Good free/cheap XML-and-XSL application?
November 16, 2006 4:22 PM   Subscribe

Good free/cheap XML-and-XSL application?

Two things have happened which affect my workplace.

One, a lot more people will need to work with XML and specifically with XSL transformations.

Two, Altova stopped distributing a free "Home" version of their XMLSpy app.

XMLSpy has its annoyances, but no-one could say it lacks features, even in the "Home" edition. Now, even the cheapest paid edition of the software is quite expensive for casual/incidental users -- it costs as much as Office.

Can anyone recommend an XML-wrangling app that's either free or cheap, and, hopefully, would let users select a particular XSLT processor to do the transformations?

Platform: Windows XP/2000.
posted by AmbroseChapel to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What is the desired output?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:26 PM on November 16, 2006

Mostly HTML, but I don't see how it helps to know that.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:11 PM on November 16, 2006

Because there is a very nice standalone Java app (that can be converted to a servlet for use in an app) that converts XML and XSL to XSL:FO, which can then be turned into PDF. It's called Fop. Although come to think of it, they're probably using the Xalan library to do the initial XSLT transformation.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:20 PM on November 16, 2006

Interesting, but, no, I don't need an application like that, I need a GUI application for desktop users to open foo.xsl, use it to transform bar.xml and see what the results look like.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:33 PM on November 16, 2006

Where are these XML files coming from? Sounds like your user just needs to apply a transform and see what it looks like in HTML...? If so, I would ask why anyone really needs to do this; if the XML is coming from a stable source (e.g., not a human), you could test all the permutations and automate the transform. If not, however--if the XML is being produced by people--I'd need more info to help, such as: do people have to author in XML? If so, who are they? (BTW, I've been doing this kind of publishing for 9 years, from back in the old SGML days.)
posted by sfkiddo at 6:59 PM on November 16, 2006

>Where are these XML files coming from? Sounds like your user just needs to apply a transform and see what it looks like in HTML...? If so, I would ask why anyone really needs to do this;

They will be editing the XSL, and viewing the results of a transform.

The XML will be out of their control. They won't be editing the XML much at all.

They will want to create and apply their own transforms to it using their own style sheets.

Are you seriously asking me why anybody ever needs to test an XSL transformation? I'm not sure how to answer that.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:39 PM on November 16, 2006

Do they just need any special xsl editing features because any good text editor can drive a 1 line batch file that will do a transform into html. Then users can view the resulting file in a browser. The workflow isn't difficult.
posted by mmascolino at 9:57 PM on November 16, 2006

Something like this?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:05 PM on November 16, 2006

I wrote a simple XML tool that lets you pick an XML file, XSL file, optional DTD, output file, does the transformation with Microsoft's XML engine, and shows you the XML/HTML/text output (in an external app if you want it). XML Converter, including screenshot and MSI installer. If it's useful...
posted by alasdair at 2:33 AM on November 17, 2006

Definitely check out Apache's Xalan transformation engine. You can develop XML in a smart text editor (as I do), and just verify your transforms on the command line. Xalan is fast, cheap, easy to use, and free.
posted by morallybass at 8:00 AM on November 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Here's a list of 'em.
posted by Merdryn at 8:33 AM on November 17, 2006

Thanks, merdryn. That list is very helpful. Although I have XMLSpy through my employer I wanted to find something similar in case I have to work in a not-so funded environment in the future.
posted by kookywon at 10:06 AM on November 17, 2006

AmbroseChapel: sorry, I misunderstood the question; thought the people were editing the XML files to publish them with a stable transform to HTML, not editing the XSLT. If they have enough savvy to edit the XSLT, I'd go with the text editor/command line suggestions.
posted by sfkiddo at 10:18 AM on November 17, 2006

This has been a very frustrating question. Somehow I seem to have asked it wrong.

I said I wanted a GUI Application like XMLSpy, but lots of the answers seem to think I was asking "I have some XSL transforming to do, how should I do it?". Clearly they didn't look at XMLSpy to see what I wanted to replace.

Perhaps I should have used the term "IDE"?

Let me spell it out, just for posterity: yes, XML/XSL can be done in Notepad and transformations done by the command line. HTML can be done in Notepad too, so why do people buy so many copies of Dreamweaver?

I'm looking for a GUI application which takes all that complexity away and holds your hand. "Xalan can do transforms!" is not a suitable answer to this question.

In XMLSpy, for instance, one edits the stylesheet, hits F10 and the transform just happens and a browser-view pane displays the HTML. My users are going to need something like that.

I'm going to give "best answer" to Civil_Disobedient and merdryn.

And here's my "best answer" -- with the help of merdryn's list and some other research, I'm giving the thumbs up to XMLBlueprint. It's not free but it's a tenth the price of XMLSpy and looks like it would replace 90% of its features.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 2:13 PM on November 17, 2006

Oh and a nod to alasdair too, that's a very useful little utility.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 2:16 PM on November 17, 2006

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