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Altova at Microsoft Tech Ed 2009


If you missed Microsoft Tech Ed in Los Angeles last week, check out our latest YouTube video for a quick trip to catch up on some of the sights and sounds of the Partner Exhibition. Our team on the scene reported a strong positive response to the XBRL and HL7 functionality in Version 2009 of the Altova MissionKit and many shout-outs from the floor for individual Altova tools — XMLSpy, MapForce, StyleVision, and UModel are all popular in the developer community. IT professionals commonly use DatabaseSpy and DiffDog to efficiently complete everyday database and differencing tasks.

You can also see a video clip reporting on Altova at Tech Ed at the TechTarget site. Check out the Altova Events page to follow our upcoming show schedule and see where you can meet us live!

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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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What's New in MapForce 2009?


It feels like we’ve been writing about XBRL and HL7 for months…  Let’s move away from that topic for the moment and talk about additional essential new functionality added to MapForce in the v2009 release. Granted, some of these features have been added as a necessity for mapping to/from multi-dimensional XBRL data, but they also transcend well beyond interactive financial data reporting to the other aspects of mapping XML, database, flat file, EDI, Excel 2007, and Web services data in MapForce.

Custom Functions for Data Mapping

MapForce functions add a custom data processing layer to your mappings, letting you reformat output structure and even manipulate content on-the-fly. With v2009 we have added a grouping, distinct-values, and a predicated position function to the already well-shelved MapForce function library. Grouping functions can be selected for code generation in XSLT 2.0, Java, C#, and C++ and let you effectively reorganize source data into based on common values:

  • group-by – reorganizes data in the output document based on a specified common value, or grouping key
  • group-adjacent – applies grouping to an alternating sequence of items, assigning items that have a common value to the same group
  • group-starts-with – begins a new group based on a specified pattern and puts all subsequent items into the same group until another item matching that pattern is found
  • group-ends-with – ends a new group based on a specified pattern and puts all subsequent items into the same group until another item matching that pattern is found

The distinct-values function is a data filtering operation that, simply put, automatically ignores duplicate input values when writing mapping output results. MapForce distinct-values function MapForce also now includes a predicated position function that lets you filter out data based on its context position in the input document. For example, the mapping below will return data for only the first two people listed in the source document. MapForce position function  

Extended Database Support

For users creating database mappings, MapForce 2009 provides new native support for additional databases: Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Oracle 11g, and PostgreSQL 8. It also now supports mapping XML fields in SQL Server. The complete list of natively supported databases is:

  • 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

Data Mapping Documentation

The ability to generate data mapping documentation makes it much easier to collaborate on large data integration projects, which often include a variety of designers, developers, subject matter experts, and stakeholders. Generate mapping documentation  

Find Dialog for Identifying Nodes

And now for a personal favorite: a new find feature. Yes, this may sound very simple and mundane – unless you have had the pleasure of mapping large and complex multi-layered data components like XBRL and EDI (there we go again!). Consider, for example, digging through an HL7 ADT A05 transaction to find the second CWE identifier field under the fifteenth PR1 segment. Find dialog Ahhh… much easier!! Take a look at the full list of new features in MapForce v2009 – and, as always, keep in mind that Altova adds new functionality to all of the MissionKit tools based on user requests… so keep ‘em coming!

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What's New in XMLSpy 2009?


In addition to being tremendously useful, some of the new features in XMLSpy 2009 are just plain cool. The complete list of new functionality includes:

  • Support for XBRL 2.1 and XBRL Dimensions 1.0  
  • XBRL Taxonomy Editor
  • XPath auto-completion 
  • Native support for additional databases 
  • Support for XML fields in SQL Server
  • Extensions for identity constraints editing in Schema View 
  • Expanded source control system support
  • Support for the XSLT extension altova:evaluate  
  • Support for Apache FOP 0.95  

We’ve already blogged quite a bit about the first two items on the list: support for XBRL validation and XBRL taxonomy editing. Some more details on the other new features are below.

Intelligent XPath Auto-Completion

We’ve been delighted to receive feedback from customers who are really excited about this new feature. If you’re developing XSLT or XQuery, writing XPath expressions just got a lot easier. As you’re composing an XPath expression in Text View, Grid View, or the XPath Analyzer, XMLSpy now provides you with valid XPath functions, as well as element and attribute names from the associated schema and XML instance(s). XMLSpy’s intelligent XPath auto-completion 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. XPath auto-completion  

Native Support for Additional Databases

XMLSpy 2009 adds new native support for the latest versions of SQL Server and Oracle, and brand new support for PostgreSQL. Support for DBs in XMLSpy allows you to generate an XML Schema based on a database, import and export data based on database structures, and generate relational database structures from XML Schemas, and so on. The built-in Database Query window lets you perform queries against the database and edit the data. Here’s the complete list of databases with native support in XMLSpy:

  • 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

SQL Server support has also been enhanced to allow viewing and editing of XML fields that are stored in the database.

Extensions for Identity Constraint Editing in Schema View

Configuring identity constraints (i.e., key/keyref/unique values) is an important aspect of XML Schema development, especially for database users. Adding to existing support for editing these identity constraints, there are now enhanced visual cues and editing options in XMLSpy 2009. A new tab Identity Constraints tab in the Components entry helper window displays all existing constraints in a tree view and allows you to easily modify or create new relationships. Furthermore, identity constraints are now indicated by green lines, informative icons, and mouse-over messages in the Content Model View. A right-click menu allows you to easily add new relationships and specify field and selector values by typing them manually, using drop-down entry helpers, or by simply dragging and dropping the desired nodes. Schema identity constraints

Expanded Source Control System Support

Based on customer feedback, we’ve completely reworked the source control system interface in XMLSpy and also added the same level of source control support to UModel, our UML modeling tool, allowing both products to intelligently integrate with all major SCM tools. Once a project is bound to a version control system, XMLSpy automatically monitors the status of all files and prompts the you to check out a file whenever you starts to modify the document. In addition, the actual state of each file is shown through checkmarks or locks in the upper right corner of each file icon.   What do you think of these new features? What would you like to see added to the next version of XMLSpy? Let us know by commenting below.

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New features in UModel 2009 UML modeling tool


The recently launched UModel 2009 includes new features that will help development teams of all sizes take maximum advantage of UML software modeling.

Support for version control systems

You can use version control to manage UModel project files and generated source code files. Over two dozen popular source code systems are supported. Check out the list here.

Extensive API to manipulate UModel or create UModel plug-ins

You could create an elaborate trace tool for testing and debugging that illustrates your application flow by manipulating elements in UModel diagrams, or you can create a simple plug-in that adds a custom command or menu option using your own icons and buttons. The UModel installation even includes plug-in code examples to help you get started. The sample plug-ins create new menu and toolbar options to provide shortcuts to particular style settings, to automate a series of tasks, and to reinforce a naming convention, all common modeling steps that are likely to be unique for each development team.
UModel plugin The sample code even shows you where to add the name and description description that appear in the UModel Customization dialog when a user installs your plug-in. UModel dialog The screen shot below shows UModel with several custom plug-ins installed. PlugInMenu3 adds the prefix m_ to the name whenever a new property is created in a class. UModel UML tool Note the plug-in custom toolbars directly above the Diagram Tree. The custom toolbar at the far left lets the user choose red or green to fill all currently-selected diagram elements. The Set Prefix toolbar lets the user turn the prefix feature on or off. If you want to try out the sample plug-ins yourself you can compile the sample code and add the resulting .dll files in the UModel Customize dialog. If you want to deploy the plug-ins across multiple workstations by sharing the .dll files, you will also have to register them manually at each workstation.

Support for profile diagrams in the latest UML 2.2 specification

An enterprise software architect might use custom stereotypes to define specific properties suitable to your team’s problem domain. The architect could then distribute these to the team via a shared package. The UModel Properties helper window lets you define custom stereotypes with a high level of precision. UModel UML profile diagram We are interested to hear about the applications users devise for the UModel API, plug-ins, and custom stereotypes over the coming weeks. You can add a comment to this blog entry, exchange tips with other users in the Altova Support Forum, or contact us through the link on the right side of the Altova Case Studies page to collaborate on a case study. If your development team hasn’t enjoyed the benefits of model-based software development, you can download a fully-functional free trial to test drive UModel 2009 for 30 days.

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More Altova MissionKit 2009 News


Since we announced Version 2009 of the Altova MissionKit last week, Altova’s CEO Alexander Falk has been detailing some of the hottest new functionality (among other interesting topics) over on the XML Aficionado Blog. In case you missed it, check out these highlights:

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XBRL Support Added to Altova MissionKit 2009


xbrl_tools Earlier this week we blogged about the release of Version 2009 of Altova MissionKit, which includes the complete Altova product line. One of the major themes in this latest release is comprehensive support for XBRL across multiple Altova MissionKit tools, so lets look into XBRL itself and the new functionality in more detail.

What is XBRL?

The eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) is an XML-based vocabulary for electronic transmission of business and financial data. Currently in version 2.1, XBRL is an open standard that is maintained by XBRL International, a global non-profit consortium of over 550 major companies, organizations, and government agencies. XBRL was developed to facilitate business intelligence (BI) automation by enabling machine-to-machine communication and data processing for financial information with an eye towards cost reduction through the elimination of time consuming and error-prone human interaction. Official support from European Parliament and a mandate the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has all but secured XBRL’s future as the official standard for financial reporting. You can learn a lot more about the nuts and bolts of XBRL in the XBRL white paper written by Altova’s Technical Marketing Manager, Liz Andrews.

XBRL Tools

All of the power and functionality that XBRL brings to financial data is useless without XBRL-conformant tools to interpret and process this data. In fact, understanding the importance of tools for XBRL, the XBRL recommendation writes software vendors into its abstract:

XBRL allows software vendors, programmers, intermediaries in the preparation and distribution process and end users who adopt it as a specification to enhance the creation, exchange, and comparison of business reporting information.

As such, XBRL development and data integration can be supported in a variety of different ways. The Altova MissionKit 2009 provides comprehensive support for working with XBRL, from validation and editing, to transformation and rendering, in multiple tools: XMLSpy 2009 – XBRL validator and XBRL taxonomy editor. When you need to ensure that your XBRL filing documents are valid and compliant, XMLSpy can be used to to validate an XBRL instance file against its corresponding taxonomy. If you need to extend a standard taxonomy to meet your organization’s filing needs, the graphical XBRL taxonomy editor in XMLSpy gives you a graphical model with tabs that organize different types of taxonomy elements, wizards, and entry helpers, all of which guide data input based on the structural information provided in the XBRL instance and base taxonomies. MapForce 2009XBRL exchange and data integration tool. When you need to extract financial data from back end systems and transform it into compliant XBRL filings, MapForce makes it easy with drag-and-drop, graphical data mapping and instant conversion. MapForce allows bi-directional data mapping between XBRL and databases, flat files, Excel 2007, XML, and Web services. Once your mapping project is defined, you can utilize it to automate quarterly and annual XBRL filing generation by transforming data with the MapForce UI, command line, or auto-generated, royalty free application code. This makes public financial data submission a repeatable and highly manageable process, allowing organizations to produce valid XBRL reports as required based on the variable data stored in accounting system fields – without having to define new mappings every quarter. mapforce_xbrl_thumb If you need to aggregate XBRL filings from different time periods or different organizations in your back end systems for analysis, MapForce lets you map the XBRL data to databases, flat files, XML – even Web services. Mapping data directly from its source format removes the need for re-keying and potential errors. Together, MapForce and XBRL enable the automation of the multi-dimensional financial analysis that organizations and stakeholders use to evaluate market, company, and industry performance on a regular basis. StyleVision 2009 – XBRL rendering tool. Once data is in XBRL format, and it’s time to render it for consumption on the Web or in printed materials, StyleVision lets you create a straightforward XBRL report to output the data in multiple formats. Simply drag and drop a taxonomy financial statement onto the design pane as an XBRL table, and then use StyleVision’s graphical interface to format stylesheets for simultaneous output in HTML, RTF, PDF, and Word 2007 (OOXML). The XBRL Table Wizard makes it easy to customize the table structure and specify the concepts to include in the report. In the case of the US-GAAP taxonomy, which provides, in addition to the hierarchical organization in its presentation linkbase, some best practices information on how to structure XBRL instances, you can simply select US-GAAP mode to have StyleVision automatically output the data according to this information. xbrl_design To try this powerful XBRL functionality for yourself, download a free, fully functional 30-day trial of the Altova MissionKit 2009, and please let us know what you think by commenting on this blog or in the Altova Discussion Forum.

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