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XPath Expressions for Data Reporting


In our earlier post titled Use XPath Expressions to Refine Data Selection, we described how to use XMLSpy to develop an XPath expression to select one table of data contained in a much larger data set provided by the US Department of Education.

An HTML report based on XPath data selection in StyleVision

We can reuse the work in XMLSpy to quickly create a StyleVision design for a report or an e-Form to communicate highlights from the data.
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Stop by booth 535 next week at Oracle OpenWorld


clip_image004September here at Altova means ramping up for a busy Autumn, beautiful cool crisp days in New England and… flying out to San Francisco for Oracle OpenWorld 2013! If you are planning on attending come by booth #535 in Moscone South and see Altova from September 23 – 25th for a demo of Altova’s tools for Oracle Users and to see our new line of cross-platform server software products: RaptorXML Server, FlowForce Server, MapForce Server and StyleVision Server. See first-hand how thesclip_image002e new products offer high-speed automaton for projects designed using familiar Altova MissionKit developer tools.

We would love to hear from you about your latest projects and challenges, collaborate on best practices or let us show you some of the new exciting things Altova has to offer. While you are at our booth mention this blog post to receive a special giveaway. Hope to see you next week in San Francisco!

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Use XPath Expressions to Refine Data Selection


In this era of big data we often need to simplify analysis and communication by creating customized views into sections of a larger file. XPath, short for XML Path Language, is designed to allow users to address parts of large XML documents. XMLSpy supports XPath with an XPath Analyzer window and in its interface for charting XML data, MapForce supports XPath functions for XML data mapping, and StyleVision supports XPath in conditional templates, extension templates, and template filtering.

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Web Service as a Look-Up Table to Refine GPS Data


Elevation data recorded by GPS devices is notoriously inaccurate, especially in hilly terrain like the Russian River Valley example from our earlier post.

The final elevation track plotted from the Russian River Valley GPX file is suspicious for several reasons. First, the graph shows we descended almost 50 feet below sea level. That’s hard to believe, since we were travelling along the bank of the river, only about 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean.

Altova StyleVision ChartSecondly, we were headed mostly west, following the river downstream, but the track shows a predominantly uphill trend.

We can evaluate the recorded GPS elevation data by comparing it to information available from the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The USGS operates a Web service that accepts latitude and longitude coordinates, and returns elevation data measured by NASA and assessed for accuracy based on over 13,000 control points in the continental United States.

Using the elevation Web service in an Altova MapForce mapping will let us extract each point from the GPX file, send the coordinates to the USGS Web service, and build a new GPX file with corrected elevation data.

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Creating Elegant Reports for GPS XML Data


In our earlier post on XML for Global Positioning Systems, we mentioned that adventurers and athletes might want to use XML data from their devices to keep a record of their trips, or even training sessions leading up a marathon or other special event. Several colleagues responded by offering example files!

Looking through all this data, we realized that plotting elevation changes over time would show interesting results for many activities. We used XMLSpy to create this customized line graph directly from the XML data to show elevation vs. time for an afternoon of bicycling through California wine country. We even applied the vineyard photo as a background image right from the XMLSpy chart settings dialog.

Line chart generated by XMLSpy

Whenever you want to elegantly present data from multiple XML data files based on the same XML Schema, Altova StyleVision is the tool that lets you design a richly featured stylesheet for repeatable output in HTML, RTF, PDF, or Microsoft Word formats. Here’s how we did It for our GPS XML data:

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The Global Positioning of XML


XML is everywhere. If you don’t believe it, get a USB cable and connect a GPS device to a computer, then browse for any file with the extension .gpx. We quickly found a 2 MB file named Current.gpx on a Garmin GPS. Opening it in XMLSpy reveals XML data and an XML Schema assignment at the top.

XML Schema assignment in an XML file

Scrolling through the body of the file displays numerous <trkpt> tags that record latitude and longitude along with <ele> and <time> tags reporting the elevation, date and time at that location.

View of an XML file in XMLSpy

Any place you may go in the world, XML is there to tell you where you are.

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Processing the Groupon API – Part 3


Concluding the series in this post, we will apply a stylesheet to transform the XML data created from our mapping of the Groupon API into HTML. Here is an example of the XML output from the data mapping we created last time: XML produced by MapForce from the Groupon API

Assign a Stylesheet to Transform XML The Component Settings dialog for the output component of the MapForce mapping allows us to assign a stylesheet created with Altova StyleVision.

Assigning a StyleVision Stylesheet to a MapForce component
Assigning a stylesheet to the data mapping output component integrates the operations of MapForce and StyleVision, and a new series of buttons appears at the bottom of the MapForce mapping window for HTML, RTF, PDF, and Microsoft Word formats. (You must have both MapForce and StyleVision installed on your computer.) MapForce ouput formats available through a stylesheet When you click any of these output format buttons, MapForce executes the data mapping exactly as we saw in the previous post. MapForce seamlessly passes the XML output to StyleVision, where it is transformed to the selected format. MapForce then displays the formatted document in the Output window. Here is the MapForce Output window for HTML, based on the StyleVision Power Stylesheet assigned above: HTML output produced by MapForce from the Groupon API The MapForce Output menu lets you save the XML data mapping output or the HTML document formatted according to the stylesheet. How to Make a Stylesheet We designed a stylesheet for the Groupon API data mapping using Altova StyleVision, based on the XML Schema for the MapForce output component. The intuitive StyleVision interface and powerful data access and manipulation features make it easy to create attractive documents in HTML, RTF, PDF, and Microsoft Word formats from XML files. The screenshot below shows the StyleVision Design View of the Extreme Groupon stylesheet. The blue numbered circles identify the location of each design feature listed following the image. StyleVision stylesheet for the MapForce Groupon API mapping Features of the SPS file

  1. User-defined html specifies the viewport meta tag for mobile devices. This lets us design one stylesheet to generate a single HTML file for computers and mobile devices
  2. Document title with customized font, size, and color
  3. An autocalc element uses the XPath count function to count the number of deals in the XML input document and inserts the total
  4. The date timestamp is placed at the top of the document even though the date element occurs at the end of the XML input data file
  5. Images from the Altova and Groupon Web sites are referenced by hyperlinks, not as inline image data
  6. Horizontal rules set off each individual deal. For HTML documents, the rules automatically fit the browser window width
  7. Customized fonts and sizes assigned to different elements
  8. A two-column table organizes each deal description
  9. URLs in the XML file are dynamically assigned as hyperlinks for embedded images, fixed text, and dynamic data

StyleVision Power Stylesheets can combine multiple .xsd files, existing .css stylesheets, database schemas, XBRL taxonomies, and more to produce richly formatted reports that can even include automatically generated charts in various styles. You can also use StyleVision to define e-forms with data entry fields, drop down menus, radio buttons and other advanced features. Previewing Stylesheet Transformations StyleVision lets you assign a working XML file to preview your output as you design the stylesheet, and the buttons along the bottom of the Design window make it convenient to display the formatted working file as you refine your design. We saved the XML output of the MapForce mapping and assigned it as our working document. When the stylesheet was complete, the HTML Preview in StyleVision was identical to the MapForce HTML Output window shown above. To view the document on a mobile device you can either deploy the HTML as a page on a Web site or email it as an attachment. HTML version of the MapForce mapped data on a mobile device In addition to the stylesheet itself and formatted versions of the working document, StyleVision lets you save generated XSLT files to transform other XML files using your stylesheet design outside the StyleVision application. Automation Next Time In the future when you want to re-run a data mapping and refresh the HTML document with up to date data, there are two ways to automate the process:

  • You can run MapForce from a command line with parameters to name the mapping definition file and even call StyleVision to create formatted output
  • You can generate royalty-free code for the mapping in XSLT, Java, C++, or C# to combine with the XSLT code from StyleVision to build your own end-to-end application

XMLSpy, MapForce, and StyleVision are all available together in the specially priced Altova MissionKit. See for yourself how easy it is to use the MissionKit to convert data from a Web API — download a free 30-day trial!
Editor’s Note: Our original series on mapping data from the Groupon API ran in three parts you can see by clicking the links here: Part 1 of Processing the Groupon API with Altova MapForce describes how to create dynamic input by collecting data from multiple URLs. Processing the Groupon API with MapForce – Part 2 describes how we filtered data from the API and defined the output to extract only the most interesting details. Processing the Groupon API – Part 3 describes formatting the output as a single HTML document optimized for desktop and mobile devices, and reviews ways to automate repeat execution.

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