar. clip_image007 Here we’ve clicked the PDF button, generating a document that a business traveler can mail to the corporate office, keep for his records, etc. clip_image008 Although the portability afforded by the PXF significantly increases the value of electronic forms by simplifying the process of getting critical business data into XML, Authentic forms in general are an easy sell to business users. In addition to comprehensive editing capabilities, Authentic enhances the business value of electronic forms through features that include real-time validation of input data, industry standard XML templates, project management support, and dynamic layout based on user input. In addition to all of the functionality and editing capabilities Authentic offers, the application can compete on price – the Authentic Community Edition is free. We hope that you are as intrigued by the possibilities offered by PXF as we are. By providing developers an easy way to integrate electronic forms into their projects and a simple (and free) way for business users to distribute and publish information, PXF could radically transform the process of creating and editing XML and database content. This is a truly exciting prospect. For those of you not yet using our tools, this is a perfect time to give them a try. Click here to download free, fully functional trial versions of our software. They’re good for 30 days!

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Have you used the PXF form yet? How did you use it? Please share your story with other Altova users by commenting on this blog post. Think it would make a great case study? Email us at marketing@altova.com. We’d love to hear from you!

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StyleVision Supports XBRL for Financial Reporting Part I – Creating GAAP-Compliant Reports and StyleSheets with a Single Click


Did you know that StyleVision is also an XBRL rendering and reporting tool that will allow you to create GAAP-compliant financial reports with the click of a button ? image
In this post we’ll show you how …

Altova’s native support for XBRL is great news for IT professionals serving a range of industries given the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) formal embrace of XBRL as a financial reporting language. In fact, virtually all public companies using GAAP accounting will be required to submit financial data for fiscal periods ending on or after June 15, 2011 to the SEC in XBRL, an XML-based language. IT professionals will be called upon not only to facilitate the exchange of data but to render XBRL data in a manner intelligible to business users. StyleVision can help. With a number of built-in capabilities that allow you to create customized GAAP-compliant stylesheets and reports for XBRL data with only a few clicks, StyleVision can make you look like a technical – and accounting – whiz. When you create a new design from an XBRL taxonomy, StyleVision creates a schema tree that reflects the presentation linkbase, an XML file that includes sets of related concepts grouped under presentation links (e.g., in the example below, 006091- Disclosure – Segment Revenue and Operating Income is a presentation link). Typically the presentation linkbase will appear in the schema tree as discrete financial statements, addendums, disclosures, and the like (this will depend on the contents of the linkbase – and keep in mind that although standard not every XBRL taxonomy will have a linkbase). Individual root elements are also available for reporting/processing and appear below the presentation links. image To create a stylesheet or report, drag the appropriate presentation link into the design window (for this example we have selected 124000 – Statement – Statement of Income (Including Gross Margin)). You will be prompted to create an XBRL table, XBRL chart, or XBRL template. image Selecting Create an XBRL Table will invoke the XBRL Table Wizard. image Note that under Options we have US-GAAP mode checked. If you check the US-GAAP mode box StyleVision will generate a table with all of the financial data in the presentation link selected. (You can select which period you would like represented under the Options tab as well). Output in HTML, RTF, PDF, and Word 2007+ formats, plus corresponding stylesheets, are automatically generated once you click OK. Although there are a number of formatting options in the Table Wizard, once the table is generated you can make additional changes (e.g., background color, font, text, table borders, etc.). In the example below we highlighted the <xbrli:instant> element and used Value Formatting to change how the time periods are represented. In the XBRL instance document, the time period appears in YYYYY-MM-DD – YYYY-MM-DD format. We have changed it to [Number of] Months Ending YYYY-MM-DD. image Notice the Styles window in the screenshot below – we’ve also changed the table header’s background color to navy and the text color to white. image Sorting, grouping (via XPath), and filtering (via XPath) options can also be edited after the table is generated by the XBRL Table Wizard. Simply right click in the Period or current-group bar above the table header and select the appropriate function. The Group by … dialog box appears below. image The GAAP-compliant table rendered in HTML appears below. image The HTML output above reflects the formatting options we selected in the XBRL Chart Wizard:

  • As indicated in the header, monetary items are shown in thousands because we selected Thousands in Display monetary items in under Options
  • We checked Auto-remove empty rows and Auto-remove empty columns so there are no empty rows or columns
  • Because we selected Enable interactive removal of columns (HTML only) under Options in the XBRL Chart Wizard the end user can click the “x” in the corner of a column to hide it
  • We did not select Enable tree view so the labels are all left justified and do not reflect the hierarchy of the schema
  • We did not enable Interactive expand/collapse buttons so they do not appear

One last thing to note is that in our example we have selected the entire presentation link 124000 – Statement – Statement of Income (Including Gross Margin) and all data in that presentation link is populated to the table. However if you expand the presentation link in the schema tree you can select individual line items or those grouped together from a presentation link and create a mini-table. This is just an overview of how you can use StyleVision’s built-in GAAP-compliant functionality to render XBRL data in some simple ways – the possibilities for presenting this data are virtually limitless. In future posts we’ll discuss using the XBRL Table Wizard to combine multiple line items from different presentation links for highly customized data presentation, creating powerful charts with the XBRL Chart Wizard, and other ways to help organizations leverage their XBRL data (we’ll even provide an example of how XBRL financial data can be used with other data sources to create an annual report).

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Have you used Altova tools to create XBRL solutions for your clients? Please share your story with other Altova users by commenting on this blog post. Think it would make a great case study? Email us at marketing@altova.com. We’d love to hear from you!

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Switch Statement vs. Look-up Table in MapForce


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

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Solution to the Software Testing with State Machines Challenge


Last month in our blog on Software Testing for State Machines with Altova UModel we discovered unexpected behavior in our model of an air conditioning system and challenged readers to improve the design. This post describes one possible solution. When we ran the Tester application for our model, we saw that the Power switch did not turn the system off when it was in the Standby state. In the state machine diagram in our original model, the only route into Standby from Operating mode is via the Standby button, and the only way out of the Standby state is to press the Standby button again, as seen in the detail below. Detail of a state machine diagram in Altova UModel We can create an alternate exit to power off the system from the Standby state simply by drawing a new transition line from Standby to the Off state, and assigning powerButton() as the event that triggers the transition. UModel makes assigning the trigger easy by providing a pop-up window listing events that are already defined in the model. Pop-up list of triggers for transitions in a state machine diagram in Altova UModel Our completed revision to the model with the new transition from Standby to Off looks like this: State machine diagram in Altova UModel After regenerating the Java code and compiling the new version, we can run the Tester application again. The Debug output message window shows that the system entered Standby in Event 3. Event 4, activation of the Power button, now sets the state to Off. State machine test application generated by Altova UModel Find out for yourself how you can enhance the logic of your own state machine diagrams with Altova UModel – download a free 30-day trial today!

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