Database

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 StyleVision In-Depth Review

Dave Gash published an in-depth review of Altova StyleVision 2010 on the WritersUA website this past week and says in his introduction:

Altova calls StyleVision a "stylesheet designer," but that technically accurate designation doesn't really do the software justice. They could have called it a "schema-based WYSIWYG drag-and-drop XML / XBRL / database visual page editor and XSLT / XSL-FO / HTML / RTF / PDF / Word / e-forms generator," but I'm guessing that wouldn't have made it past the suits in Marketing.

I like that new product description. It’s a bit of a mouthful, but certainly brings it to the point. Really, we couldn’t have said it any better…

Dave follows this introduction with a detailed review of the design method, user-interface, formatting, and output options and covers all the exciting new capabilities of version 2010, such as the new blueprint capability.

And after going over all the relevant features Dave comes to the following conclusion:

StyleVision is one of the most interesting software applications I've seen in years. Without question, it offers a new and unique approach to XSLT transform authoring, a skill formerly reserved for beanie-wearing, pocket-protector using, syntax-obsessing code jockeys such as your humble reviewer. It allows more of the tech pubs workforce than ever to transform raw data into aesthetic, useful pages.

While some coders might lament the loss of a previously proprietary skill set to non-programmers, the fact is that spreading knowledge around is a good thing. Make no mistake: as more people use a technology, the better that technology becomes, and StyleVision's application of the WYSIWYG concept to XSLT is a shining example.

We are delighted to hear that! Please check out Dave’s review and then download a free 30-day eval version to see for yourself.

Database Schema Comparison

In our announcement of version 2010 last week I mentioned over 70 new features that we have added based on customer feedback. As I was talking with journalists through the course of the week, I came to quickly realize that people automatically assume that if it is 70 features in one release then those must be fairly small features. But in each case my conversation partner got more and more excited, as they realized that we are really talking about over 70 substantial new features.

So let me begin this series of individual feature articles by talking about database schema comparison, which we’ve added to both DatabaseSpy and DiffDog in version 2010.

We had originally introduced database comparison or differencing in version 2009 of our product line, but originally thought that users would primarily want to compare the actual data being stored in two separate databases. And people did indeed like that new feature and used it to synchronize data between production and development servers or between different types of database servers, and they were very excited that we allowed them to match columns with a drag&drop mapping interface in those cases where the tables were not entirely identical. One of the most frequent requests, however, that quickly emerged was to add the ability to also compare different database structures or schemas themselves.

This led to the new Database Schema Comparison feature of version 2010. Just like before the first step for a database schema comparison is to connect to two databases and select the tables that you want to compare:

We do, of course, automatically map any columns that have matching names, but you can also change the mapping and designate that columns are equivalent even if their names differ or follow other naming conventions e.g. due to a server migration.

Once you have connected the right columns and are ready to start the comparison process, click the compare button in the toolbar. The results will be displayed right away, and in this example DatabaseSpy is highlighting the differences with respect to data types as well as columns that are missing:

In addition to visually displaying the differences between the database schemas, DatabaseSpy also allows you to generate a merge script that will synchronize the schemas between the different databases, and you can choose if you want to merge the changes from left to right or vice versa.

Once you have selected one of the options, a new script window opens and shows you the SQL statements needed to make the changes, and you can execute them directly from within DatabaseSpy.

The same process can also be used to compare databases running on different database servers, which is ideal when you want to migrate from one database backend server platform to another.

And this is just one of the over 70 exciting new features in our version 2010 product line…

Electronic health records, HL7, and XML data mapping

The recent appointment of Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary for Health and Human Services yesterday marks another important step in President Obama's drive for health-care reform. As the President has stated numerous times, including during his recent Address to Joint Session of Congress, his goals for health-care reform very clearly include electronic health records:

"Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save lives."

In essence, electronic health records directly translates to the HL7 family of standards and it is, therefore, important for software developers to be able to integrate HL7 data in their applications swiftly and efficiently. No other tool makes this easier to accomplish and more affordable to do than Altova MapForce.

MapForce is a data mapping and conversion tool that now supports HL7 v2.x EDI standards as well as the new HL7 v3.x XML-based standards and allows a developer to easily map data between HL7 and various other data sources, including relational databases, XML, web services, and even plain text files from legacy systems. Specifically, MapForce makes it easy to map data from an HL7 electronic health record into an in-house relational database.

Specifically, you can now download the MapForce HL7 Installer, which is free for all licensed MapForce customers, and includes all HL7 EDI message formats in various versions so that you can pick and choose the exact transaction and message structure for electronic health records that you need to implement in your organization:

And the best thing about MapForce: once a mapping between any HL7 message and your internal data structures and/or datbases is defined visually in the intuitive user interface, MapForce will auto-generate all the necessary program code in Java or C# that implements this data mapping, so that this code can be integrated into your in-house applications with ease. By doing that, MapForce eliminates the need to write hundreds or thousands of lines of infra-structure code that would otherwise be cumbersome to write, error-prone, and a nightmare to debug.

Using MapForce to auto-generate that data integration code can result in huge cost-savings and improved efficiency, which is critical in today's tough economic environment!

In addition to HL7, MapForce does, of course, also support the ANSI X12 transactions required for HIPAA compliance, so it can be used for all aspects of electronic health-care reform.

For more information, see also this article on HL7 Data Integration on the official Altova Blog.

Database Diff: Compare and Merge

When I mentioned our v2009 product launch before, I promised to write in more detail about some of the exciting new features we included. One of my favorite new functions that I use almost on a daily basis is actually available in two products, depending on your needs: it is the new database differencing module with full database compare and merge capabilities in both DiffDog 2009 and DatabaseSpy 2009.

Here is how it works: to compare data between different tables you select one or more tables for the "left side" of the comparison and one or more tables for the "right side":

However, unlike straight text file comparisons, where the differencing process would now start right away, for databases we recognize that the table structure is rarely the exact same, because you typically want to compare data between different servers (such as production vs. development) and one may have new columns, indexes, and the like.

So we give you the ability to define in detail how the tables should be compared. The system is, of course, intelligent enough to automatically match column names that just differ by capitalization or column position, but you can visually create a comparison map to match up other columns with this easy-to-use interface:

Once you run the differencing operation based on the comparison map you've defined, the result is displayed in this unique and intuitive table diff result view:

This view gives you the option to show or hide columns that exist in one database only, identical columns, as well as hiding rows that are completely equal or rows that exist only in the database on the left or the right. This allows you to drill down into those differences that you consider essential.

In addition to finding these differences, we do, of course, also allow you to complete the data migration and reconcile those differences:

You can choose to either merge data from left to right, right to left, or you can create a SQL script for manual review that will contain all the commands necessary to compete the merge operation (DatabaseSpy only):

If you are concerned about keeping a record of the data before the merge, you can even create a restore script for either database that lets you revert the changes made by the merge script if you ever need to do that (DatabaseSpy only).

The database diff feature supports any of the following database server platforms:

  • Microsoft® SQL Server® 2000, 2005, 2008
  • Oracle® 9i, 10g, 11g
  • Sybase® 12
  • MySQL® 4, 5
  • PostgreSQL 8
  • IBM DB2® 8, 9; IBM DB2 for iSeries® v5.4; IBM DB2 for zSeries® 8, 9
  • Microsoft Access™ 2003, 2007

And the coolest thing is that you can compare tables between connections to different database servers, which makes it an excellent tool for supporting a migration from one server platform to another that lets you verify that all data was moved properly.

As always, you can download a fully functional 30-day free trial to test this new feature yourself...

DatabaseSpy better than Toad and DBArtisan

According to Redmond Magazine's new article Redmond Roundup: Tooling Around in Your Database, Altova DatabaseSpy is the Redmond Roundup Champion and beats both Toad for SQL Server and Embarcadero DBArtisan - two products that are over four times more expensive:

RedmondRoundup

The article highlights different aspects of each database tool and comes to the conclusion:

"Each tool has its strengths. DatabaseSpy is the best overall in terms of range of features."

The editors further have this to say about Altova DatabaseSpy:

"At $139 [actually, the correct price is $149] for a permanent license, Database Spy is one of the last great deals available. While it's not perfect, it lets you do anything you may need to do with your databases. If this one doesn't meet all your needs, Altova has a number of other discrete tools for analyzing and modifying database structures.

Overall, Database Spy provides virtually all of the features anyone could need to supplement products that store, log or analyze data in relational databases."

I couldn't agree more - to read the full article click here...

To try DatabaseSpy for free, please download the 30-day fully-featured eval version here.

Creating Open XML documents from XML and database data

The latest release 2008r2 of StyleVision gives users important new functionality for creating advanced stylesheets to publish XML and database data in Word 2007, which uses the new Open XML (OOXML) data format, as well as simpler processes for publishing the same source content in other formats. And, to further ease the transition for developers and designers working with OOXML, we have just reduced the price of StyleVision considerably. As adoption of Open XML increases, StyleVision developers will be ready with a powerful tool for publishing XML and database data in what is sure to be the most predominant end-user document format, now that Open XML has been approved as an ISO standard.

Here is how the process works:

  1. Open your existing XML document or connect to an existing relational database to populate the source pane in StyleVision:
    Sources
  2. Drag & drop elements from the source pane into the design pane and apply styles to them, thereby creating a meta stylesheet for producing the desired output formatting:
    DragDrop
  3. Click on one of the preview tabs underneath the design pane to preview the output in any of the supported output formats (Open XML for Word 2007, HTML, PDF, and RTF) - all outputs are automatically created from one and the same visual design:
    OpenXMLpreview
  4. Save the generated output file(s) as well as the specific stylesheets that have been auto-generated to render your data in the desired output formats again and again...

StyleVision can access data from database tables,views, or you can directly enter a SQL SELECT statement to query only for particular data from a database. This makes StyleVision ideal for flexible database reporting, too.

If you are interested in further details, you can read more about the new features of StyleVision 2008r2 here.