The world of data is moving away from proprietary systems towards open formats that lend themselves to data sharing. The demand is clear. Data must be free to move more easily than before. With this we’ve seen an increasing usage of XML documents across all industries. In the geospatial community, XML is no longer just a way of sharing large datasets.
A year ago we responded to this growing trend by improving the way FME handles XML. During 2011, we launched the XML Challenge to fantastic response with many submissions from people who sent us samples of XML problems they were wrestling with. This user feedback was crucial in driving the improvements we have made with FME 2012.
The need for consuming and producing XML documents is greater than ever before. And with the FME 2012 release, I can confidently say that it’s now even easier to work with XML. You may even learn to love it!
8 Ways We Improved FME to Handle XML
Here are some of the XML improvements in FME 2012 – many of these driven by user feedback.
XML User Experience
While many of the improvements are in the underlying XML transformation capabilities, we’ve also completely overhauled the XML user experience in FME 2012. Everything XML is now consistent from view to view.
XML Metadata Document Reading and Writing
This is easier than ever before thanks to the new improved XML interfaces. Here is a sample showing how much easier it is to work with metadata documents. Regardless of the metadata standard: OGC, ISO, FGDC, or others – it’s all easy with FME 2012.
XML Documents with GML Geometry
During the XML challenge a user sent me an XML document in which the geometry was encoded using GML primitives. While this is not a GML document I can appreciate why they adopted the GML representation for their geometric objects. A year ago, we couldn’t read this but now thanks to this user’s feedback, it’s extremely easy with FME 2012.
Updating XML Documents
Other people told us: “I don’t want to read or write XML documents. I only want to update a few elements within a whole bunch of documents”. A year ago, this was possible but required a huge effort. As a result of this feedback, we created a new XMLUpdater transformer for FME 2012. This powerful transformer actually gives users a whole new “path-based” way of building, editing, and updating XML documents.
XML Writing – No Sample Required
A year ago we added XML template-based data writing which allowed you to create new XML documents very easily from any data sample. However, to do this you were required to have a representative data sample. With our new XML Sample generation technology, you can now write XML without first needing to find a sample.
XML Writing – Nested Objects Made Simple
With FME 2012 we have also extended our template writing technology to make it easier to write deeply nested XML documents.
If there are enough requests, I’ll also createBelow is a video for the FME 2012 redux of “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly”. You can see last year’s version here (starting at 12:35).
XML Based Format Support
The list of XML-based formats that we ship out-of-the-box continues to grow with each release. Here’s the list of new XML-based formats in alphabetical order:
- AIXM 5.1 Reader – see the video below
- CityGML – while not strictly new I’m convinced our reading now leads the industry.
- INSPIRE Reader
- OS Survey VectorMap Reader
- Top50NL Reader
XML Reading building Blocks
A massive number of XML document types exist which don’t fall into any “FME Format”. For these you simply just select XML and specify the tags you are interested in and away you go.
The Quest for Feedback Continues
We’re always on the lookout for feedback from users and others alike. If you want FME 2013 to support a new XML-based format, or if you want an improvement or some new functionality added – let me know by commenting below or sending your suggestion to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2012, the XML Challenge continues; if you’re struggling with a tricky XML problem, send us your data. We’ve already had a few submissions in 2012 and are looking forward to seeing how your feedback will help us improve this year – and hopefully lead you to love XML like I do.
If you already love XML as much as I do – and even if you don’t – you’re also invited to join me for a webinar on Feb 16th that I’m presenting on writing XML with FME (you can catch last week’s webinar on reading XML here). Hope to see you there!
Don MurrayDon is the co-founder and President of Safe Software. Safe Software was founded originally doing work for the BC Government on a project sharing spatial data with the forestry industry. During that project Don and other co-founder, Dale Lutz, realized the need for a data integration platform like FME. When Don’s not raving about how much he loves XML, you can find Don working with the team at Safe to take the FME product to the next level. You will also find him on the road talking with customers and partners to learn more about what new FME features they’d like to see.