By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2004-02-02 Print this article Print

Although XML and Web services have gotten a lot of attention as core technologies for the Internet and for enterprises, good tools for creating and editing XML-based content are still scarce. But there are some exceptional ones among the few that are available, and eWEEK Labs found that the latest version of Sonic Software Corp.s Stylus Studio maintains its position as one of the better options. Stylus Studio 5.1, released last month and priced at $395 for a single-user version, includes some significant improvements over the previous release, Version 5.0. (That version, released last year, was the first release of the product after Excelon was acquired by Sonic parent Progress Software Corp.)

One of the most welcome new features in Version 5.1 is the DB-to-XML Data Source option, which enables IT managers to directly connect to varied databases to use their data in XML documents. The DB-to-XML Data Source feature also makes it possible to perform complex XQuery statements that can take into account both databases and XML sources.

This feature addresses one of the bigger weaknesses Stylus Studio has had in comparison with its main competitor, Altova Inc.s XMLSpy. In fact, Stylus Studio now outdoes XMLSpy with better database support, including DB2. At this point its a fairly close call between the two when looking for an XML editor, although we like XMLSpy 2004s ability to do comparisons across all our XML files, something Stylus Studio lacks.

Both products share a couple of common weaknesses, however. One of the bigger—especially given the broad support of XML and Web services—is the lack of a non-Windows version of either product. In addition, although Stylus Studio 5.1 provides many options for remotely accessing files, servers and networks, it lacked support for Secure FTP, which can be especially vital given the sensitivity of many XML files. XMLSpy also lacks Secure FTP support.

A useful new feature in Stylus Studio 5.1 is the ability to test Web service calls in a variety of scenarios. This capability made it possible for us to test our Web services with different Simple Object Access Protocol clients.

In general, standards support has been improved in Stylus Studio 5.1— it supports many full and proposed XML and Web service standards, including XPath 2.0, a key standard for retrieving information from XML, and support for updated specifications for XQuery. The updated XQuery support adds to what was probably the biggest new feature in the previous (5.0) release of Stylus Studio—namely, its excellent XQuery environment. The tools in Stylus Studio 5.1 provide one of the best visual environments for creating XQueries and mapping between data sources and end documents.

While weve always thought the mapper in Stylus Studio was good, it has seen some nice improvements in this version. In general, we found Version 5.1s mapper much easier to work with than previous versions, and we were able to create templates for complex Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations mapping.

We especially like that Stylus Studio can work with XML content and JSP (JavaServer Pages)—a traditional strong suit of the product. Although Stylus Studio wont replace any dedicated JSP development tool, the ability to work with both formats is a welcome feature because we often find ourselves having to work with both file types at the same time.

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

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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