Tool helps users create XML-formatted documents

Altova Inc. knows there is plenty of conversation these days about integration using XML-formatted data, but the company would rather talk about how to first get that data into an XML format.

Altova recently unveiled Authentic 5, a document creation tool that produces XML formatted data and is similar to a word processing application. The tool was part of the company's XMLSpy development environment, but the editor now is being offered as a stand-alone application free of charge. Users still need tools from Altova to create the XML-based templates used with Authentic, which provides a WYSIWYG interface to document authors.

The software competes with tools such as Corel Corp.'s XMetal and Arbortext Inc.'s Epic Center, and a handful of open source programs. Microsoft Corp. also is introducing an XML editor called InfoPath with Office 2003.

The benefit of having data in native XML format is that it separates the content from the presentation of data. That makes the data easily available to a range of applications, including Web services, and devices, such as PDAs and smart phones.

"We want content creators to concentrate on content, and we'll worry about presentation," says Katya Sadovsky, project leader in the Administrative Computing Services department at the University of California, Irvine. Sadovsky helped build the university's SNAP Portal, a gateway to campus administrative services for employees. Various departments, such as human resources and accounting, use Authentic to create content for the site.

"We decided when we were creating the portal that we wanted to use XML because we anticipated having to provide the content to many different devices," Sadovsky says. "But we needed a [Microsoft] Word-like interface so it was easy for everyone to use."

Authentic 5 provides that simple interface and is supported by customized forms where users enter content. The forms ensure consistent formatting. When end users retrieve the data contained in the forms it is run through an Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformation (XSLT) engine, which formats the data for the end user's device.

The only drawback, Sadovsky says, is that delivery of the XML formatted data is slower than HTML formatted data because of the XSLT rendering.

Authentic is available in a desktop or browser plug-in version. The browser version includes two options: the Placeholder Control for Microsoft's Content Manager Server 2002 Server and an ASP .Net Server Control, which let the tool integrate with CMS applications or Visual Studio .Net, respectively. Authentic supports Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning for document management over the Web, and works with XML databases, including Oracle 9I, Software AG Tamino and NeoCore XMS.

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