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Preview: The XML FAQ: Frequently-Asked Questions about the Extensible Markup Language

The XML FAQ: Frequently-Asked Questions about the Extensible Markup Language



Frequently-Asked Questions about the Extensible Markup Language



Copyright: Copyright 1998-2005, Silmaril Consultants
 



[basics] What is XML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

The Extensible Markup Language.



[basics] What is a markup language?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

A way of describing what's what in a document.



[basics] What is XML for (aka ‘Where should I use XML’)?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

XML is for identification, transmission, and storage.



[basics] What is SGML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Standard Generalized Markup Language, ISO 8879:1986



[basics] What is HTML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

HyperText Markup Language, RFC 1866, the language of Web pages.



[basics] Aren't XML, SGML, and HTML all the same thing?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

No, SGML and XML are metalanguages. HTML is an application of them.



[basics] Who is responsible for XML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

The W3C



[basics] Why is XML such an important development?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

It overcomes the inflexibility of HTML and the complexity of SGML



[basics] Why not just carry on extending HTML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

HTML is already too overburdened with proprietary add-ons.



[basics] Why should I use XML? (aka ‘What is XML for?)’

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

It's a robust, durable, manipulable, and free format for information identification, storage and transfer.



[basics] Where do I find more information about XML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

At http://xml.coverpages.org/



[basics] Where can I discuss implementation and development of XML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

On mailing lists, Usenet newsgroups, web-based bulletin-boards, and IRC channels



[basics] What is the difference between XML and C or C++ or Java?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

C and Java are for writing programs; XML is for storing text.



[users] What do I have to do to use XML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

To read it: an XML browser (eg Firefox or IE). To create: an XML editor (Emacs, Spy, etc).



[users] Should I use XML instead of HTML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Yes if you need robustness, accuracy, and persistence.



[users] Someone sent me an XML file. How do I read it?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Open it in an XML browser or XML editor.



[users] Where can I get an XML browser?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

MSIE 5.5 or 6.*; Mozilla Firefox 0.9.6 up



[users] Do I have to switch from SGML or HTML to XML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Not if you don't want to



[users] Can I use XML for ordinary office applications?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Yes, use Star Office, Open Office, WordPerfect, or even MS-Office (11/XP only).



[authors] Does XML replace HTML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

No.



[authors] Do I have to know HTML or SGML before I learn XML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

No, but it's useful.



[authors] What does an XML document actually look like (inside)?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Pointy brackets like HTML



[authors] How does XML handle white-space in my documents?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Parsers keep it all. It's up to the application to decide what to do with it.



[authors] Which parts of an XML document are case-sensitive?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

All of it, both markup and text.



[authors] How can I make my existing HTML files work in XML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Either make them XHTML or use a different document type.



[authors] Is there an XML version of HTML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Yes, XHTML from W3C









[authors] Can XML use non-Latin characters?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Yes, this is the default



[authors] What's a Document Type Definition (DTD) and where do I get one?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

A specification of document structure. You can write one or download them.



[authors] Does XML let me make up my own tags?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Yes but they're not called tags. They're element types.



[authors] How do I create my own document type?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Analyse the class of documents, and write a DTD or Schema



[authors] How do I write my own DTD?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Learn XML Declaration Syntax



[authors] Can a root element type be explicitly declared in the DTD?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

No, use the Document Type Declaration.



[authors] I keep hearing about alternatives to DTDs. What's a Schema?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Like a DTD for validating content as well as structure.



[authors] How do I get XML into or out of my database?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Ask your database manufacturer



[authors] How will XML affect my document links?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

XML Links are much more powerful, but not yet implemented in browsers



[authors] Can I encode mathematics using XML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Yes, using MathML.



[authors] How does XML handle metadata?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Any way you want.



[authors] Can I use JavaScript, ActiveX, etc in XML files?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Not in the XML file itself, but via a stylesheet.



[authors] Can I use Java to create or manage XML files?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Sure.



[authors] How do I execute or run an XML file?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Not a meaningful question. XML is a data format.



[authors] How do I control formatting and appearance?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Use a CSS or XSLT stylesheet.



[authors] How do I use graphics in XML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Reference them as for HTML or use XLink. Or embed SVG.



[authors] What is parsing and how do I do it in XML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Parsing is splitting up information into its component parts



[authors] How do I include one XML file in another?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Use a general entity, same as for SGML



[authors] When should I use a CDATA Marked Section?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

CDATA is only for text containing markup-like characters.



[authors] How can I handle embedded HTML in my XML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Provide for it in the output, use a deep copy, or try disable-output-escaping.



[authors] What are the special characters in XML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Just five: < (<), & (&), > (>), " ("), and ' (')



[developers] Where's the spec?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Right here [http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-xml]



[developers] What are these terms DTDless, valid, and well-formed?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Well-formed means syntactically correct (DTD or not); valid means a DTD has been used.



[developers] Which should I use in my DTD, attributes or elements?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

See [http://xml.coverpages.org/elementsAndAttrs.html]



[developers] What else has changed between SGML and XML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Stricter syntax and no options.



[developers] What's a namespace?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

A named DTD/Schema fragment identified by a URI (URL).



[developers] What XML software is available?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Thousands of programs: too many to list here.



[developers] What's my information? DATA or TEXT?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

It depends on what you're using it for.



[developers] Do I have to change any of my server software to work with XML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Make sure your server sends XML files as text/xml



[developers] Can I still use server-side inclusions?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Yes, just make sure the output conforms to XML



[developers] Can I (and my authors) still use client-side inclusions?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Yes, just make sure the output conforms to XML



[developers] I'm trying to understand the XML Spec: why does it have such difficult terminology?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

It has to be formal to be accurate.



[developers] I have to do an overview of XML for my manager/client/investor/advisor. What should I mention?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Non-proprietary multi-purpose flexible markup



[developers] Is there a conformance test suite for XML processors?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Yes, see [http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/xmltest/testsuite.htm]



[developers] I've already got SGML DTDs: how do I convert them for use with XML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Edit by hand or use software like Near+Far Designer.



[developers] How do I include one DTD (or fragment) in another?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Use a parameter entity, same as for SGML



[developers] How can I include a conditional statement in my XML?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

You can't: XML isn't a programming language. But you can have conditional criteria in a Schema, DTD, or a processor.



[developers] What's the story on XML and EDI?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Getting there: still needs more work and agreement.



[appendix] References

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

There is a much larger XML and SGML bibliography at [http://xml.coverpages.org/biblio.html].



[appendix] How far are we going?

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

To infinity and beyond!



[appendix] Not the XML FAQ

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Infrequently Asked Questions: XLS; XML; Colour; Editing; Games; SOAP; Serving XML; Line breaks; XML Protocol; Javascript; TMX; XUL; XMLHTTP; White-space; Searching; asp.net; Disadvantages; Rendering; Floating-point; Enumeration; XLL; Special characters; Loops; UML; Multimedia; Well-formed; SML; Sorting; WAP; GTT; BPEL; Idempotency; RSS; Variables; Environment variables; Entities; AJaX; Pipelining; Attributes; URI parsing errors; Tables; Byte Order Mark; Patents, Copyright, and Intellectual Property; Escaping; Data export; Data import; Text document formatting functions



[appendix] Lost XML software

Sat, 24 Apr 2010 15:52:33 +0100

Some of the best software that has disappeared