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Chapter 1. Microsoft Office and XML > Different Faces of XML

1.2. Different Faces of XML

Each of the Office applications that works with XML is targeted to a particular set of XML uses. While many people think of XML as a general-purpose format that can store any kind of information, there are some serious divisions in the way XML is used and in the practices surrounding that use. While some of these sound like the usual programming divides, where Visual Basic, C#, Perl, and Java programmers all look at the same information slightly differently, some of them are more like the divisions between people who primarily use Word to create documents and people who primarily use Access to create and present databases.

The most commonly discussed division in the XML world is the divide between documents and data. XML's predecessor, Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) was used primarily for document management. While having structures in documents was a key feature for organizations with huge numbers of documents like various departments of defense, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, airplane manufacturers, and publishers, the structures were generally seen as labels applied to documents, not as structures defining the contents of the documents. Documents have to be accessible to humans as well as computers, and document structures need to be able to keep up with the many intricate structures humans create to solve particular problems.


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