“If you can speak of technical things only in technical terms, you do not understand them” ~ Albert Einstein,
Knowing about XML can be advantageous for a number of reasons. One being that it provides a complement to the stream of data exchange, as already seen. Another, because its nature allows for and is behind the technology you use everyday. Growing trends are starting to find full use of XML’s potential in the electronic world and learning about it now can help you to “future-proof” your technological needs and uses.
Where to start?
Well, now that you know the basics about XML, the next (and fun) part is realizing where you encounter it. More often than not, the hard part about understanding technical things is understanding how technology impacts our everyday activities on a non-technical level. So we’re taking XML out of the technical and abstract into the concrete world of reality.
1. You’re on the bus, in the mall or walking around downtown. You see a few people pulling out their cell phones and tablets.
Because XML is widely used for communication technology, applications of XML have been developed such as WML (Wireless Markup Language) and WAP (Wireless Application Protocol). What does this mean? It means that XML can be used for portable gadgets. WML is an XML-based language used to markup Internet applications. Thus, devices such as cell phones use XML data transfer. In other words, XML is responsible for the email transfers to your portable device.
2. You’re on the computer and you want to go onto the Web. You open up your Internet browser and start looking up stuff.
XML is becoming more widely supported by different browsers and on the Web in general, so today all modern browsers, such as the current version of MS Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera and Safari support this format. With XML and XSL, web designers can also construct the web sites you see by adopting the HTML with XML syntax using XSLT, resulting in HTML output in your browser.
3. You’re surfing the net, reading the news on-line, taking a look at random blogs and e-journal entries. No doubt you see the term, RSS (Really Simple Syndication) somewhere on the page.
RSS is an XML based schema format for content syndication on the web. Once web intended items are in the RSS format, a program called a news aggregator checks the site’s RSS feed for any new changes. Basically, news aggregators retrieve any new articles or items and update the static RSS file on your server. You may see this often on sites where information is consistently updated.
Thus, you’re already an avid user of XML without even realizing how frequently you come into contact with it. You can’t get any more concrete than that!
Of course, you can’t forego a whole article series on a data exchange format without mentioning the format of all portable formats—the PDF.
As a fast growing communication system, XML has become an industry standard solution for transmitting raw data. As such, the format needs to be integrated into current workflows on a level where it can be utilized with existing formats and where it can be easily accessible to those who work with digital documents. Consider the following:
So the question becomes, how do you integrate a forms solution containing specific structure and rendering requirements with already established digital work systems?
The best way is to convert PDF to XML and vice versa. This allows users to interact with XML content while working with a familiar and established format such as the PDF. Thus, the limitations of one format, whether it be format features, limited user abilities or lack of software, can all be minimized and facilitated with another.
Conversion software is currently available for the conversion between both formats, integrating XML into the workflow and accommodating the rapid changes occurring in content management systems.
You can bet that there will be more XML developments to come in the future. The versatility, compatibility and reusability of XML are pushing the format to becoming a widely used standard for both professional workers and average computer users.
There are a growing number of software applications with technology to support and design XML-based forms. In addition, with portable devices all around you, XML will undoubtedly play a major role in newer and faster devices with digital transfer on-the-go.
So keep looking and searching and if you browse around enough, you’ll start to notice a lot of XML around you and you’ll be glad that you have a basic knowledge of the format to keep you in the loop!