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Software Review: StyleVision 2010 from Altova

StyleVision is a visual stylesheet designer that can be used for transforming XML and database content into HTML pages, RTF Documents, PDF reports, Word 2007 (OOXML), and Authentic Electronic Forms. StyleVision is standards-based and supports XSLT 1.0/2.0, XSL:FO, CSS, JavaScript, and all major databases. It has been optimized for single-source publishing, allowing multiple output styles from a single design.

StyleVision works as a graphical stylesheet designer that works with extended XSLT stylesheets that are also known in this context as StyleVision Power Stylesheets (SPS). They are used to control the display and entry of data in the Authentic View of XML documents and databases. StyleVision can also be used to specify the output design of an XML Document transformation.
StyleVision removes the complexity of creating stylesheets by allowing you to drag-and-drop within a UI and has an advanced entry helper window to create a graphical design for publishing your data in multiple formats.

In StyleVision, the SPS is created graphically; it is based on a schema, and can contain dynamic and static content. When a finished SPS is associated with an XML document or database, that document can then be edited in Authentic View, a free editor available from Altova. From there you can generate XSLT stylesheets, or generate finished output directly.

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

• New design paradigm now gives you the option to create templates within layout containers and even optionally upload a blueprint image. Essentially what you get is a standard form-based document with absolute positioning for creating input forms containing controls fixed on the page, but also free-flow documents that are more suited for designing books, newspapers, documentation, and other items that are less concrete in their positioning. Best of all you can mix both types on different pages of a single document.

• Inline HTML, XSLT, XSL:FO processing commands gives you additional flexibility in your design, enabling you to use functionality that is not sometimes natively supported in StyleVision. User-defined items, namely user-defined elements or user-defined blocks, can be inserted at almost any point in a design template. You can use any XPath statement to specify the output for your design as well as the fact that you can import external XSLT files as part of your template design.

• Column formatting for print output formats lets you create static columns in your template design for printed output. This is something that is necessary for newspaper type layouts. This includes the ability for content to flow automatically from the bottom of one column to the top of the next. You can also force a new column as well when you need to.

• XHTML output can be selected at anytime giving you the ability to choose to generate HTML 4.01 or XHTML 1.0 Transitional output.

• Variables in design let you declare variables based on any XPath expression. This can be accessed by simply right-clicking the node template where the variable is to be applied. You can also rely on the XPath Builder to ensure a valid XPath statement.

StyleVision 2010 is available from Altova. It is $629 for the Enterprise version, $319 for the Professional version, and $129 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.

While there is a little learning curve to StyleVision, it is not too bad once you get the hang of it. The visual nature of the program will make it easy for designers to create and publish documents. For an easy-to-use single-source publishing and database reporting system, StyleVision is a perfect solution. There is a lot of online help as well as a PDF User and Reference manual that is almost 900 pages in length. If you are unsure if this product is for you, there is also a video that steps you through what all StyleVision can do. If you want an easy way to transform XML and database content into eye-catching output, you need to check out StyleVision 2010.

About T. Michael Testi

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

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