Stylesheet

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.

Electronic Forms design with StyleVision 2010

With version 2010 we’ve added some very exciting new features to StyleVision, but perhaps the most important one is the new forms-based design paradigm that is based on absolute positioning.

Specifically, StyleVision now gives you the option to create templates within layout containers and even optionally upload a blueprint image. This feature adds a whole new flexibility to the design process, letting you approach StyleVision in the same way that you use other design applications - specifying layout first and adding data connections later.

This new feature turns StyleVision from a pure stylesheet designer into a powerful tool for true electronic forms design.

new design

Layout containers can:

  • Be inserted within document templates or encompass the entire document.
  • Inherit the dimensions of the document section or have user-defined dimensions.
  • Be assigned any number of style properties (borders, background color, font, etc.).
  • Contain a blueprint image to serve as a reference template for the design.

Layout container characteristics are accessible through the Properties and Styles windows.

layout properties

In order to accurately produce stunning electronic forms that realistically mirror printed form designs, StyleVision now includes the ability to absolutely position all layout elements, boxes, containers, etc. Instead of having content and layout elements flow on the page automatically like a typical web page layout, you can now specify exact x and y coordinates for each element to absolutely position them on a page.

This feature gives designers and developers more control in their form design in the manner of desktop publishing applications, but also adds the powerful single source publishing capabilities for XML, XBRL, and database data that have always been present in StyleVision.

form design

Read more about What’s New in StyleVision 2010 on our website, or download a free 30-day trial version to see for yourself how important these enhancements are.

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.