By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2005-01-10 Print this article Print

With the release of Altova Enterprise XML Suite 2005, Altova Inc. has boosted usability and added a number of new features—especially to the core XMLSpy XML editor—that make this a worthwhile upgrade for users of previous versions and for companies looking for a comprehensive set of XML and Web services editing and design tools.

In addition, Altova Enterprise XML Suite 2005 includes a new client/server tool, SchemaAgent, which enables businesses to collaboratively manage and edit complex XML schema files.

SchemaAgent isnt up to the high standards of the rest of the suite, including XMLSpy 2005, which eWEEK Labs has found to be at the top of the list for XML editing tools. Nevertheless, the significant improvements and excellent standards support make this already very good suite an even more attractive option for companies that work with Web services and lots of XML-based data. The only big weakness is that the suite still runs just on Windows systems.

Prices for Altova Enterprise XML Suite 2005 range from $1,499 for one license to $59,990 for 50 licenses. Each suite component can be bought individually, and the Authentic 2005 content editor is available as a free download.

Because XMLSpy is the central piece of the Altova suite, its probably fitting that it also received the most significant improvements of all the products. Like the rest of the suite, XMLSpy has seen some adjustments to the user interface, making it easier to edit and manage even complex XML files. Powerful XQuery features were added to XMLSpy 2005. These let us edit XQuery statements with all the tools one would expect, such as syntax coloring and a very good XQuery debugger. XMLSpy also integrates with the open-source Eclipse development environment.

Probably our favorite improvement is in the graphical XML schema editor. The revamped editor let us create schema files and perform detailed edits on them—and we could do so in an easy-to-follow hierarchical graphical view. Given these schema-editing capabilities, XMLSpy also gets the most out of the new SchemaAgent component. SchemaAgent consists of a Windows-based server and the agent that runs on the client systems of the suite. With SchemaAgent, we could centrally store schemas that we regularly used and could collaboratively edit and link them.

While we found SchemaAgent a useful addition, especially when reusing schemas and integrating them, we would like to see more true collaboration features, such as check-in/check-out and file-locking capabilities.

Click here to read Labs review of Altova competitor Stylus Studio. The two other major components of Altova Enterprise XML Suite 2005 are MapForce 2005, an excellent tool for mapping together XML, databases and other data files for business integration, and StyleVision 2005, a tool for creating and editing style sheets. Both tools benefit from the improved user interface across the suite, but, for the most part, MapForce and StyleVision have seen fewer improvements than XMLSpy. We did like the new option in StyleVision, which let us output style sheets in rich-text format for use in standard business documents.

The free Authentic client is much improved and is an excellent tool for business users who need to simply enter information into data forms. However, while this tool can be used in a browser-only format, it works only on Microsoft Corp.s Windows and Internet Explorer.

Among additions to the suites good standards support are XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations) 2.0, XPath 2.0 and XQuery 1.0. In addition, the Altova suites components can finally pull data natively from almost every major database, adding in this release support for IBMs and Sybase Inc.s databases.

Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at jim_rapoza@ziffdavis.com.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in Web services.

Jim Rapoza, Chief Technology Analyst, eWEEK.For nearly fifteen years, Jim Rapoza has evaluated products and technologies in almost every technology category for eWEEK. Mr RapozaÔÇÖs current technology focus is on all categories of emerging information technology though he continues to focus on core technology areas that include: content management systems, portal applications, Web publishing tools and security. Mr. Rapoza has coordinated several evaluations at enterprise organizations, including USA Today and The Prudential, to measure the capability of products and services under real-world conditions and against real-world criteria. Jim Rapoza's award-winning weekly column, Tech Directions, delves into all areas of technologies and the challenges of managing and deploying technology today.

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