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The Case for XML

With each version of a software application, manufacturers such as Microsoft add new features to enhance personal and organizational productivity. To enable the use of these features, software makers often need to change and fine-tune their file formats. If you open an Excel worksheet or a Microsoft Word document in a text editor such as Notepad, you’ll notice a great number of unintelligible symbols. You see this jumble because the underlying information in the file is specifically designed to be read and interpreted by the program that created it, making it unreadable by a simple text editor. This information might contain special instructions for how the file’s data is to be presented in the document window, how features such as versioning or pagination should be handled, and so on.

To help address this issue, software manufacturers create converters to perform operations such as changing files formatted for a different word-processing application into files that Word can read. But how can you accomplish something out of the ordinary, like viewing data stored on a proprietary mainframe computer in an Excel worksheet to do some data analysis? Then, after you’ve finished with the data, how can you send the results to another department or organization that doesn’t have Excel on their computers for further analysis? Typically, this type of solution would involve expensive proprietary software converters and a lot of computer programming. These and other problems become easier to solve with XML.


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