XML authoring tools automate the process of adding XML tags to standard word processing documents. For example, WizeUp.com, a digital college textbook publisher in New York City, uses Enigma's DynaTag to insert searchable and printable notes into its textbooks. The XML tags ensure that notes will appear at the appropriate locations within the text.
DynaTag was originally an authoring tool for SGML. Others that have evolved from SGML include Arbortext's Adept and Adobe Systems' FrameMaker + SGML.
Give and Take
Even in corporate settings, many of the most widely used XML tools are the parsers, XSL processors and other tools available free from vendors' websites or those of nonprofit organizations. For example, insurance e-commerce technology provider ChannelPoint.com in Colorado Springs, Colo., has used XML in developing an internet portal for insurance and benefits brokers and agents. ChannelPoint Chief Architect Tom LaStrange used open-source tools including the IBM XML4J parser and Java-based LotusXSL stylesheet technology to create XML data models of paper-based forms for online enrollment. XML4J and LotusXSL are both available through a free download from AlphaWorks, IBM's website for emerging software technology (www.alphaworks.ibm.com). LotusXSL is also available from the Apache Software Foundation.
In fact, the marketplace for XML tools has begun to resemble the market for Java development tools, in which some of the most widely used tools are ones that vendors have donated. However, the traditional caveats regardingg open-source software still apply. "If a developer's goal is to gain an understanding of the technology, open-source tools work well," says Goulde. "But if the goal is to build an application, developers will want the service and support that a vendor can provide paying customers."
How risky is it to use open-source XML tools? That depends on which tool you're using. "If you are using an XML parser or conversion tool, you have not lost anything but time if the tool does not work," says Barry. However, he adds, it's an entirely different situation where data storage is involved. "If you are using an XML product that stores data, your company is at serious risk if the data storage breaks and corrupts your data. It's essential to have extensive support for any XML server that supports large databases and busy websites," he says.
Room for Improvement
But despite the flurry of XML tool announcements, there are still holes to be filled. One tool that Food.com's Mayfield is still seeking is a good XSL creation tool. "I'd like to find tools that would make stylesheets easier to use. These tools would eliminate some of the need for writing browser-specific code," he says.