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Transforming Data: Turning Data From One Format to Another

Data resources entered into a given system, such as records and files, may vary significantly in the size, complexity, and variety of their structure and content. As a result, there may be some cases where a given format for rendering records of a given structure is better than another.

For example, if we have a set of records that all have a fixed number of fields filled in, then we might prefer to display, render, and/or export them using a tabular format rather than, say, a tree (which is the default structure used for data display in the system).

col1 col2 col3
a b c
c b a
b a c

Example: Tabular format for tabular data.

When a user encounters these situations, they may wish to either use an existing solution which can provide the desired format for rendering/exporting, or they may, at minimum, wish to have some means for creating and using custom displays. In the case of custom displays, they may wish to make and use their own or, alternatively, be able to reuse those created and shared by others.

The MDCS supports all of these options through its use of XSLT transformations. Such transformations can be used for rendering or exporting data from its original format to some desired format.

Before one can use an XSLT transformation for rendering or exporting, a given XSLT file must become associated with one or more templates in the system so that when it comes time to render or export, users can have the option to transform their data into those kinds of output.

The MDCS addresses these kinds of problems by providing the capability to upload and associate XSLT files with appropriate templates for the purposes of rendering/transformation and/or exporting specific data sets.

The MDCS does not provide built-in means for editing or creating XSLT files. But it does provide the ability for an Administrative User to upload and associate one or more XSLT files with various templates and exporters in the system.

Once setup in this manner, Non-Administrative Users may then use and benefit from making these XSLT transformations available by selecting new export options which become available when a User wishes to save or export their data. In a similar fashion, a User might wish to merely have a different kind of display/rendering applied to particular kinds of data records. In those cases, once the Administrative User has uploaded and associated the relevant XSLT files, they may be linked to particular templates in such a way that results display performs their transformation upon the provided results data.

In these ways, the system provides a very flexible set of strategies to Users who may need to render and export data in a number of different ways.