First Looks

XMLSpy 2007 3 Enterprise Ed.: Process Open XML for Word and Excel

Tools for those who need to fetch, store or transform XML, including in Word 2007 and Excel 2007.

XMLSpy 2007 Release 3 is a top-notch suite of tools for developing, editing, transforming, debugging, and manipulating anything that looks like XML. Altova's flagship product becomes harder to define with every release because it embraces every new technology and standard. If an XML-based format or application is ready for prime time, XMLSpy has it covered with templates and schemas.

The latest release lets you process the Open XML format in Word 2007 and Excel 2007 documents. The introduction of zipped archives in the Open XML specification complicates access to the embedded content. XMLSpy accommodates the structure with an Archive view. In the mini-IDE, you add, open, and delete the included documents by clicking on buttons in a horizontal command row. This interface works okay, but navigating through an archive and its associated documents feels like you're working in a project within a project. The new feature was isolated from the regular XMLSpy environment.

The built-in XSLT debugger supports regular breakpoints, but also includes a tracepoint feature that creates a visual log of specific output. This enables you to run through a huge loop and see how the data is being transformed.

Figure 1
[Click on image for larger view.]
Figure 1. Transform Office Documents. You can edit and manipulate Excel 2007 and Word 2007 documents in XMLSpy 2007 Enterprise Edition. The Excel sample shows how the software fetches XML data from inside the zip archive and transforms it into HTML.

The XMLSpy editor is a favorite of thousands of developers. We take for granted its automatic tag completion, syntax coloring, text-size zoom, and IntelliSense-like "intelligent entry helpers." The helpers keep your XML valid by watching the referenced DTD and prompting for required elements or attributes. Using the editor, you can tweak elements in source view and then flip to the graphical grid for broad tasks like moving large blocks of data.

In the old days, I fumbled over Xpath query syntax, resorting to a time-wasting, trial-and-error form of development simply to return a node's contents. Nowadays, it's a breeze to drill down to the desired content in XMLSpy's graphical view, right-click on a node, and use the Copy XPath feature to put the expression on the clipboard. To adjust the query, the excellent Evaluate Xpath feature returns dynamic results as you type and gives you a choice of XPath 1.0 or 2.0 syntax.

XMLSpy has valuable tools for those who need to fetch, store, or transform XML using most popular databases including SQL Server, Access, IBM DB2, and Oracle. Although you wouldn't think of XMLSpy as a database manager, I was surprised at how easily I could connect to SQL Server 2005, perform queries, and extract the database schema as an XSD schema.

Be sure to check the XMLSpy feature matrix before your purchase the product. Unfortunately, some new and powerful capabilities such as the ability to edit Open XML (that is, Microsoft Office 2007) data and to profile XSL transformations are available only in the Enterprise version, which costs twice as much as the Professional version.

At A Glance
XMLSpy 2007 Release 3 Enterprise Edition
Phone: 978-816-1600
Price: $999
Quick Facts: Full suite of professional tools for creating, analyzing, debugging, and transforming any form of XML schema, style sheet, or data.
Pros: Top-notch code editor with graphical views; supports editing and extraction of data in Open XML Microsoft Office 2007 archives; time-saving code generators; good support for popular databases.
Cons: Skimpy documentation on new features; several desirable capabilities only available in higher cost Enterprise SKU.

About the Author

Ken Cox is a Canadian .NET programming writer and the author of "ASP.NET 3.5 for Dummies" (Wiley).

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