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Software Review: MapForce 2010 from Altova

MapForce 2010 Enterprise Edition is the latest release of Altova's graphical data mapping, conversion, and integration tool. MapForce is intended to make it easy to map data between any combination of XML, database, flat file, EDI, Excel 2007, and/or Web service. Once mapped, it can then transform the data immediately or it can generate code for the execution of recurrent conversions. There are also standard and professional versions available and if you would like to view the differences, you can check out the feature comparison list.

What is MapForce 2010? It is a product that provides a graphical interface for defining and executing mapping between data sources. As indicated above, these mappings can involve a wide range of file types. To map data you first define the source data; that is where the data is coming from, and then you define the destination source; where the data is to go. From there you have various options at hand.

MapForce 2010Since the information contained within these sources can be completely different, there may be some filtration that needs to go on in between the two end points. For example, if in your source you have a first name and a last name, but in your destination you have a full name. There is a concatenation function that will allow you to merge these two pieces of information together and they will end up as one in the destination. In fact there are a lot of functions that will help you get the data from one place to the other in the right format. There is even a visual function builder to put together user defined functions in a visual way to create just about anything you can think of.

Once you have the mapping done, you can then preview your results to make sure that everything is ready to go. At that point you can do the conversion on the spot, or, if it is something that you will need to do repeatedly, you can generate code in C++, C#, or Java that can be integrated into a program. You can even customize your generated output code using the Spy programming language (SPL).

So with all this, what's new with MapForce 2010?

• Processing data from/into multiple files now lets you process data from or into multiple files. This gives you the ability to consolidate file collections by aggregating data from a directory into one file or output data from one file to many. This gives you the ability to map from multiple files into a single file as well as taking one large file, say a database, and map it into multiple files.

• Using input/output file names as parameters works in concert with the prior enhancement as you can now generate dynamic mappings. This lets you declare input/output names at run-time. This is useful for real-time transformations where the file names are not necessarily know until the transformation is ready to occur.

MapForce 2010• Support for xsi:type in XML Schema is now available in MapForce. The is an attribute that can be used in any XML instance to explicitly select an element's type. If you are working with a collection of address elements, you may want to create an abstract type, and then have each instance of an element determine the derived type. MapForce also can analyze XML Schemas to determine where in an XML instance document the attribute could be applicable and displays this as a clickable button in the mapping component. This will let you choose to display the derived types as separate nodes if a different mapping is needed depending on the specifics of the derived types.

• EDI file validation in generated code and mapping output. This gives you the ability to maintain the integrity of your infrastructure by ensuring only EDI messages are processed.

• Support for additional EDIFACT messages. These include CONTRL (Syntax & Service Report for Batch EDI), AUTACK (Secure Authentication & Acknowledgement), and KEYMAN (Security Key & Certificate Management). These are control messages and are not included in the standard EDIFACT directories, but are described separately under syntax documentation published by the Joint Syntax Working Group.

• Support for WSDL 2.0 is now enabled and MapForce automatically recognizes the syntax of WSDL 2.0 documents and detects and applies the appropriate processing rules depending on if your Web service is based on WSDL 1.1 or 2.0.

I found MapForce to be incredibly easy to use and very effective. This is something that is very important when constantly having to move data between systems. The visual nature of the program will make it easy for almost anyone to do conversions. There is a lot of online help and a PDF User and Reference manual that is over 1000 pages in length that takes the time to spell it out. If you want you can also watch a demo video to see how easy it is.

MapForce 2010If you regularly have to convert data from one format to another then you really need to check out, MapForce 2010. It will begin to save you time and money, and by making sure that your data conversions are correct, save you a lot of headaches. As you progress in your learning of MapForce, you will find yourself using more and more of the toolset and becoming even more productive. I highly recommend MapForce 2010.

MapForce 2010 is available from Altova. It is $999.00 for the Enterprise version, $499 for the Professional version, and $249 for the Standard version. It also comes as part of one of the Altova Missionkits as well. Still unsure, you can download a 30-day trial version as well.

If you work with Data Mapping with any regularity then you need to do yourself a favor and check out MapForce 2010. 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 it in a whole new way.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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