Written by T. Michael Testi
MLSpy 2008 is the latest version of Altova's integrated development environment (IDE) for XML. XMLSpy allows programmers to create XML-based applications and Web services in a more dynamic and easier to understand environment. The version that I am reviewing is XMLSpy 2008 release 2 which came out on May 7, 2008 and it is based on the Enterprise version. There is also a Professional version and if you would like to view the differences between the two, you can check out the feature comparison list.
What is XMLSpy 2008? It is a XML development environment for designing, editing, and debugging enterprise class applications that involve XML, XML Schema, XSL/XSLT, XQuery, SOAP, WSDL, and Web service technologies. Its aim is to be a productivity enhancer for J2EE, .NET, and database developers. Along with being an XML editor, it offers a code generator, file converters, a debugger, a profiler, and integration into Visual Studio .NET and Eclipse.
One of the other main features XMLSpy includes is the ability to edit XML documents in multiple formats. I personally think that this is one of those kinds of features that once you get used to it, it's hard to work without XMLSpy. You can look at your XML document as a text doc, a grid format, and as a WYSIWYG view. Next it has a built-in well-formedness checker and validator. If there is something wrong with your document, you don't have to wait till it fails and then try to figure out what is wrong with it; XMLSpy does it for you.
You also have intelligent editing such that if a schema is associated with your XML document, the auto-completion feature of Text View provides help in editing. There are structural editing features like line numbering, indentation, bookmarks, as well as expandable and collapsible element to aid in navigation.
You can create schemas quickly and easily, there is support for XInclude and XPointer, a built-in XQuery 1.0 processor, and you can transform your XML document as well. You have debuggers, project management, database import, and the ability to compare XML files. If you are using Java, C++, or C# to manipulate data in XML, you can generate code containing class definitions for the schema. That is a lot already.
So with all this, what's new with XMLSpy 2008 Release 2?
• Very large file support – has been enhanced to work with much larger files. These result in a reduction of memory consumption by up to 75-80% as compared with the prior version when opening and validating XML documents in text view. This now means that you can work with files 4 to 5 times larger than before. This will be very beneficial to those with databases and other large applications.
• Detailed find-and-replace in XML Schema editor – now adds to the robust find-in capabilities that already exist in XMLSpy by adding the ability to find-in Schemas. Here you can find within single schemas and across complex multiple schemas as well.
• Enhanced XSLT details in info window – now places an XSLT tab in the XMLSpy info window which provides information for developers working with XSLT stylesheets. This tab allows you to view the associated schema and XML Instance files as well as any included or imported XSLT documents. The toolbar buttons allow you to organize some or all of the files into an XMLSpy project or even add the files to a ZIP archive.
• New XSL Outline entry helper window – complements the XSLT tab and aids in the optimization of XSLT development. When working with a XSLT 1.0 or 2.0 stylesheet, it lists the templates and functions in the current XSLT file as well as those in any included or imported file. Here you can view or edit each template's mode, priority, and associated comment directly in the XSL outline window.
• Support for SOAP 1.2 – now allows you to create and test Web Services messages using SOAP1.2 by checking the appropriate box in the SOAP request settings dialog.
• Project generation for Visual Studio 2008 – gives you the option to generate a Visual Studio 2008 project file when generating C# or C++ code in XMLSpy.
• Visual Studio integration extended to include Visual Studio 2008 – now offers seamless support into Visual Studio 2008.
If you work with XML with any regularity then you need to do yourself a favor and check out XMLSpy 2008. Right out of the box it will begin to save you time and money in making sure that your data is correct and allowing you to see your data in a whole new way. As you progress in your learning of XMLSpy 2008, you will find yourself using more and more of the toolset and becoming even more productive. I highly recommend XMLSpy 2008.