Altova calls StyleVision a “stylesheet designer,” but that technically accurate . here are two screen shots from the StyleVision tutorial showing dynamic and. documents. XSLT programming just doesn’t get any easier than with StyleVision. . How To: Work with the XML Schema editor in XMLSpy. XMLSpy Tutorial. Starting Eclipse and using the XMLSpy Plug-in. Design HTML/PDF Output in StyleVision
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Altova calls StyleVision a “stylesheet designer,” but that technically accurate designation doesn’t really do the software justice. Nevertheless, StyleVision is all that and more. With StyleVision, you draw your desired output page visually, much like you would draw an app form in Microsoft Visual Studio or a web page in Adobe Dreamweaver.
In this page you include both static content text, images, form elements and dynamic content XML nodes, database elements. When you’re done, StyleVision generates the XSLT transforms needed to convert your data sources into one or more desired output formats that look like your original design. And all this without coding! Believe me, that’s a neat trick if you can do it, and StyleVision can.
For this review, I used the free Enterprise day trial edition. XSLT transforms are the “programs” that change structured, hard-to-read data in XML files and databases into formatted, visually pleasing online or print pages. Plus, as you write the XSLT, you have to know your data sources, understand their schemas, and carefully code for the output format at all times.
Frankly, if you aren’t kind of a bit-flipper by nature, writing XSLT transforms can be a daunting and difficult task. It takes in schema-based content references and spits out transforms that process the content and produce the final output. Let’s look at a graphic that may help clarify things.
The basic StyleVision workflow. This may all seem a bit confusing if you think you’re designing an output page layout. But you aren’t; what you’re really designing is an XSLT stylesheetonly visually instead of with code.
Hence the name Style Visionheh heh. StyleVision is flexible and allows you to approach page design however you like. For example, you can focus on the page interface, specifying the visual design first and adding content later, or you can begin by importing data from an XML, XBRL eXtensible Business Reporting Languageor HTML file or from a database all major databases are natively supported and then design the interface around the data.
Further, you can work in what StyleVision calls Free-flow or Form-based mode. Free-flow mode is used for designing reports, documentation, books, news articles, and the like.
Review: Altova StyleVision
Here you can mix text, images, and tables on a page and let StyleVision wrap and fit elements according to their size. Free-flow mode is most useful where there is a significant amount of data and absolute positioning is not required. Form-based mode is used for creating forms that contain input elements, edit controls, and precisely-placed text and images. In Form-based mode, each page is designed independently of others and elements are placed exactly where you specify.
Form-based mode is most useful where there is a small amount of data that must be precisely controlled by specific page elements. In a “small stroke of genius” which, in my opinion, is a serious oxymoron on the order of “Ed Hardy fashion”Form-based mode also includes a blueprint capability. Blueprinting allows you to import an image of an existing form paper or online and then create a matching page design over the blueprint — an intuitive, elegant, and effective way to create a form.
Clever rascals, those Viennese! We’ll talk more about SPSs later. To its credit, there’s nothing particularly remarkable about the StyleVision interface.
How to Design XSLT stylesheets with StyleVision « XML / XSLT / DTD / XSD :: WonderHowTo
Everything is where you stylefision it to be, and does what you expect it to do. Menus, toolbars, tabs, dockable panes, and central work area are all appropriately positioned, with high-level, general information panes Project, Design Overview, Schema Tree on the left and low-level, specific information panes Styles, Properties on the right. One interesting feature of the main document pane is a series of preview tabs along the bottom.
This makes it convenient to quickly test small, simple changes as you work instead of waiting to test large, complex change blocks with infrequent builds.
You can even use multiple schema sources for the same page. Once selected, the schema is added as a schema source in the Design Overview and Schema Tree panes. From this point, you can add content as needed, either dynamic or static. Let’s talk about dynamic content first.
Dynamic content comes from an XML data file or a database; but remember, it’s really about content references rather than actual content. For example, to add an XML node from an input file to your page, just drag it from the Schema Tree pane to the central document pane. Of course, because the node’s content may change later, its current content is always used at output generation time. You can also use this method to add XML element attributes, thereby obtaining data not present in the parent element’s actual value.
Static content, on the other hand, is content you enter directly into the page, content that never changes. Text and images that introduce or clarify the data are good examples of static content. For example, in the page design pane, you can type text or insert graphics in or between XML nodes; these items will appear in the output stream just where you put them in relation to the data. This allows you to place both single- and multiple-appearance static elements into the page design, so the final product looks just the way you want.
To help illustrate this distinction, here are two screen shots from the StyleVision tutorial showing dynamic and static content. The first is the design pane in native mode, showing dynamic XML elements which I’ve boxed in blue and static elements boxed in red, both inside and outside the dynamic elements. Dynamic and Static elements in Design mode.
By adding dynamic and static content in this way, you can design your page to contain exactly what you want, where you want it. And by the way, just in case you feel like the Design mode shot above doesn’t look much like WYSIWYG sniffle because boo hoo you can see whimper the XML markers oh wahI offer for comparison a tiny little snippet of the actual SPS file wherein your design actually resides. You know, the one you don’t have to write from scratch.
Say, “Thank you, StyleVision. StyleVision says, “You’re welcome. Seriously, don’t be put off by the tag markers in Design mode. They’re there to let you see what will appear in the output stream, and where.
As the Eagles sang, “Are ya with me so far?
Up to now we’ve just put dynamic and static data into our page design, and left the stylegision to the output medium. The HTML preview above, for example, is definitely in default mode: Times Roman font, left justified, black on white.
The only even remotely interesting formatting is the bolded “For Immediate Release. Fortunately, StyleVision provides several ways to format your output.
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First, there’s ugh local formatting — certainly not the recommended method, but there when you need it. Alternately, you can insert any of various convenient predefined formats, and you can assign any page component to a class attribute to make it easier to style across the board. The Styles pane makes it easy to visually select and edit virtually any style property you need. Apart from individual styles, you can also create global style rules to control the entire output or chunks of it.
And of course you can easily attach an external CSS stylesheet yes, Tutoriall know that’s redundant; get over it of your choice to ensure style compatibility and consistency. Here’s a just slightly spiffed-up version of the above page, with some local formatting and style classes added. Tutorial page with some styles applied. Finally, you can even create global templates containing formatting, layout, and processing rules to be reused throughout your design, or applied only when certain conditions exist in the source data.
Global templates let you define rules for presenting specific elements wherever they appear in the output, without having to treat each occurrence separately. The resulting stylesheets will transform your content from one format to another faster than Ru Paul on a hot date. Typically, the stylesheet team you would then deliver the XSLT and XSL-FO stylesheets to the publication team also youand use them to process the input XML files or database content into the required output formats for the distribution team yup, still you.
The beauty of this process is that once the XSLT stylesheets are written, they can repeatedly process any number of content files as long as they conform to the original schema. But you aren’t locked in to that process. Naturally, the above output restrictions by edition apply here as well.
StyleVision alrova 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 styldvision lament the loss of a previously proprietary skill set to non-programmers, the fact is that spreading knowledge around is a good thing. Here are tutorizl links to more StyleVision info each opens in a new window:.
Dave Gash sytlevision HyperTrain dot Coma California firm specializing in training and consulting for hypertext developers. A veteran software professional with over thirty years of programming, documentation, and training experience, Dave holds degrees in Business and Computer Science, and is well known in the tech pubs community as an interesting and animated technical instructor.
Dave is a frequent speaker at User Assistance seminars and conferences in the US and around the world.