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Evaluating XML Editors


You've learned enough XML that you no longer need to use a simple text editor. You want something that will make your job less tedious, more fun, and help you create what you've pictured in your head. Welcome to the world of XML editing programs and application suites. How do you choose one? Dan Wellman gives you the goods, from the freeware through the most professional offerings. Read on to learn more.

Author Info:
By: Dan Wellman
Rating: 4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars / 14
December 27, 2004
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
  1. · Evaluating XML Editors
  2. · The Simple Editing Tools
  3. · The Full-Fledged Applications
  4. · The High End, Priced Appropriately

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Evaluating XML Editors - The High End, Priced Appropriately
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Coming to the top end of the scale now, applications in this group are targeted at professionals and businesses, and have price tags to match their caliber.

Stylus Studio 6 XML Professional Edition weighs in at an impressive $495 USD (£257 GBP) per single license. The program features what I would call a smart-GUI: the shortcut buttons, menus and even the main coding window can all change depending on which of the many facets of XML you are working with. This is an excellent feature; it merges the elements of several programs into one. The program even remembers which files you have open, and opens them again on start-up if you forget to close them.

Aimed at the serious developer, Stylus Studio has an inline XQuery tool and a fully functional debugger which can be great for weeding out the errors in complex applications. There is support for almost every single application of XML with the possible exception of the much elusive XLink specification, and the application also has extensive preview facilities of almost any document type. These features, coupled with the smooth and intuitive interface, make for one powerful tool. There are quite a few useful sample projects, and the schema tree editing and style mapping tools are exceptional but surprisingly, there are no code libraries to aid and assist you.

The daddy of them all is Altova’s Professional XML Suite 2005. It costs a wallet-busting €736.25 EUR (including the service and maintenance pack), which at today’s exchange rates works out at $977 USD or £508 GBP, although Altova is currently offering a free Apple iPod with every order to soften the blow. The XML suite actually comprises three independent applications: XML Spy, Mapforce, and Stylevision. It has the most comprehensive support for XML and XML related technologies, but for that price, it really should. 

XML Spy is the XML (among other things) editor. It does everything that previous editors I’ve looked at does, and it presents everything in a smooth and professional workspace environment. In addition to the standard and expected functions, this program also offers integration with .net and Java development environments and can even automatically generate Java, C++, or C# class files.

Mapforce is a mapping tool for visually coding b2b (business to business) data exchange applications used for transforming data from one company’s format into another. Matching elements of different companies' data can be linked using dragable connection lines, and other elements can be converted using data processing rules.

Stylevision is a definitive application for creating stylesheets that transform XML and database information into HTML, PDF or even Word/RTF output. These applications fit together like the Microsoft Office suite of applications. They are all of the same quality, usability and style and are to XML documents what Photoshop is to pictures: the choice of the professional and power-hungry.

For anyone not wanting to part with that much of the hard-earned simply for a computer program (albeit one as excellent as this), Altova also offers a free home edition of the core XML editing application of the suite, XML Spy. This free program has all the support and functionality of most of the applications in the middle range and is laid out and presented with Altova’s trademark quality. This program, as are the applications in the Professional suite, is both intuitive and highly documented.

I hope that this article has outlined both the positive and negative qualities of the most easily obtainable XML editing applications available and that it will save you time when deciding which program is suited to you.


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