Review: Stylus Studio

Stylus Studio 6 XML Professional Edition
Sonic Software Corporation
Bedford, Massachusetts
(781) 999-7000

By now we all know that XML is a huge sprawling set of complex interrelated specifications. Stylus Studio is a tool for dealing with files that can handle many of those specifications, and it's one that does a good job of reducing all the angle bracket muck to some sort of sensible user interface. They're just out with version 6, and I took it out for a spin this week.

As you'd expect, the product can edit XML files. In fact, it can do so in four different tabbed views: color-coded text, a tree with spiffy icons, a grid, and a schema view. Naturally, changes made in any view are reflected in the others. Things like reformatting, validation, and checking for well-formedness are available at the click of a button. Any time you have an XML file open, you also have a textbox where you can type an XPath query, and get instant results in a sidebar; a toggle switch lets you choose betweem XPath 1.0 and XPath 2.0 query syntax.

XSLT is also easy to work with here. There's a nice editor that lets you quickly apply XSLT and see the results, and a WYSIWYG view of the XSLT that is a great help when you're planning to generate HTML. There's also a built-in mapper that lets you generate XSLT transforms between a pair of documents without needing to write anything by hand.

Need an XML Schema? The XSD support here is excellent, with a graphical editor that is very nice indeed. You can build schemas without writing a single angle bracket, though there are also color-coded text and tree views if you'd rather see the guts. When you're satisfied, a quick trip to another tab in the editor will generate a full set of HTML documentation of the schema for you.

There's support for using Web Services straight from the editor, and for working directly with relational databases as XML (you need to have a relatively current JRE installed for this piece to function). Another nice touch is the "Convert to XML" feature, which lets you specify how to map arbitrary input files to XML so that you can work with them in Stylus Studio. Also impressive is the set of file systems that the product can deal with directly: disk files, FTP, WebDAV, and Berkeley databases can all be treated as just another file source.

As you'd guess from the version number, this product has been around for a while. If you've used previous editions, here's the quick list of what's new in version 6: the convert to XML and schema editor features, support for XSLT 2.0 and the latest XQuery 1.0 spec, and the grid view of XML, as well as the usual improvements scattered throughout. Overall, this is a mature product that works quite well, and was capable of handling all the XML-related tasks that I threw at it. You can download a 30-day evaluation copy for free.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.


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