Altova

Get Sharp!

Altova Software Version 2019 introduces over 20 new features to help you sharpen your  development game – starting with support for high-res and high-DPI monitors in both XMLSpy and UModel. There are also tools for working with new standards and database versions across the product line, the ability to map and convert data in Google Protocol Buffers format, and much more. Let’s take a look at the highlights.

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Support for High-PPI Monitors

As developers transition to 4K, UHD, and Retina displays, we’re working on revamping our UIs to be vivid and sharp on high-PPI screens of all sizes. Because XMLSpy and UModel are known for their graphical views, we’re rolling out support here first.

Both XMLSpy and UModel now take full advantage of the benefits of high-res screens and monitors to render graphics with more precision and detail, so the UIs of these products are now beautifully sharp on high-res monitors. The change will be most apparent in the graphical XML Schema, JSON Schema, XBRL, and WSDL editors in XMLSpy and in UML diagrams in UModel.

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Read more about what’s new in XMLSpy and what’s new in UModel.

Mapping of Data in Protocol Buffers

The list of formats supported by MapForce for drag-and-drop data mapping is growing again, this time with the addition of Google Protocol Buffers, as requested by numerous customers.

Protocol buffers is a language- and platform-neutral mechanism for serializing structured data. The method generally involves an interface description language that describes the structure of some data and a program that generates source code from that description for generating or parsing a stream of bytes that represents the structured data – but MapForce lets you work with Protocol Buffers visually, without needing to write code.

MapForce can now map data to or from binary instances encoded in Protocol Buffers format to any other format, including XML, relational databases, JSON, CSV, and more, visually, using drag and drop connections.

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This makes converting Protocol Buffers to and from other formats easier than ever.

Read about all the new features in MapForce, including advanced filters for defining node functionsthat apply to multiple nodes at once.

Support for additional database versions

All database-enabled Altova MissionKit products and server software products support numerous versions of the most popular relational databases. In this latest release, that support is updated to include the most recent versions of several of those, specifically:

  • Firebird 3

  • Informix 12.10

  • MariaDb 10.3

  • Microsoft SQL Server 2017

  • MySQL 8

  • PostgreSQL 10

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Support for connecting to SQL Server running on Linux has also been added.

Extended XBRL support

We add additional XBRL support with every release, and this time XMLSpy and RaptorXML Server have received three important updates:

Support for XBRL Generic Preferred Label 1.0  

XBRL Generic Preferred Label is an extension of the XBRL specification that provides a syntax to make labels more flexible. XMLSpy includes a new entry helper for specifying preferred labels, and RaptorXML can validate documents that include XBRL Generic Preferred Label definitions.

Removal of duplicate XBRL facts 

When organizations create XBRL instance documents for filing, it’s important to detect and reconcile any duplicate facts.

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Starting with Version 2019, XMLSpy can check XBRL instances for various types of duplicate facts and report them for analysis. Both XMLSpy and RaptorXML can optionally ignore duplicates during processing.

New entry helpers for XBRL Typed Domain 

A typed domain is the element declaration that is referenced by a typed dimension.

The Details entry helper in the XMLSpy XBRL Taxonomy Editor includes a new Typed Domain tab that displays additional information about any typed domain referenced by a typed dimension definition.

 

High-availability options for FlowForce Server

For use in mission-critical scenarios, FlowForce Server, Altova’s customizable workflow engine, offers the option to distribute jobs among multiple servers.

Administrators can configure a primary server and multiple secondary servers, offering excellent scalability with a group of computers sharing heavy data processing jobs. At the same time, this allows for high-availability: if one of the secondary computers stops functioning, the system will continue to process FlowForce jobs.

Of course, for load sharing the corresponding Altova server software (e.g., MapForce Server, RaptorXML Server,  etc.) must be installed on the primary and all secondary servers in the system.

 

For more information about all the features added to each Altova product in this latest release, please see the Altova website.

What's new in XMLSpy Version 2015 Release 3

I'm very excited to announce the new v2015r3 release of XMLSpy today. XMLSpy continues to be the de-facto industry standard for XML Editing and we take that responsibility very seriously by adding support for new standards, improved technologies, as well as features that just make our users' work more productive every release.
This latest version of XMLSpy adds the following new features:
  • Support for XPath 3.1 and XQuery 3.1
  • Significantly extended XPath/XQuery tab
  • Support for Web Services Security and other security extensions
  • Support for XBRL Extensible Enumerations 1.0
  • Support for custom fonts in Output Windows
Improved XPath/XQuery tab in XMLSpy 2015r3
Let me tell you a little bit about each one of those features...



Support for XPath & XQuery 3.1

The RaptorXML engine at the core of XMLSpy now fully supports the updated XPath 3.1 and XQuery 3.1 specifications, which were published as W3 Candidate Recommendations in December of 2014. New capabilities in XPath and XQuery 3.1 include:
  • Maps
  • Arrays
  • Support for JSON: parse-json, json-docs, serialize to JSON
  • Lookup operator “?”
  • Arrow operator “=>”
  • New functions, e.g., sort, contains-token, parse-ietf-date
Maps and arrays increase flexibility and processing speed of XPath and XQuery statements significantly, while JSON support is important as adoption of the standard continues.

Significantly extended XPath/XQuery tab

The XPath/XQuery tab, which was augmented with innovative support for XQuery Update Facility in XMLSpy 2015, just got even more powerful for XSLT and XQuery developers. The new features - shown in the screenshot above - include:
  • Builder mode, offering a list of operators, expressions, and built in functions, which you can insert in your current expression by double clicking. Functions are inserted with their arguments indicated by “#” placeholders, making it easy to build expressions quickly and error-free. You can view a description of each item by hovering your mouse over it in the list. When you’re finished building an expression, click over to Evaluator mode to test the results.
  • Enhanced entry helpers now display the description of built in functions, and then show helpful function and listentrymeter details as you type, speeding development and ensuring accuracy.
  • Ready-to-use code snippets for complex statements such as FLWOR and XQuery Update expressions are provided in the Operator/Expression pane in Builder mode, allowing you to read a description of each and insert the expression at the cursor by double clicking.
  • Nine tabs are even more useful for developing and testing complex expressions. Once you have composed an XPath or XQuery statement on one tab, switching to a new tab lets you build and analyze the results of a new expression – but when you switch back to the previous tab, the expression and results are still there. This allows you to switch back and forth between multiple expressions that you develop side-by-side and incrementally make changes to each one of them, preserving both the expression AND the result for each tab.
     

Support for Web Services Security & other extensions

In response to increasing demand for end-to-end security of Web services transactions, XMLSpy 2015r3 now supports authentication based on the WS-Security (Web Services Security) standard via client certificates and calling Web services via HTTPS.
Published by OASIS, Web Services Security is an extension to the SOAP protocol designed to add security functions such as authentication to SOAP messages themselves for end-to-end security of complex Web services transactions. These measures add to those provided on the transport layer by HTTP security.
New options have been added to the SOAP Request Settings Dialog - shown in the screenshot below - which is accessed via the SOAP menu, allowing you to enable and edit HTTP security settings and WS-Security settings.

Support for XBRL Extensible Enumerations

XML Schema's xs:enumeration feature allows enumerated types to be defined. Such types have a fixed list of allowed values that cannot be changed until the next version of the schema is published.
XBRL projects often require "extensible enumerations", which leave extension taxonomy editors free to augment the list of allowed values for a concept. This is particularly important for allowing enumeration values in multiple languages as well as reusing existing domain hierarchies as fact enumeration values.
XMLSpy 2015r3 now supports extensible enumerations with multi-language labels in the XBRL Taxonomy editor.

For more information on What's New in the other products of the Altova MissionKit desktop developer tools and our Server product family, please take a look at the "What's new" page on our website and at the Altova Blog.

Extracting useful data from HTML pages with XQuery

When building in-house solutions or mobile enterprise applications, you are often faced with having to deal with legacy systems and data. In some ancient systems, the data might only be available as CSV files, in other cases it might be arcane fixed-length text reporting formats, but if the legacy system is less than 20 years old, chances are pretty good that someone built and HTML front-end and so the data is available through a browser interface that renders it in some poorly formatted HTML code that loosely follows the standard. And very likely you will find the data intermixed with formatting and other information, so extracting the useful data is usually not as easy as it sounds.

In addition, when you are building mobile solutions, you may sometimes need some government data that is not yet available in XML or another structured format, so you again are faced with having to extract that information from HTML pages.

Common approaches to extracting data from HTML pages, such as screen-scraping and tagging are cumbersome to implement and very susceptible to changes in the underlying HTML.

In this video demo I want to show you a better way of extracting useful and reusable data from HTML pages. In less than 15 minutes we will build a mobile solution that - as an example - takes Consumer Price Index data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, parses and normalizes the HTML page, and then uses an XQuery expression to build nicely structured XML data from the HTML table that can then be reused to build a CPI chart. I will walk you through the creation of the XQuery expression step-by-step so that you can easily apply this method to similar problems of HTML data extraction:



As you can see in the above video, it was fairly easy to create nicely structured XML data from a table in the HTML page and to create a first simple chart that plots the CPI data over time.

But the true power of this approach is that you have much more flexible charting capabilities in MobileTogether and the XML data is now reusable, so you can calculate annual inflation rates directly from the underlying CPI data and plot it as well.

In this next video demo I want to show you just how to do that in less than 10 minutes. We will add a year-range selector to our chart where we can define which years to plot, and we will add an overlay chart that derives the annual inflation rate based on the underlying CPI data using XPath calculations and the plots that data:



Using this technique, you can not only extract data from singular HTML pages, but easily build a modern mobile front-end experience for many legacy systems that just offer an HTML-based browser interface at present. This will enable you to make your workforce a lot more productive and efficient, as they can now use a friendly mobile app experience to access your system rather than having to deal with a couple of HTML pages and forms in a browser on their tiny smartphone screens.

Building a stand-alone mobile solution with MobileTogether

In a recent blog post I introduced our new MobileTogether platform for building mobile in-house solutions. Today I would like to give you a little demonstration of how easy it is to build a mobile solution with MobileTogether Designer.

As an example, we're going to build a simple tip calculator app for your next restaurant visit. Since this particular solution doesn't need any back-end data, we're going to create it as a stand-alone mobile solution so that it can be used even without a server connection once it is deployed.



As you can see, it just took about 8 minutes to build this app. MobileTogether lets you focus on what is really important, and handles everything else for you. If you want to try for yourself, you can download MobileTogether Designer here.

You can also watch more MobileTogether Designer video demos here.

XQuery Update Facility in XMLSpy

A really cool new feature in XMLSpy 2015 is the interactive XQuery Update Facility support, which lets you make changes to XML instance documents in a programmatic way - using XQuery statements - that exceed the typical regular expression based Find/Replace capabilities by far. The XQuery Update Facility specification provides a mechanism to insert nodes, delete notes, and modify nodes within instance documents. In XMLSpy 2015 you can now apply these updates either to the current file, all open files, all files in a project, or to entire directories.

This video explains the most important XQuery Update Facility commands and demonstrates how easy it is to put the power of XQuery Update Facility to work for you:



The new XQuery Update Facility support is one of the many new features introduced in the new Altova version 2015 product line last week, which includes new versions of XMLSpy, MapForce, all the other MissionKit tools, and all Altova server products.

Introducing MobileTogether - Build mobile in-house solutions faster

It's about time that I start talking about our next major product here: Altova MobileTogether is an exciting new cross-platform mobile environment that lets you build in-house mobile solutions for your workforce much faster and more productively than any other mobile cross-platform method out there. You can use MobileTogether to bring your in-house data — be it in SQL databases, XML, available as web services, etc. — to your employees on the device of their choice, be it business intelligence dashboards, elegant enterprise forms, or any other business processes from graphs for sales analytics to monitoring of business-critical data.


There are, of course, many ways to develop mobile solutions, and for external customer-facing apps the native platform approach or other multi-platform SDKs may make sense. But for in-house solutions the math just doesn't work. You need to be able to build these in a few days rather than weeks or months in order to stay on budget.


MobileTogether makes this rapid development possible by using a unique system architecture that consists of the following three components:


MobileTogether Designer

MobileTogether Designer is the IDE where you build your mobile solutions. It comes with full database-support for all major database servers as well as the ability to connect to any XML files, web services, HTML pages, or other data sources directly. If that's not enough, you can connect to FlowForce and MapForce server as an interim data transformation platform to get your data from EDI or other formats into XML easily.


Once you've defined your data sources, you then drag & drop UI controls onto your design surface and connect them with the data model. You can build powerful program logic using visual ActionTrees and for data manipulation the full power of XPath and XQuery is at your disposal.

This way you can build a powerful mobile solution in just a few hours and can test it right inside MobileTogether Designer using the built-in simulator that supports the iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8, and Windows 8 look&feel as well as many screen sizes and device options.

We have put together a few video demonstrations that show how easy it is to build a mobile solution with MobileTogether Designer.

MobileTogether Mobile App

Once you are satisfied with the way your mobile solution looks, it is time to get it onto your mobile device. The MobileTogether Mobile App is what runs your solutions on your device, and it is available for free form the respective app stores. The Mobile App is available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8, and even desktop Windows 8, so you can deploy your solutions to all mobile workers, no matter if they prefer a smartphone, tablet, or laptop!


Normally the MobileTogether Mobile App connects to a MobileTogether Server (see below), but for an initial trial run, you can simply connect the MobileTogether Mobile App directly to your MobileTogether Designer. Instead of starting the simulator in the designer, you select "Trial Run on Client" from the toolbar, and then you can see your mobile solution on your device and test it there, provided your mobile device is on the same local network as the computer where you are running MobileTogether Designer.

MobileTogether Server

Once you're ready to deploy your solution to your entire workforce, it is time to install and configure MobileTogether Server. This server acts as a conduit between your mobile clients and your database servers and other data sources in your IT infrastructure.


If you only want your mobile solutions to be available while the mobile devices are connected to your corporate Wi-Fi network, then it is sufficient to install the server in-house and your employees can immediately run your mobile solutions, once you've deployed them from the Designer to the Server.

If you want your employees to also be able to access your solutions while you are on the road, you will need to designate and open a port in your firewall so that the client devices can reach your server from the public Internet when they are traveling. We recommend installing an SSL certificate for that purpose so that the data connection between the clients and your MobileTogether Server is encrypted. In addition, we recommend securing the MobileTogether server with user authentication. You can choose between built-in user management, or the MobileTogether server can talk to your Active Directory server to integrate with your enterprise user management.

Alternatively, you can also install MobileTogether Server into a private cloud with a cloud provider of your choice, if you prefer to have your server running in a cloud rather than on your on-premises infrastructure.

Timeline

In May this year we first introduced Altova MobileTogether at TechEd in Houston, TX. In July we launched beta 1 of the MobileTogether Designer. In August we launched the beta 1 version of all the MobileTogether clients in the respective App Stores. And last week we launched beta 2 of MobileTogether Designer, Server, and the Apps. We expect MobileTogether to be commercially available later this fall.

Getting Started

You are invited to participate in the beta 2 and try it for yourself.


Just download the MobileTogether Designer from our website, download the MobileTogether Client from the App Store on your device, and you can be up and running and have your first solution on your device in 1-2 hours. Then, when you want to scale out to have your colleagues run it on their devices, you can download MobileTogether Server so that others can connect to it.

New XBRL Formula Editor in XMLSpy

I'm very excited about all the new features in XMLSpy 2015, and in particular about the new XBRL Formula Editor, which now lets you build formulas more intuitively using a XBRL Table Linkbase layout preview. The XBRL Table Linkbase specification provides a mechanism for taxonomy authors to define a tabular layout of facts. The resulting tables can be used for both presentation and data entry. In XMLSpy 2015 we use these tables as a way to specify variables in XBRL Formula definitions.

However, XBRL Table Linkbase is a fairly young specification, so not many published XBRL taxonomies include Table Linkbase definitions yet. Please see my previous blog post, where I have demonstrated how to add a Table Linkbase to an existing XBRL extension taxonomy.

Once we have a taxonomy with a Table Linkbase attached to it, we can then proceed to create some assertions or calculations using XBRL Formula Editor. In this video, I will demonstrate how to do this using a recent SEC filing as an example instance:



The new XBRL Formula Editor is one of the many new features introduced in the new Altova version 2015 product line last week, which includes new versions of XMLSpy, MapForce, all the other MissionKit tools, and all Altova server products.

XBRL Table Linkbase Editor and Layout Preview

This week we launched our new Altova version 2015 product line, including new versions of XMLSpy, MapForce, all the other MissionKit tools, and all Altova server products.

One of the cool new features in XMLSpy 2015 is the real-time XBRL Table Linkbase layout preview. The XBRL Table Linkbase specification provides a mechanism for taxonomy authors to define a tabular layout of facts. The resulting tables can be used for both presentation and data entry.

However, XBRL Table Linkbase is a fairly young specification, so not many published XBRL taxonomies include Table Linkbase definitions yet. This is where XMLSpy can greatly help: in this video I will give you a quick demonstration of how to add a Table Linkbase to an existing XBRL extension taxonomy, using an XBLR filing that was submitted to the SEC as an example:



Learn how the graphical XBRL Table Linkbase editor in XMLSpy makes it easy to define XBRL tables for the presentation of multi-dimensional XBRL data. You can determine whether your table produces the desired results in the real-time XBRL Table layout preview, which is new starting in XMLSpy 2015.

The Power of RaptorXML - now available in XMLSpy 2014

The RaptorXML Story

As you probably know by now, RaptorXML, our new 3rd generation high-performance XML, XPath, XSLT, XQuery, and XBRL processing engine, was a little over 2 years in the making. When we embarked on this mission in 2011, we set out to create a new processor that was highly optimized for multi-core CPUs, high throughput, and a reduced memory footprint. As part of that redesign we incorporated all our experience with the evolution of XML over the last decade and focused on adding support for all the latest standards, including XML 1.1, XML Schema 1.1, XPath 3.0, XSLT 3.0, XQuery 3.0, XBRL 2.1, XBRL Dimensions, XBRL Formula, and many others.

Our decision to first launch the new RaptorXML engine as a stand-alone server product in June rather than waiting for our annual product release in the fall was certainly not an easy decision to make. We knew that all our existing XMLSpy and MissionKit customers were eagerly awaiting support for XML Schema 1.1 as well as the 3.0 versions of XPath, XLST, and XQuery.

At the same time we knew that the engine was ready for large-scale production use, while the refactoring of our existing tools and integration of the new engine would still take another 3-4 months, so we decided to introduce RaptorXML as a stand-alone server product first. The initial RaptorXML announcement happened at the XBRL International conference in Dublin, Ireland, in May this year and commercial availability of the server followed in June, when RaptorXML joined the growing family of Altova Server products.

And it turns out we made the right decision. At this time RaptorXML+XBRL Server is already being used by over 50 customers, including a major banking regulator in Asia, to validate large amounts of XBRL data on high-end servers using XBRL 2.1 and XBRL Formula validation.


Altova MissionKit 2014 Launch

Now the long-awaited day has finally come and we are very excited to introduce our new Altova MissionKit 2014 product line that incorporates the RaptorXML engine in XMLSpy and many other MissionKit tools. This means you get immediate access to XML Schema 1.1, XPath 3.0, XSLT 3.0, XQuery 3.0, and XBRL Formula validation - in addition to all the previous standards - right from within the new XMLSpy 2014 XML Editor and you get a huge performance boost for all your projects due to the faster engine.

And we have, of course, extended our graphical XML Schema editor to include support for XML Schema 1.1 as well as adding the powerful SmartFix validation to the schema editor, so XMLSpy will now make intelligent suggestions on how to fix common XML Schema errors directly in the graphical schema editor.





Due to the new capabilities of RaptorXML you also get a cool new feature that has been requested by many users: the ability to display multiple validation errors at once!

And for all XBRL users we have included better XBRL Formula support as well as XBRL Concept Types in the XBRL Taxonomy editor. This makes XMLSpy Enterprise Edition the single most powerful XBRL development tool with taxonomy editing and powerful RaptorXML-based XBRL instance validation all available in one easily affordable tool.

Bottom-line: having RaptorXML inside of XMLSpy is just awesome and you will love the speed as well as the improved standards-conformance! And if you want to include RaptorXML-based validation in your own projects you can now deploy RaptorXML Server on Windows, Linux, and MacOS X. Check out the RaptorXML Server datasheet for more information.

But the good news doesn't stop with XMLSpy. Version 2014 of the Altova MissionKit includes several new features in MapForce as well, such as support for XML wildcards <xs:any> and <xs:anyAttribute> as well as the ability to generate comments and processing instructions in any XML output files.

Additional new features that are available across all major Altova MissionKit 2014 tools are: Integration with Eclipse 4.3, as well as updated support for new databases, including SQL Server 2012, MySQL 5.5.28, PostgreSQL 9.0.10, 9.1.6, 9.2.1, Sybase ASE 15.7, IBM DB2 9.5, 9.7, 10.1, Informix 11.70, and Access 2013.

Last, but not least, to help you take advantage of the powerful new XML Schema 1.1 capabilities, such as assertions, conditional type alternatives, default attributes, and open content, we are also launching a comprehensive new FREE XML Schema 1.1 online training course today.

For more information, please check out today's announcement on the Altova blog as well as the What's New page on the Altova website.

Altova MissionKit 2013

Just in case you missed these announcements last month, here is a quick recap of some of our blog posts about the new major features in the Altova MissionKit 2013:

But there is so much more included in version 2013 of the various developer tools across the entire MissionKit tools suite in terms of new features that we added in direct response to customer feedback:

  • Seamless integration options in Java applications for XMLSpy, MapForce, StyleVision, Authentic
  • Support for embedded XML Schemas in WSDL files
  • Enhanced WSDL documentation options
  • Flexible integration of external programs into XMLSpy
  • Support for CamelCase words in spell checker
  • Option to strip unnecessary whitespace
  • Support for Team Foundation Server MSSCCI Provider for version control systems
  • Table row and column conditions
  • XPath Evaluator extension of XPath Builder
  • Integration with Eclipse 4.2 (adds to support for earlier versions)
  • Support for US GAAP 2012 XBRL taxonomy (adds to support for earlier versions)
  • Support for UML 2.4
  • Support for SysML 1.2
  • Support for displaying .NET properties as UML associations
  • Spell checker for UML model components
  • Print results of directory comparisons in DiffDog
  • Significant performance improvements in DiffDog
  • Authentic browser plug-in for Google Chrome
  • Authentic push installer for browser plug-ins

More information on all of these new features can be found on our "What's New" page

Recent popular articles on the Altova Blog

Just a quick pointer to make sure that you didn't miss any of the excellent articles that we published on the Altova Blog these past couple of months. These contain tips on using our products, helpful development pointers, use-cases, and much more. Here is a quick digest of some of the most popular articles…

Feel free to follow any of the links below to directly access the articles mentioned, or go to the Altova Blog home page to read more.

Software Testing for State Machines

Regardless of a software project's goals or source code language, it's obvious that the earlier a defect is found the easier, cheaper, and more rapidly it can be fixed. Altova UModel 2011 (r2 and beyond) can generate code from UML state machine diagrams that can be used to validate conceptual logic very early in the project lifecycle, potentially saving you days of development time.

Read the post ...

Switch Statement vs. Look-up Table in MapForce

One of the great things about working with software developers is that you get to see firsthand how they architect different solutions to design challenges. We recently received a comment from a developer in response to our post Expandable If-Else Works like a Switch Statement in MapForce suggesting a more elegant solution to an expanded if-else statement. He rather convincingly suggests that a value-map would accomplish the job more efficiently.

Read the post ...

New XML Schema Editing Tools in XMLSpy

XMLSpy is the industry's leading XML editor for a reason – XMLSpy delivers power and flexibility in the same package. Earlier this year Altova introduced additional functionalities including sorting in schema view, schema refactoring, intelligent support for changing types, and customizable XML Schema documentation. Wow!

Read the post ...

XML in the Cloud

More and more enterprises are discovering the advantages of implementing database applications in the cloud – high availability and reliability, automatic scaling, and freedom from hardware costs and maintenance requirements to name a few. In this blog post we demonstrate how to connect to the Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) and build a small database using Altova DatabaseSpy. Since the database Connection Wizard is consistent across the Altova MissionKit, you can connect the same way using XMLSpy, MapForce, or StyleVision as well.

Read the post ...

Using Charts to Effectively Communicate Data

XMLSpy, StyleVision, and DatabaseSpy have intuitive features that allow even the most novice user to create powerful reports with sophisticated charts based on XML, XBRL, and database data. With Altova tools you can easily create stacked charts (bar and area) and candlestick charts, use chart overlays, control background images and color gradients, change the position of axis labels, and more! See how you can leverage this functionality to support your own projects.

Read the post ...

Altova MissionKit packs a punch with new features in v2011r2

I’ve been traveling for a bit, so I haven’t even had time to tell you about the new version 2011r2 of our Altova product line yet. As always we’ve been very busy in the past four months and have added a number of very cool features to all our products. As a result the Altova MissionKit v2011r2 packs a nice punch and shouldn’t be missing from any professional developer’s toolbox.

Here are the highlights among the new features:

  • Huge improvements in the charting functionality that we’ve originally introduced in v2011 with a wide range of new customizable charting features, including Stacked Bar Charts, Area Charts, Stacked Area Charts, Candlestick Charts, Chart overlays, Background images, Color gradients, and customizable axis labels.
  • Embedding external files in XML documents via CDATA blocks (supporting Base 16 and Base 64 encoding).
  • XML Schema refactoring in XMLSpy.
  • Customizable generation of documentation from XMLSpy, MapForce, and UModel via StyleVision stylesheets. This provides  countless options to customize your documentation from adding your logo to creating a detailed in-depth report about your mappings or models for later analysis.
  • Data streaming for file output in MapForce for large ETL projects.
  • Support for IATA PADIS EDI format in MapForce.
  • Automatic creation of reverse mappings in MapForce.
  • Barcode support for QR, DataMatrix, PDF417, Codabar, Code39, and many other formats.
  • Ability to create multiple output files from a single design template in StyleVision.
  • Ability to create ASPX web applications for dynamic data output in StyleVision.
  • Support for BPMN 2.0 in UModel.
  • Code-generation from state machine diagrams in UModel.
  • Word comparison in DiffDog.

And there are many more additional features. Also make sure to check out the latest couple of posts on the Altova Blog that go into more detail.

As always, you can download a free 30-day trial version from our website and our tools are available in English, German, and Japanese versions – plus XMLSpy is also available in a Chinese version now.

Using Altova tools for Cloud Computing

Obviously, cloud computing is one of the major trends of 2010 and continues to excite people. We just posted a brand new detailed article on the Altova Blog about XML in the Cloud that shows how to use DatabaseSpy, MapForce, XMLSpy, and StyleVision to work with an Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) instance in the cloud.

Essentially the Amazon RDS is a big MySQL database in the cloud, so you can use the Data Source connection wizard in all Altova tools to easily connect with the cloud instance, just like you would connect with a local instance of MySQL:

Similarly, in a previous post last summer we showed you how to configure Altova tools to work with a SQL Server Azure instance, if you prefer the Microsoft cloud computing platform. And in another post we showed you in detail how to work with XML data in SQL Server Azure.

Check out all three articles and see how easy it is to use Altova tools not just for your enterprise in-house or classic web development projects, but also for your cloud computing projects!

EOR (End of Recession) and OOW (Oracle Open World)

It is now official. The recession ended over a year ago. That doesn’t necessarily make us all feel better, but seeing the huge number of attendees at Oracle Open World this week and their great interest for all products is certainly a positive sign that the economy is indeed getting better – if only slowly.

Altova Booth at OOW

There are also some rather lavish displays by some of the industry’s biggest companies – it almost feels like the good old pre-recession days of 2007 again.

DSC00562

If you happen to be in San Francisco this week, please stop by at the Altova booth in the Moscone West hall and say hello. We are demo’ing the latest features of the new MissionKit 2011 as well as all the other awesome database-related functions in our product line, such as:

Looking forward to seeing you at Oracle Open World

Altova MissionKit v2011 just launched

I’m very excited about all the new features we’ve packed into the 2011 version of the Altova MissionKit that we just launched this week.

The most eye-catching feature certainly is the charting and reporting functionality for analyzing and communicating XML, database, XBRL, EDI – virtually any type of data – and produce the usual Line Chart, Bar Chart, Pie Chart, etc. Charts are created with a few clicks inside the MissionKit tools and can be immediately shared via copy/paste or saved as image files – that’s right, no more exporting to Excel – or integrated in reports or data entry applications designed in Altova StyleVision. Of course, you can also get the XSLT or XQuery code for generating the chart for use in your own apps using AltovaXML. Here is an example of a MapForce data transformation that directly links to a StyleVision output stylesheet, showing the result in tabular form as well as in a chart:

mapforce-html[1]

Equally impressive is the new UML database modeling feature in UModel 2011, which allows you to extend software modeling functionality by modeling relational databases along with your Java, C#, and Visual Basic software applications. This high-level modeling of databases nicely complements the existing low-level database structure editing of DatabaseSpy to make the MissionKit a complete solution for all database modeling needs.

UModel2011 database diagram

For people working with XML Schema, we have two exciting new features in XMLSpy: (a) a Schema Subset Generator that allows you to generate subsets of existing XML Schemas, which is extremely useful e.g. for IEPD development for NIEM; and (b) a Schema Flattener that allows you to create a new flat schema in just one file from any complex hierarchy of included or imported schemas.

schema-subset[1]

Last, but not least, we’ve added a complete Authentic Scripting Environment in StyleVision to let you create powerful XML content-editing and data-entry applications – including event-handlers, macros, buttons, toolbars, etc. - based on the Authentic platform.

script_project[1]

The Altova MissionKit 2011 is now available in English, German, and Japanese versions and comes in 32-bit and 64-bit versions!

So come and check out all the new features, then download your 30-day free trial to see for yourself how much more powerful the MissionKit 2011 is.

Altova and NIEM (the National Information Exchange Model)

In February this year I was invited to give the keynote address at the NIEM Town Hall meeting in Washington, DC, to talk about how Altova tools can support projects that facilitate the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM). In particular, I covered the use of Altova tools in the life cycle of developing the Information Exchange Package Documentation (IEPD). The slides from that speech are now available on slideshare and a recap of the NIEM town hall meeting is also available on the NIEM website.

Since then we’ve been working with NIEM to add new features to the Altova product line that further support the NIEM development cycle and in particular our recent release of XMLSpy 2010r3 adds two features that are very important for NIEM:

  1. NIEM defines a set of Naming and Design Rules (NDR) that specify how XML Schemas for a NIEM-conformant information exchange have to be constructed. XMLSpy now includes an extended schema validation function that allows a developer to validate a schema against naming and coding conventions, and in particular XMLSpy ships with a set of extended validation rules that allow validation against the NIEM NDR.
  2. Another important step during the development for an IEPD for a NIEM-conformant information exchange is the production of example XML files that demonstrate the data that can be exchanged. To provide better example files, XMLSpy now lets developers specify user-defined example values for each element, attribute, or type in an XML Schema. During the generation of example XML files XMLSpy then uses these user-defined example values to produce meaningful example documents that are immediately suitable for documentation and testing purposes.

Further details about Altova tools for NIEM can be found in the Solutions Center on the Altova website and also in today’s article Altova adds to NIEM support in v2010r3 on the Altova Blog.

Altova unleashes 64-bit power for working with XML

It’s no secret: XML files are getting bigger every day as people devise more ways to utilize XML for real-world applications that involve large amounts of data. Up until now people were limited in the size of XML files that could be comfortably edited or processed due to the 32-bit nature of Windows and the limitations of memory that was available to applications.

Not anymore! I am very excited to announce that Altova today launched version 2010 release 2 of our entire product line and all our applications are now available in both 32-bit and shiny new 64-bit versions. Obviously, the 64-bit versions of our tools require a 64-bit version of Windows Vista or Windows 7 to be installed on your computer. And once you take the leap to 64-bit you will never want to look back.

I’ve personally been using Windows 7 64-bit since the launch of Windows 7 last fall and my computer now has 20GB (!) of RAM and you just won’t believe how super-fast applications like Adobe Photoshop CS4 (which is available in a 64-bit version!) suddenly are in such a configuration.

And now you can add XMLSpy, MapForce, UModel, StyleVision and all the other MissionKit applications to the list of super-fast and efficient 64-bit applications. Here is an example of the 64-bit version of XMLSpy 2010r2 editing a 2.7GB XML file – in this case a Wikipedia abstract dump (i.e. all abstracts for all Wikipedia articles):

XMLSpy 64-bit editing a 2.7GB XML file

You just can’t do that in any other XML editor today. There may be some competitors who want to make you believe that just by running their Java-based editor on a 64-bit version of the JVM you suddenly have a 64-bit app, but if you read their tech support forums you will quickly find that they cannot actually edit any files larger than 2GB. Hmmm, really?

What it boils down to is this: XMLSpy really is the only 64-bit XML Editor you can use today for working with large files without any limitations, provided you have enough RAM in your computer. And “large files” doesn’t necessarily mean GB-sized! You will notice that working even with 100MB files is significantly faster in the 64-bit version.

To ease the transition period from 32-bit to the new 64-bit world for our customers, we have configured all our tools so that you can install both versions in parallel. This might be necessary especially if you are using database drivers that aren’t available in 64-bit versions yet. Read more about the new 64-bit versions here and learn when you may want to use which version. Also, if you are using a Microsoft Access database you might want to read our new TechNote about Using Access Database in a 64-bit world.

In addition to the new 64-bit versions of our applications, we have also added several significant performance improvements that affect both 32-bit and 64-bit applications, such as optimizations upon opening files that result in files sized 10-100MB opening about 15 times faster than before.

And version 2010 release 2 contains tons of other new features, such as SharePoint support, UML 2.3 support, DiffDog integration for Windows Explorer, external C# and Java calls in MapForce mappings, and many more features.

Altova at DevConnections

DevConnections in Las Vegas is always a great little conference and trade show. I say little because the show is a bit smaller than PDC or TechEd, but the talks are always excellent and there is a diverse mix of topics and tracks.

When the show floor opened today, the show certainly didn’t feel little at all: there was a huge rush of people coming to our booth, and the traffic remained fairly constant for over an hour and a half.

photo 

So if you happen to be in Las Vegas at DevConnections, make sure to stop by our booth and get a demo of the new features in version 2010 of our product line.

 photo 2

Also check out the Twitter stream about DevConnections

JSON and XML

Listening to bloggers over the last couple of years and also in talking to several developers in the industry it appeared to me that the JSON vs. XML debate seemed to primarily be a “religious” conflict – much like the “PC vs. Mac” or “Java vs. .NET” are to a large extent. I call it a religious conflict simply because there are fanatics on either side and they try to convert the masses and get them to agree with their point of view. But if you look at both XML and JSON with an unbiased mind and take each approach seriously, you’ll quickly find out that there are tons of applications where XML makes more sense and then there is a ton of other applications where JSON makes more sense. I would argue that XML has the better infra-structure of surrounding standards (like XML Schema, XSLT, XPath, etc.) that makes is a much richer platform and provides more flexibility, but there is something to be said about the elegance, efficiency, and simplicity of JSON, too. Instead of viewing JSON and XML as competing technologies we decided in our v2010 release to support them side-by-side and give our users the choice: XMLSpy 2010 now includes a JSON editor and supports JSON editing in its text and grid views with full syntax coloring, syntax checking, etc. This makes XMLSpy the first and only XML Editor to support JSON:

Just like we find some of our customers using XMLSpy as a plug-in within Eclipse and doing code-generation for Java, whereas other customers are using XMLSpy embedded within Visual Studio and doing primarily code-generation for C#, we expect that some of our customers will user our tools for JSON work, and others won’t. As a standards-focused developer tools vendor we simply want to give them the choice.

So let’s talk a bit more about the JSON vs. XML devate. For some background reading, I’d recommend doing a Google search for “JSON vs XML” and you will find various different opinions.

Here is my take on the matter: XML by itself appears to be similar to JSON only when you ignore all the surrounding XML-related standards. At its core, both JSON and XML are used to capture and describe structured and unstructured data. JSON mainly focuses on storing or transmitting that data efficiently, i.e. with very little overhead, whereas XML focuses on a rich environment that includes entities and a mechanism to support metadata and extensibility. The extensibility is really the huge difference: XML includes concepts on how existing XML data can be augmented, extended and enriched by additional data and metadata from other domains using XML Namespaces. Furthermore, XML data can be processed with XSLT, queried with XQuery, addressed and extracted via XPath, etc. – none of those supporting technologies are really available for JSON in such rich diversity. However, when it comes to just capturing simple structured data and expressing it either in files or in a transmission between client and server, JSON shines with its simplicity and – some argue – better human readability.

So once we made the decision to support JSON in XMLSpy in addition to XML, the next question became obviously how you get data from one format into the other, and so we added a JSON <=> XML conversion option to our Convert menu.

For example, take the following bit of JSON data:

And you can now easily convert that into an equivalent piece of XML data:

Our main logic to include easy one-click conversion was that we figured people would sometimes want to experiment to see what approach works best for their application or their data. As such, they can simply take existing XML data and easily convert it to JSON to test with their new app, or conversely if they run into an issue with a JSON based application and need to convert existing data files to XML because they need the extensibility, meta-data, attributes, or the processing capabilities of XSLT and XQuery, they can easily do that with XMLSpy now.

But make no mistake: we are not saying that JSON is better than XML. On the contrary, I continue to be a huge fan of XML, which is why this blog is called the XML Aficionado, not the JSON Aficionado!

So the fact that there is a conversion function from XML => JSON in XMLSpy now doesn’t mean that people should necessarily convert from one format to the other. Rather, I see people who use either one or both formats wanting to occasionally move data from one world into the other or experiment with the other format and to make that process very convenient we’ve added the ability to convert from one to the other whenever you need to. But mainly we expect people will work either with JSON files or with XML files – depending on what is most suitable for their particular application or use-case.

So go ahead, use the comment section and let me know how you feel about the JSON vs  XML debate and what you think of our approach to support both…

P.S. My thanks go to Peter Zschunke, because a lot of material for this blog post came from a discussion and e-mail interview we recently conducted for his German blog XML-Ecke.

MOST WANTED: over 70 new features in 2010 Altova product lineup


I'm very excited that Altova has announced version 2010 of our entire product line today. This new release of our most popular XML, Database, UML, and Web Services tools includes over 70 new features that our customers have asked for.
Instead of pushing some proprietary platform or other hidden agenda, we at Altova believe in delivering exactly those features that our users need the most. We’ve listened to your feedback via our discussion forums, support requests, and social networking sites and put together a list of the MOST WANTED features that will help you stay at the cutting edge of technology and deliver the best results.
Several key feature areas are: a totally new design paradigm in StyleVision that makes stylesheet design more productive and enables a whole new generation of electronic forms based on Authentic; WSDL 2.0 support; substantial XBRL enhancements; schema comparison/differencing for XML and databases; SysML support in UModel; JSON support in XMLSpy; and much, much more.
I will be writing more about individual features in the future, but for now I suggest you go to the Altova Blog and read the announcement and also check out the press release.