Product Reviews

XMLSpy 5

XML has become a widely used method to make data more accessible, used by hard-core web designers and now home hobbyists alike. As XML is being used in more and more creative ways, developers have begun releasing tools to make the job easier. XMLSpy 5 from Altova is more like a suite of tools that handles all aspects of XML, from defining the schema (that specify the layout of the XML files) to collecting the data (that will be stored in the XML file) to designing stylesheets (that will transform the XML file to something more human-friendly).

The suite installed easily. One surprising feature of the installer was the option to include a number of third party plug-ins. This opened doors I didn't even know existed, such as a Microsoft tool that enables you to apply stylesheets directly to a SQL Server database, bypassing the XML step altogether. Other companies have similar niche solutions that may make your life much simpler.

Until now, my approach to XML was crude at best. I had been hand-writing my XML and XSL stylesheet files in a text editor, not even bothering with schema. I then combined the two using fop (a tool released by the Apache group) to produce PDF documents. At first I was intimidated by the power of XMLSpy, but I quickly saw (after installing the provided fop plug-in) that I could keep working just as before within XMLSpy. When I wanted to utilize more of the potential XML has to offer, XMLSpy's in-depth tutorials made learning the tools easy. The suite comes with fully populated examples and step-by-step instructions on how to reproduce them from the ground up. I found these to be almost as useful as O'Reilly's XML book for grasping what could be done with XML.

No matter what you're using XML for, as a dabbler or a SOAP developer, you'd benefit from Altova's top-notch toolset. Even if you create your XML by hand, XMLSpy's ability to create HTML or Word documentation, complete with easily understood diagrams, from your files may alone be worth the purchase price.

About the Author

This is Eric's first review for Developer Central.

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