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Chapter Four. XML Conquers the World (An... > An Essential Ingredient of Professio...

An Essential Ingredient of Professional and Consumer Software

This power to format, understand, and exchange data has made XML as ubiquitous as Coca-Cola™. XML not only stores content housed in online and corporate databases, but it also has become the lingua franca of database programs like FileMaker Pro and of much nondatabase-oriented software, from high-end design applications to business products like Microsoft Office and OpenOffice, whose native file formats are XML-based.

Apple's UNIX-based Macintosh OS X operating system stores its preferences in XML. Print design powerhouses Quark XPress 5.0 and Adobe InDesign 2.0 import and export XML and support the creation of XML-based templates. Visual web editors such as Macromedia Dreamweaver MX and Adobe GoLive 6 are likewise XML-savvy, making it easier (or at least possible) to bounce data back and forth between the printed page, the web layout, and the database that runs your online store or global directory.

Not content to merely parse XML, some products are actually made of the stuff. Macromedia Dreamweaver MX is built with XML files that are available to the end user [4.2, 4.3, 4.4], making it possible to modify the program by rolling up your shirtsleeves and editing these files (www.alistapart.com/stories/dreamweaver/). Customizing Dreamweaver in this way and selling these customized versions to Dreamweaver-using colleagues has become something of a cottage industry.

4.2. Dreamweaver MX, a popular web development tool, is made up of files whose formats will be familiar to web developers. Under the hood, Dreamweaver MX is composed of XML files…

4.3. …along with GIF, HTML, and JavaScript files. Like the files on a website, Dreamweaver's components are organized in subdirectories.

4.4. Savvy Dreamweaver users can edit these files to customize the product. Here, a user is changing Dreamweaver's default keyboard shortcuts by editing an XML file called menus.xml.

Consumer software loves XML, too. The Personal Information Manager on your PC, Mac, or PDA reads and writes XML or can be made to do so via third-party products such as the Ælfred XML parser for the Palm Pilot (www.xml.com/pub/r/216). When your digital camera time-stamps a snapshot and records its dimensions, file size, and other such information, it most likely records this data in XML. Each time your dad emails you those pipe-clobbering 7MB vacation photos, he's likely sending you XML-formatted data along with the beauty shots of lens caps at sunset.

Even hobbyist image-management software like Apple's iPhoto [4.5] understands XML. When you print a snapshot of little Oscar's first encounter with a puppy, Oscar's flushed cheeks and the pooch's bright eyes come out right thanks to print presets stored as XML data by the Macintosh OS X operating system.

4.5. Apple's consumer-friendly iPhoto software (www.apple.com/iphoto/), a free component of its OS X operating system, uses XML to organize photo library data, remember print presets, and more.

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