XMetaL 1.0 - HTML with Style
In order to summarize XML for the complete novice, I think the best thing to do is point you to Bert Bos' excellent document, XML in 10 points that does an excellent job of summarizing what XML is. For more details about how things work, take a look at the W3C's technical reports page for the gritty details, and visit WebReference.com's XML resource page for everything else..
Personally, I use XML to write all of the articles in HTML with Style. In the early days of this site, I used to write all of the articles in HTML using a text editor (GNU Emacs, in case anyone's interested). This proved to be a bit of a hassle, as a lot of the code in the articles was replicated from page to page, and a lot of work had to be done to split articles into separate pages and so on, so I came up with a simple XML document type that would allow me to write the articles without all of the fluff. I then wrote a Perl script that transformed these articles from their XML form to the HTML files that you see on the site. In the beginning, this was just a crude little hack, nothing more than a set of glorified search-and-replace operations, but gradually I started adding features to it, such as automatic page breaks, cross-referencing and syntax coloring for HTML and CSS source. XML, in general, has made my life a lot easier in this way. Someone who uses XML in this way, i.e. a developer, is generally interested in being able to easily edit XML files that are documents, and hence a user-friendly, WYSIWYG editor would be helpful.
You can also use XML as an internal data format for an application, that is, you might write a program that uses XML to store data in files for its own use. In this case, you will only actually edit the XML source directly if you want to debug the program; you will most probably never want to use an editor under normal use. The XML files will be created and processed by your application. Hence, a WYSIWYG XML editor is mostly useless for a programmer. A simple (or not-so-simple) text editor will not only suffice, it will most probably do the job better.
The third type of person who might be using XML is someone who creates documents that will be processed in some way, but does not control the processing itself. This, ideally, is what XML will most widely be used for. Let me explain a bit.
I have often designed Web sites for companies that need to update the information on their sites without my intervention. Most of the time, the person responsible for updating the information will not be knowledgeable in HTML. Usually it's a secretary or someone from marketing that does this job - a layman. Not involving someone who is knowledgeable in Web design is often a good thing - even if someone exists in the company who can properly maintain an entire Web site, it is usually his job to take care of the technical side of things, not the content creation itself.
XML has the potential to be useful for this. A product such as XMetaL can be used by end-users to provide the content, which is then processed, either to be put on a Web site as HTML or for any other use.
Produced by Stephanos Piperoglou
Created: October 20, 1999
Revised: October 28, 1999