Calling itself the first company in the world to do so, RenderX has
rolled out a commercial-grade XML rendering engine called XEP. The engine
provides an extra tool for publishing quality XML presentations by essentially
creating the “missing link” between XML technology and traditional
publishing formats and platforms. XEP, the company’s flagship product, is a
formatting engine that takes XML data and parses it into printable copy.

According to Kevin Brown, sales manager of RenderX, the idea
was born in Russia with the angel investor and founder of the company Roman Kagarlitsky,
who is still with the company as a CEO.

From an office in downtown Palo Alto, CA, a small team of
employees at RenderX markets and promotes a series of products designed for
database reporting (invoices, for example), publishing volumes of transactional
documents (mortgage loans), or producing long-lived documents. The target
customers are ones who “want to do a million phone bills from Sprint and
get them out overnight,” says Brown.

According to Brown, in 1999, the first customer shipment
occurred and—after a few revisions—XEP 4.0 (Figure A) was completed. Recently, RenderX developed a version of
XEP for Microsoft that guides Microsoft Word through RenderX’s system and
reproduces those documents as PDFs.

Figure A

The basic interface

An add-on to XEP was later released, called EnMasse,
which is a server for high-performance formatting of XML documents. It’s
described as “a high-performance publishing server that connects all of
our programs,” by Brown. “It’s like a traffic cop who says ‘You’re
not busy here, take some data.’” What makes this product different from
others on the market is that it is “based on an industry-standard way of
specifying layouts,” says Brown. XEP conforms to Extensible Stylesheet
Language (XSL) Version 1.0, a W3C recommendation. It also supports a subset of
the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 1.1 Specification.

Anatol Kaganovitch, vice president of marketing at RenderX,
agrees: “It’s a very fast way of taking a stream of data in XML, turning
it into a high-quality professional publication without anyone ever touching
it,” he says.

Customers of RenderX’s XEP include Charles Schwab, Golden
Sachs, Dun & Bradstreet, and Nationwide Insurance. Traditional textbook
publishers, user guides for major manufacturing products, and companies that
issue “flowing reports” (containing both text and graphics) have also
signed on.

There are free trial downloads on the company’s Web site, as
well as four online demos that give potential customers a feel for the products—the
demos include Books Formatted with XEP,
XML FO Tips and Tricks, Barcodes Generator, and Business Graphics with XEP.

A similar product from RenderX, called Doc Bench, is an
add-on for the single-user customer, basically an editorial publishing tool
that allows cell-phone bill or e-book pages to be printed with speed.

An example

To give you an example on how XEP works, TechRepublic
downloaded a trial version of the software and used it to render a PDF version of the test XML file found in Listing A.

Note, XEP requires a current version of the Java Virtual
Machine to run properly. The example PDF gives you a sense for the kind of
flexibility you can achieve under the RenderX system.

XEP can be a good fit for enterprises that have business
processes involving:

  • Creation
    of database reports in both PDF and print formats.
  • Assembling
    large volumes of transactional documents and personalized correspondence.
  • Production
    of a wide variety of static documents such as educational materials or
    technical manuals.

XEP has been used successfully in many organizations where
the mass production of dynamic documents using the flexibility of XML is an
integral part of the business operation.