XML Review January 2013 Program night with Tom Magliery


Pam Drucker


Published: February 2013

Let’s Take the Mystery out of XML Presented by Tom Magliery,

XML Technology Specialist at Just Systems
To STC Canada West Coast - January 15, 2012
What is XML?
What is it used for?
How is it different from HTML?
Those were the written questions our presenter collected. Unsorted paper scraps became the metaphor for deconstructed data.

Next, Tom displayed page 1 chapter 1 of Pride and Prejudice. We read the opening aloud calling out page parts. Heading! Chapter! Body! Thus, we described document parts in our own words.

So, what is XML?

Most documents have structure and XML specifies how to represent structured data. Content can be processed with very little human intervention. The XML code is both human and machine readable. Except Microsoft XML which is not human readable. XML uses nests and tags like HTML. XML needs a publishing system. XML does styling thru style sheets.

How is XML different from HTML?

Both languages start and end in within tags, although tag names represent different information. Unlike HTML, XML employs a self-describing way of encoding text and data. Encoded text can represent any character in any language including Klingon!

What is DITA?

It’s an architecture for creating standard information types and domain-specific markup vocabularies. DITA is a spawn of Information Mapping and an XML vocabulary. Vocabulary can be well formed or valid. Maps characterize information by topic, concept, task, and reference.

What’s it all used for?

Advantages include reuse, consistency, reduced translation costs, and operating efficiencies. Structured authoring is writing in a way that separates content from format. Let the publishing system make the PDF or help files. In a publishing workflow structured authoring invokes rules that enforce consistent, organized information. The DITA Model provides an XML standard for defining a common structure.

What you see is what?

Desktop publishing gave us WYSIWYG. DITA gives us WYSIWOO, what you see is one option.

Markup, historically

SGML is an ISO standard for defining generalized markup languages. HTML and XML are extensions. A language once ubiquitous in large-scale operations, XML is now adopted by most companies if they use structured authoring. It helped that SGML was suitable for widespread application for small-scale, general purpose use.

Other considerations

• Analyzing content and workflows to understand benefit in cost savings
• Estimating costs of an editing system, a content management system, a publishing system
• Migrating content and transforming it to XML
• Adoption and training on XML.
• Customizing your solution a lot!

You must convert to XML if you want to fly

Weaving audience Q&A into the presentation helped to demystify markup language. It’s been joked that a set of SGML documentation about the Boeing 747 couldn’t fit on the plane. The manufacturer has since converted to the loftier XML. Yet another advantage to convert to XML.


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