Use the flexibility of XEP to render and publish XML presentations

XEP, from RenderX, is a commercial-grade rendering engine that takes XML data and parses it into a viewable or printable format.

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.