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Get the Right Tool(s) for the Job!

Get the Right Tool(s) for the Job!
Ed Tittel

While there are oodles and scads of tools to choose from when building XML documents or DTDs, it's sometimes hard to know what kind of tools to investigate and how much money to spend for them. That's why this tip points you at a bunch of great resources where you can browse and compare among tools, including functions and prices, at your leisure. One thing's for sure, though--when it comes to building XML documents or DTDs, life is a lot easier if you find and learn a good tool than if you hack your documents out the old-fashioned way: by hand, with an ASCII only editor!

When it comes to comparing XML tools, there are several Web sites that are nonpareils at presenting such information:

  1. Our Own Editor's Picks for "Tools and Utilities" includes sections on Authoring, Editors, XML Parsers, and much more that's worthy of investigation. Access this link in the "Editor's Picks" section on the home page at http://www.searchxmlresources.com.

  2. XML.com's "Buyer's Guide" includes a section entitled "Editors" that has as comprehensive a listing of options as any I've seen on the Web. Check it out at: http://www.xml.com/pub/pt/Editors.

  3. Ken Sall put together a peachy "XML Software Guide" for the Web Developer's Journal in late July 2000. It covers the landscape pretty thoroughly, and includes useful descriptive information about the tools it mentions as well. Read this over at: http://www.wdvl.com/Software/XML/.

  4. Robin Cover's SGML/XML site at Oasis-open includes more information on the subject than almost anyplace else, so it's no surprise he's got lists of tools to investigate. Please check out his list of software tools at: http://www.oasis-open.org/cover/xml.html#xmlSoftware and also at http://www.oasis-open.org/cover/commSW.html.

  5. XML Magazine offers both Product Guides and Resource Guides at its Web site at http://www.xmlmag.com/. For the product guide, please visit: http://www.devx.com/free/products/pgSearch.asp; for the resource guide it's: http://www.xmlmag.com/upload/free/features/xml/1999/01win99/rgwin99/rgwin99.asp.

I'm sure there are more good resources than this for XML tools (if you know of any real stunners, please drop me an e-mail at etittel@lanw.com so I can add them to this list), but those five cover enough stuff to make my head spin (and perhaps yours, too).

To add a note of quasi-reality to this bounteous bevy of (potentially) beautiful XML tools, let me mention that out of all the ones we've tried here at LANWrights, we've come to know and love five of them, listed below in alphabetical order:

  1. XML Spy from xmlspy.com is a combination XML and DTD editor that offers great functionality at an equally great price ($149 for a single-user license). It also handles XML schemas and XSLT markup, which makes it pretty fabulous as XML-savvy tools go. It's our current favorite in the crop of publicly available tools. Check it out at http://www.xmlspy.com/.

  2. CLIP! from Korean-based Techno2000 Ltd. is a great, compact, and cheap XML editor that can also generate simple DTDs from the markup it reads. It used to cost $99.95 and did a very nice job, but the company has vanished from the Internet (the Web site's inaccessible and their e-mail address bounces). Used to be our favorite until they went missing. Bummer!

  3. ArborText's EPIC Editor (formerly known as Adept Editor) is the Cadillac of tools mentioned in our short list. It offers the nicest user interface, once you climb the learning curve and learn how to configure it to meet your specific requirements, and includes a nice facility to bind the code to one or more specific DTDs to turn it into a "purpose-built" editor. At $1,300 to $2,700 for fixed (single DTD at a time) and concurrent (multiple DTDs at a time) version, and $230 to $460 yearly maintenance, you pay Cadillac prices, too, but EPIC's broad OS support and interoperability with document management systems make it a must for complex document processing environments. Visit http://www.arbortext.com/products/products.html for more information.

  4. SoftQuad's XMetaL is a worthy successor to that company's HoTMetaL line, and offers sophisticated raw text access to XML documents, or any of several intelligent word-processor-like interfaces. Also includes support for DOM tree displays, CSS, a variety of table formats, and much, much more. Visit http://www.softquad.com for more information (check under products). At $495 for a single-user license, this tool falls in the middle of the pack of products covered here.

  5. Vervet Logic's XML Pro 2.0 is another low-priced ($174.95 on CD, $149.95 download only) XML editor and document handling tool. It offers visual editing that includes a drag-and-drop facility, and support for IBM's XML4J XML parser. To support DTD editing, XML Pro 2.0 works with Microstar's Near and Far Designer product (available as a bundled deal for $299). Because of its clean, simple interface and easy-to-use controls, this tool is a favorite for several of our on-staff content developers. Visit http://www.vervet.com for a free evaluation download.

Personally, I'm down-hearted that CLIP!'s creators have gone missing, but XMLSpy is doing a pretty good job of consoling me for its apparent demise. I can only hope you find a tool that fits your hand as well as these tools fit mine. Happy XML documenting!

Ed Tittel is a principal author at LANWrights, Inc: a wholly owned subsidiary of LeapIt.com. LANwrights is a writing, training, and consulting company that covers markup languages, Web technologies, and certification topics.

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