TopBraid Enterprise Vocabulary Net (EVN) has become known as one of the premier tools for multi-user management of distributed taxonomies, but fewer people know that it is not limited to taxonomies. EVN can work with any RDF/OWL model and data, bringing its change management, collaboration, data quality rules, standards support, and support for web services communication to the curation of all ontologies. Its ability to network together standardized and customized ontologies and taxonomies lets your enterprise metadata management get more value out of all of these resources.
First, to set a baseline on terminology, when I say “taxonomy” (or “thesaurus”) I'm referring to the management of terms and the metadata associated with those terms, often to enhance search, data integration, and other projects where better management of those terms can lead to increased revenue. When I talk about “ontologies,” I'm referring to data models of classes and properties—either your own, from published standards, or a combination—with optional instance data. For further detail, see our white paper Controlled Vocabularies, Taxonomies, And Thesauruses (and Ontologies).
So what are the differences between EVN's taxonomy and ontology editors? You can think of EVN's taxonomy editor as a version of the ontology editor that we've customized to work with data that fits the standardized SKOS ontology that the W3C designed for taxonomists, and EVN's ontology editor as a more general-purpose editor for any models and data that fits those models.
TopQuadrant's TopBraid Composer has been the leading tool for work with standards-based ontologies for several years now. It is a powerful tool not only for ontology development, but also for transforming RDF data and building ontology-based applications. Its users are often software designers, architects, and developers. Like TopBraid Composer, TopBraid EVN lets you create and edit any RDFS or OWL schemas and associated data, but with a more streamlined interface that is well-suited for business users. While Composer is a single-user tool, EVN is server-based with a web browser user interface for multi-user collaboration.
When you create a taxonomy with TopBraid EVN, SKOS is automatically included in the new model. The taxonomy editor's data import utilities expect SKOS (or hierarchical spreadsheets that can be mapped to SKOS) and displays the results as a tree of terms in EVN's concept hierarchy.
With ontologies, EVN makes no assumptions about the model or data. Users start by creating classes and properties along with any data they want to include with the model. As with taxonomies, ontologies are networked and can include other models by reference. You can also pre-populate the model by importing any RDF/OWL file.
When editing ontologies with EVN instead of TopBraid Composer, you gain the advantages of workgroup collaboration. EVN is integrated with LDAP, and each model can have its own set of permissions. You can see who made which changes right on the editing form as well as in several available reports. Users with view-only permissions can't change the models, but they can make comments and request changes. In addition to making changes directly to the production copy of an ontology, users can store proposed changes in working copies and grant co-workers specific access levels to that working copy so that they can review and run reports on it before you (or someone who has been granted the appropriate permission) puts it into production.
By simply filling out a form, you can define SPIN-based data quality rules that alert users at data entry time if they violate a data quality constraint. The same rules also drive a report that you can run to check for problems with all the ontology data at once—for example, right after importing data from an external source.
You probably don't work with either taxonomies or ontologies just for the fun of it. EVN can make your curated taxonomies, ontologies, and data available to other systems in a Service Oriented Architecture through RESTful web services so that this data can enhance the operations of those other systems. (The video Search Enhancement with TopBraid Enterprise Vocabulary Net shows one such example.) EVN makes it easy to create custom web services by searching for the data you want with EVN's search form and then “saving” the search using a form that includes the URL to call for remote invocation of that search. A SPARQL endpoint is also available, offering both read and write access.
EVN lets you add add, edit, and delete instances with the click of a button or menu choice. As with the taxonomy editor, the “Batch edit search results” feature lets you add, change, or delete a property value for multiple instances at once after you've identified the relevant instances with EVN's powerful search form.
Another new feature of 4.5 is a web-based Forms editor. Using this, EVN users can customize the search, browse and edit forms for instances of any class in the ontology.
Sometimes our customers are unsure whether taxonomies or ontologies will best serve their needs. We work with them to determine the right fit, which may end up being a combination of taxonomies and ontologies. It's good to know that TopBraid EVN can handle them all. Take a look at EVN's User Guide to find out about all the features available in the ontology and taxonomy editors, or contact us to learn more about how TopBraid EVN can address your ontology and taxonomy management needs.