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Linking with XML

The first phase of the W3C's rollout of XML was issuing the recommendation for basic XML grammar. That recommendation is really just a set of rules for how elements, entities, processing instructions, and so on must be structured for a document to be considered an XML document. The draft does not specify any particular elements because XML authors are free to create their own. The same is true for entities, except for the five reserved entity characters (<, >, &, ", '). Although the draft may seem vague, remember that, in a sense, it is supposed to be. The "extensibility" part of XML comes from the capability to form your own sets of elements and entities according to your needs.

One important idea that the recommendation does not address is that of linking documents. If you are familiar with HTML, you know that you use an <A> element with the HREF attribute to link text or graphics to another document. But because no specific elements exist in XML, you may be wondering how XML documents get linked together. The answer lies in the second phase of the XML rollout—the draft proposal for XML linking using the XML Linking Language (XLink) and the XML Pointer Language (XPointer). In keeping with the "extensible and flexible" philosophy inherent in XML, XLink and XPointer call for more than the traditional, unidirectional linking you get with HTML. Instead, you can do extended linking that allows for multidirectional links or links to special kinds of information. The next few sections look at what is possible in linking XML documents.


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