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whichaddsmorepresentationalelements,bettersupportformultimediaand
mobiledevices,andhasalessrigiddocumentmodel.
ThereisanexplanationfromElliotteRustyHarold,andaHTML5FAQfrom
theWhatWG.
HTML5inconjunctionwithCSS3isnowregardedastheprevailingstandard
forwebdevelopment.
1.8 Aren’t XML, SGML, and HTML all the same thing?
No, SGML and XML are metalanguages. HTML, XHTML, and HTML
are allapplications ofthem.
Not quite;SGML is the mother tongue, and has been used for describing
thousands of different document types in many fields of human activity, from
transcriptions ofancientIrishmanuscripts to thetechnicaldocumentation
for stealth bombers,andfrom patients’ medical and clinical recordsto
musical notation. SGMLisverylargeandcomplex,however,andoverkillfor
most common office desktop applications.
XML is an abbreviated version of SGML, to make it easier to use over the
Web, easier for you to define your own document types, and easier for
programmers to write programs to handle them. It omits all the complex
and less-used options of SGML in return for the benefits of being easier to
write applications for, easier to understand, and more suited to delivery and
interoperability over the Web. But it is still based on SGML, and XML files
may still be processed in the same way as any other SGML file (see the
question onXMLsoftware).
HTML, XHTML,and HTML5arejustthoseXMLapplicationsmost
frequently used on the Web.
Technical readers may find it more useful to think of XML as being
SGML   rather than HTML++.
(Ed: In respect of this last paragraph, seeQuestion1.16onpage19
andQuestion2.7onpage31.)
11
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1.9 Who is responsible for XML?
The W3C
XML is a Recommendation of theWorldWideWebConsortium(W3C), and
the development of the specification is supervised by an XML Working
Group. A Special Interest Group of co-opted contributors and experts from
various fields contributed comments and reviews by email.
XML is a public format: it is not a proprietary development of any company,
although the membership of the WG and the SIG represented companies as
well as research and academic institutions. Thev1.0specification was
accepted by the W3C as a Recommendation on Feb 10, 1998.
1.10 Why is XML such an important development?
It overcomes the inflexibility ofHTML and the complexityofSGML
It removes two constraints which were holding back Web developments:
1. dependence on a single, inflexible document type (HTML) which was
being much abused for tasks it was never designed for;
2. the complexity of fullSGML, whose syntax allows many powerful but
hard-to-program options.
XML allows the flexible development of user-defined document types. It
provides a robust, non-proprietary, persistent, and verifiable file format for
the storage and transmission of text and data both on and off the Web; and it
removes the more complex options of SGML, making it easier to program
for.
1.11 Why not just carry on extending HTML?
HTML is alreadytoo overburdened with proprietary add-ons.
12
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HTMLwasalreadyweigheddownwithdozensofinterestingbut
incompatible inventions from different manufacturers, because it provides
only one way of describing your information.
XML allows groups of people or organisations tocreatetheirown
customised markup applicationsforexchanginginformationintheirdomain
(music, chemistry, electronics, hill-walking, finance, surfing, petroleum
geology, linguistics, cooking, knitting, stellar cartography, history,
engineering, rabbit-keeping,mathematics,genealogy, etc).
HTML as originally conceived is now well beyond the limit of its usefulness
as a way of describing information, and whileXHTMLandHTML5will
continue to play an important role for the content they can represent, many
new applications require a more robust and flexible infrastructure.
1.12 Does XML replace HTML?
No.
No. XML itself does not replace HTML. Instead, it provides an alternative
which allows you to define your own set of markup elements. HTML is
expected to remain in common use on the web, and the current versions of
HTML (XHTMLandHTML5) are in XML syntax.
XML is designed to make the writing of processing software much easier
than with SGML, which is what the original HTML was based on.
1.13 Why should I use XML?
It’s arobust, durable, manipulable, and free format for information
identification, storage andtransfer.
Here are a few reasons for using XML (in no particular order). Not all of
these will apply to your own requirements, and you may have additional
reasons not mentioned here (if so, please let the editor of the FAQ know!).
13
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• XML can be used to describe and identify information accurately and
unambiguously, in a way that computers can be programmed to
‘understand’ your information (well, at least manipulate as if they could
understand it).
• XML allows sets of documents which are all the same type to be
created and handled consistently and without structural errors, because
it provides a standardised way of describing, controlling, or
allowing/disallowing particular types of document structure. [Note that
this has absolutely nothing whatever to do with formatting, appearance,
or the actual text or data content of your documents, only the structure
of them. If you want styling or formatting, seeQuestion2.5onpage25.]
• XML provides a robust and durable format for information storage and
transmission. Robust because it is based on a proven standard, and can
thus be tested and verified; durable (persistent) because it uses plain-text
file formats which will outlast proprietary binary ones.
• XML provides a common syntax for messaging systems for the
exchange of information between applications. Previously, each
messaging system had its own format and all were different, which
made inter-system messaging unnecessarily messy, complex, and
expensive. If everyone uses the same syntax it makes writing these
systems much faster and more reliable.
• XML is free. Not just free of charge (free as in beer) but free of legal
encumbrances (free as in speech). It doesn’t belong to anyone, so it
can’t be hijacked or pirated. And you don’t have to pay a fee to use it
(you can of course choose to use commercial software to deal with it,
for lots of good reasons, but you don’t pay for XML itself).
• XML information can be manipulated programmatically (under
machine control), so XML documents can be pieced together from
disparate sources, or taken apart and re-used in different ways. They
can be converted into any other format with no loss of information.
• XML lets you separate form (appearance) from content. Your XML file
contains your document information (text, data) and identifies its
structure: your formatting and other processing needs are identified
separately in astylesheetor processing system. The two are combined
14
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at output time to apply the required formatting to the text or data
identified by its structure (location, position, rank, order, or whatever).
• Any of the Design Goals listed in theXMLSpecification.
Peter Flynnwrites:
W
HY NOT JUST USE
W
ORD OR
N
OTES
?
Restrictedproprietarydataformatsareunsuitablefordurablepublic
information.
Informationonanetworkwhichconnectsmanydifferenttypesof
computerhastobeusableonallofthem. Publicinformationinparticular
cannotaffordtoberestrictedtoonemakeormodelormanufacturer,or
tocedecontrol ofitsdataformattoprivatehands. Itisalsohelpfulfor
suchinformationtobeinaformthatcanbereusedinmanydifferent
ways,asthiswillminimisewastedtimeandeffort.Proprietarydata
formats,nomatterhowwelldocumentedorpublicised,aresimplynotan
option: theircontrolstill residesinprivatehandsandtheycanbechanged
orwithdrawnarbitrarilywithout notice.
SGMListheinternationalstandardfordefiningthiskindofapplication,
andwasthereforethenatural choiceforXML,butthosewhoneedan
alternativebasedondifferentsoftwareforotherpurposesareentirely
freetoimplementsimilarservicesusingsuchasystem,especiallyifthey
areforprivateuse.
1.14 Where do I find more information about XML?
Online and offline resources
Online, there’s theXMLSpecificationand the ancillary documentation
available from theW3C; Robin Cover’sXMLCoverPageswith an extensive
list of online reference material and links to software; and asummary and
condensed FAQfromTimBray;andthousandsofreferenceresources
available bytyping‘xml’intoGoogle or other search engine.
For offline resources, see the lists of books, articles, and software for XML in
Robin Cover’sXMLCoverPages(articles and books). That site should
always be your first port of call for archived resources.
15
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For access to experts, particularly in consultancy and training, see theXML
Guild,whosemembersformaconsortiumofsomeofthebestindependent
XML consultants in the world.
The events listed below are the ones I have been told about. Pleasemailme
if you come across others: there are many other XML events around the
world, and most of them are announced on themailinglistsandnewsgroups.
U
PCOMING
E
VENTS
WWW2016 The25thInternationalWorldWideWebConferencetakes
placeattheUniversitédeQuébecàMontréal,CanadaonApril11˘15,
2016.
XMLL
ONDON
XMLLondon(XMLandSemanticWebConference)willbe
heldinUniversityCollegeLondononJune4–5,2016.
TUG2016 TheT
E
XUsersGroup2016conferencewillbeinToronto,
Canada,on25–27July2016. Althoughprimarilyrelatedto
typesetting,manyaspectsofLAT
E
Xarecloselyrelatedtotheuseof
XMLandthehandlingofstructureddocuments.
B
ALISAGE
TheBalisagemarkupconference(theprincipaltechnical
meeting)willbeinBethesdaMDonAugust2–5. Therewill bea
pre-conferencesymposiumXMLIn,WebOut: International
Symposiumonsubrosa XMLtheprecedingday(August1st).
XMLS
UMMERSCHOOL
TheannualXMLSummerSchoolwillbeheldinSt
EdmundHall,Oxfordon12–16September2016,withanafternoon
IntrotoXMLonSunday11th. Thisweek-longeventcoverseverything
fromanintroductionforthebeginneruptoXMLinpublishing,
transformationwithXSLT2andXQuery,andtheuseofLinkedData.
XMLP
RAGUE
XMLPrague2016washeldon11–13February2016atthe
UniversityofEconomics,Prague. Videosareavailableontheir
YouTubechannel (linkonsite).
XMLA
MSTERDAM
XMLAmsterdam2015washeldonNovember5atthe
CentrumWiskunde&Informatica(CWI)SciencePark,Amsterdam.
ThenextXMLAmsterdamwillbein2017.
M
ARKUP
F
ORUM
MarkupForum5(includingGeekCorner!)tookplaceon
20November2015attheHochschulederMedien(HdM)Stuttgart,
Germany.
D
IGITAL
H
UMANITIES
C
ONFERENCE
2016 TheDigitalHumanitiesConference
2016willbeheldinKraków,Poland,on12–17July2016,hostedby
JagiellonianUniversityandthePedagogicalUniversityofKraków.
TheuseofXML(TEI)markupisastrongfeatureofDHconferences.
16
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1.15 Where can I discuss implementation and
development of XML?
Onmailing lists, Usenetnewsgroups, web-based bulletin-boards,
and IRC channels
The principal online support media are web forums and mailing lists. Usenet
newsgroups for XML exist but are rarely used now, although searching them
viaGoogleGroupscan turn up a lot of useful information. The IRC network
is also used to some extent, and most individual XML projects and programs
have their own topic-specific bulletin-boards on their web sites. There is also
an unknown number of related question-and-answer forum sites which are
findable using search engines.
For off-line support, seeQuestion1.14onpage15for details of conferences
and summerschools.
• The most active web forum seems to beStackOverflow: oddly there
seems to be no special-purpose StackExchange XML site like there is
for other topics (egL
A
T
E
X).The W3Schools XML Forum(wholly
unrelated to the W3C) also seems to have recent traffic, as doDevShed
andCodingForums. AGooglesearchwill turn up many others with
lower levels of traffic.
• The main Usenet newsgroup iscomp.text.xml, although it is much less
used than formerly. Ask your Internet Provider for access to Usenet, or
use a Web interface like thesearchablearchivemaintainedbyGoogle.
If your browser or mailer doesn’t provide newsreading facilities, install
one that does, or (better) use a standalone newsreader.
Thecomp.text.sgmlnewsgroup is for all practical purposes no longer
used. The Microsoft-specific newsgroups are being phased out in
favour of web-based forums hosted by Microsoft themselves.
• The general-purpose mailing list for public discussion isXML-L: to
subscribe, visittheWebsite and click on the link to join.
• For those developing software components for XML there is the
xml-dev mailing list. Youcansubscribebysendinga1–linemail
17
message toxml-dev-request@lists.xml.org saying just SUBSCRIBE. Note
that this list is for those people actively involved in developing
resources for XML. It is not for general information about XML (use
the XML-L list above for that).
• The XSL-List is for for discussing XSL (both XSLT and XSL:FO). For
details of how to subscribe, see
http://www.mulberrytech.com/xsl/xsl-list.
• There is a long list of other discussion groups, mailing lists, and forums
on Robin Cover’s site athttp://xml.coverpages.org/lists.html.
AndrewWattwrites:
Thereisamailinglist specificallyforXSL-FOonly,oneGroups.com. You
cansubscribebysendingamessagetoXSL-FO-subscribe@egroups.com.
BeawarethattheYahooE-GroupsXSL-FOlistsendsoutregularautomated
spamtonon-membersfalselyclaimingthattheyhaveaskedtojoin.
Gianni Rubagottiwrites:
AnewItalianmailinglistaboutXMLisborn: tosubscribe,sendamail
messagewithoutasubjectlinebut withtext sayingsubscribe XML-ITto
majordomo@ananas.usr.dsi.unimi.it.Everyone,Italianornot,whowants
todebateaboutXMLinourtongueiswelcome.
GiannialsorunstheHumanitiesXMLList.
J-PThebergewrites:
AFrenchmailinglistabout XMLhasbeencreated. Tosubscribe,send
subscribetoxml-request@trisome.com.
Murata Makotowrites:
PleasementionthismailinglisttoyourcolleagueswhouseRELAXNG.Go
to:http://groups.yahoo.com/group/rng-users/.
M
AILINGLISTS
Whenyoujoinamailinglistyouwillbesentdetailsofhowtouseit. Please
ReadTheFineDocumentationbecauseitcontainsimportantinformation,
particularlyaboutwhattodoifyourcompanyorISPchangesyouremail
address.
18
Pleasenotethatthereisalotofinaccurateandmisleadinginformation
publishedinprintandontheWebabout subscribingtoandunsubscribing
frommailinglists. Don’tguess: ReadTheFineDocumentation.
1.16 What is the difference between XML and C or
C++ or Java?
Cand Java are for writing programs; XML is forstoringinformation.
Cand C++ (and other languages like FORTRAN, or Pascal, or Visual Basic,
or Java or hundreds more) are programming languages with which you
specify calculations, actions, and decisions to be carried out in order:
mod curconfig[if left(date,6) = = "01-Apr",
t.put "April Fool!",
f.put days(’31102011’,’DDMMYYYY’) -
days(sdate,’DDMMYYYY’)
" more shopping days to Samhain"];
XML is a markup specification language with which you can design ways of
describing information (text or data), usually for storage, transmission, or
processing by a program. It says nothing about what you should do with the
data (although your choice of element names may hint at what they are for):
<part num="DA42" models="LS AR DF HG G KJ" update="2001-11-22">
<name>Camshaft end bearing retention circlip</name>
<image drawing="RR98-dh37" type="SVG" x="476" y="226"/>
<maker xml:id="RQ778">Ringtown Fasteners Ltd</maker>
<notes>An <tool xml:id="GH25"/>angle-nosed insertion tool</tool> is
required for the removal and replacement of this part.</notes>
</part>
On its own, an XML file (including HTML) doesn’t do anything. It’s a data
format which just sits there until you run a program which does something
with it. See also the question abouthowtorunorexecuteXMLfiles.
XSLT2
AND
XSL:FO
Thewaterismuddiedbythefactthatthemost populartransformation
processinglanguages(XSLT2andXSL:FO)areactuallywritteninXML
syntax,becausetheyaredeclarative,notprocedural. Inthesespecialcases
19
youcan besaidto‘execute’anXMLfile,byrunningaprocessing
applicationlikeSaxon,whichcompilesthedirectivesspecifiedinthefiles
intoJavabytecodetoprocessXMLdocuments. Inthissense,youcould
comparethemwithotherprogramminglanguages,butyouwouldbe
comparingthelanguagefacilities,nottheXMLsyntaxinwhichtheyare
written.
WilliamHammondwrites:
(inarticle<i7ll1362ib.fsf@hilbert.math.albany.edu>)
SGMLisacategoryof‘documenttypes’,withaconfigurableshared
syntax,mostofwhich(likeclassic HTML)cannotbecompiledtoproduce
executableprograms. XMLisasubcategoryofSGMLwithsyntactic
restrictions. Forexample,withXMLthevocabularyofadocumenttypeis
alwayscasesensitive,whilewithSGMLitmaybeeithercasesensitiveor
caseinsensitive. So,forexample,classicHTMLisanSGMLdocumenttype,
andXHTML+MathMLisanXMLdocumenttype.
Whilesomedocumenttypescorrespondtodocumentmarkup
languages,otherdocumenttypes(likeaCTANcatalogentry)arejustfor
structureddata[...]
Idoubtseriously,however,thatacomputerlanguagelikeC isinany
reasonablesenseequivalenttoanSGMLdocumenttype.
20
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