Enterprise XML Suite 2005
Altova Updates its Complete XML Toolset
By Mike Riley
Developers have grown a year older and so has Altova s flagship product, XMLSpy. Since the birth of asp.netPRO magazine, I have had the pleasure of reviewing a new release of the product, starting with XMLSpy 4.1, followed by XMLSpy 5 Enterprise Edition, and, most recently, XMLSpy 2004 Enterprise Edition. Each release has built upon the successful features and formulas of previous versions, and XML Suite 2005 is no exception. Because the 2005 edition incrementally builds on the 2004 release, this review will focus primarily on the enhancements found in this new version.
Figure 1: XMLSpy 2005 is quite possibly the most sophisticated IDE for XML coding today. So complex, in fact, that Altova offers certification courses toward becoming an Altova Certified XMLSpy Engineer (ACXE).
What s New in 2005?
Beyond the delivery of promised features, such as C# code export support, XMLSpy 2005 has made moderate improvements in its toolset. It has also added a few new features to entice those satisfied with the 2004 edition to consider upgrading to this release. The mother ship of the Enterprise XML Suite, XMLSpy 2005, embodies the latest in XML technological implementations with its support for the latest XML standards. It also now includes an editor for one of the newest arrivals on the XML scene, XQuery. Although not yet supported in many of the SQL databases, XQuery nonetheless promises to be an amazing catalyst for extending the dynamic flexibility of XML transforms from a structured data source. Developers who know they ll be moving to XQuery-supported databases in the future can get a head start on this interesting addition to the XML family today. As XQuery becomes natively supported in SQL powerhouses, it will be an effective tool in future data integration and distribution efforts.
XMLSpy 2004 had a jump on the competition with its support for the beta implementation of XPath 2.0 support. Now that XPath and XSLT have achieved their official 2.0 final drafting stages along with XQuery 1.0, XML Suite 2005 is one of the only tools to trust for accurate, working support for these latest XML specifications. These standards have been incorporated into all the tools within the suite, with the XPath and XQuery updates being the most useful in Altova s XML integration tool, MapForce 2005.
The slickest new feature I found in the latest MapForce release is its Visual Function Builder, which allows encapsulation of tremendously complex data processing by drag and drop assembly from MapForce s function libraries.
Figure 2: MapForce 2005 now generates code stubs in C# and C++ as well as Java or XSLT 1.0 and 2.0 format.
Another welcomed addition in MapForce 2005 is the inclusion of C# and C++ code generators. These languages were absent in the 2004 edition and, as a result, limited the program s leverage with VS.NET developers. In addition to these languages, MapForce can generate code for XSLT 1.0 and 2.0, XQuery, and Java, providing tremendous flexibility in the way such mappings will manifest themselves in a diverse enterprise.
XSLT 2.0 support is most apparent in the suite s stylesheet designer, StyleVision 2005. In addition to the tool s ability to generate output to HTML and PDF (using XSL:FO), StyleVision 2005 has also added the ability to output to standard RTF files for consumption by popular word processors such as Microsoft Word.
Figure 3: StyleVision 2005 continues its focus on tag-centric visualization, making it a developer-only tool, even though Altova has tried to make this a more general XML stylesheet editor for the general presentation designer.
Schemas have become the foundation of XML development, yet the management of these backbones and ensuring the latest versions of these among teams of developers has become a cumbersome task. Altova obviously recognized this annoyance and released a free SchemaAgent server that integrates with the XMLSpy IDE to allow the sharing of schemas among developers. This also promotes the use of interdependencies among schema owners, allowing XML developers to combine shared schemas across the enterprise to create even grander meta-schemas of sophisticated contextual data representations.
Figure 4: In addition to living within the Visual Studio.NET IDE, XMLSpy can now also manifest itself within the popular Eclipse IDE with the appropriate plug-in.
Figure 5: The free SchemaAgent Server provides an easy way to share XML schemas across a group of developers.
It continues to amaze me how something so conceptually simple as XML has mushroomed into something so complex. Consequently, developers require a complex suite of tools to elevate XML to its intended potential.
Altova offered a solution the moment XML became too difficult to construct within Notepad. It has since prided itself by staying neck and neck with XML s advances. While the latest evolution of the product has met this objective, it is far outside the realm of a simple text editor. If it hadn t been for the fact that I was already deeply familiar with previous versions, XMLSpy 2005 and its associated applications would be a daunting task to learn, even for the seasoned developer. And yet, for those developers who also pride themselves on living on the edge, Altova s Enterprise XML Suite 2005 continues to provide a trustworthy safety harness that is second to none.
Mike Riley is an advanced computing professional specializing in emerging technologies and new development trends. Readers may contact him at mailto:[email protected].
Web Site: http://www.altova.com/suite.html