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XML Interview Questions and Answers



How will XML affect my document links?
The linking abilities of XML systems are potentially much more powerful than those of HTML, so you'll be able to do much more with them. Existing href-style links will remain usable, but the new linking technology is based on the lessons learned in the development of other standards involving hypertext, such as TEI and HyTime, which let you manage bidirectional and multi-way links, as well as links to a whole element or span of text (within your own or other documents) rather than to a single point. These features have been available to SGML users for many years, so there is considerable experience and expertise available in using them. Currently only Mozilla Firefox implements XLink.
The XML Linking Specification (XLink) and the XML Extended Pointer Specification (XPointer) documents contain the details. An XLink can be either a URI or a TEI-style Extended Pointer (XPointer), or both. A URI on its own is assumed to be a resource; if an XPointer follows it, it is assumed to be a sub-resource of that URI; an XPointer on its own is assumed to apply to the current document (all exactly as with HTML).
An XLink may use one of #, ?, or |. The # and ? mean the same as in HTML applications; the | means the sub-resource can be found by applying the link to the resource, but the method of doing this is left to the application. An XPointer can only follow a #.
The TEI Extended Pointer Notation (EPN) is much more powerful than the fragment address on the end of some URIs, as it allows you to specify the location of a link end using the structure of the document as well as (or in addition to) known, fixed points like IDs. For example, the linked second occurrence of the word ‘XPointer’ two paragraphs back could be referred to with the URI (shown here with linebreaks and spaces for clarity: in practice it would of course be all one long string):

http://xml.silmaril.ie/faq.xml#ID(hypertext)
.child(1,#element,'answer')
.child(2,#element,'para')
.child(1,#element,'link')
This means the first link element within the second paragraph within the answer in the element whose ID is hypertext (this question). Count the objects from the start of this question (which has the ID hypertext) in the XML source:
1. the first child object is the element containing the question ();
2. the second child object is the answer (the element);
3. within this element go to the second paragraph;
4. find the first link element.
Eve Maler explained the relationship of XLink and XPointer as follows:
XLink governs how you insert links into your XML document, where the link might point to anything (eg a GIF file); XPointer governs the fragment identifier that can go on a URL when you're linking to an XML document, from anywhere (eg from an HTML file).
[Or indeed from an XML file, a URI in a mail message, etc…Ed.]
David Megginson has produced an xpointer function for Emacs/psgml which will deduce an XPointer for any location in an XML document. XML Spy has a similar function.

How does XML handle metadata?
Because XML lets you define your own markup languages, you can make full use of the extended hypertext features of XML (see the question on Links) to store or link to metadata in any format (eg using ISO 11179, as a Topic Maps Published Subject, with Dublin Core, Warwick Framework, or with Resource Description Framework (RDF), or even Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS)).
There are no predefined elements in XML, because it is an architecture, not an application, so it is not part of XML's job to specify how or if authors should or should not implement metadata. You are therefore free to use any suitable method. Browser makers may also have their own architectural recommendations or methods to propose.

Can I use JavaScript, ActiveX, etc in XML files?
This will depend on what facilities your users' browsers implement. XML is about describing information; scripting languages and languages for embedded functionality are software which enables the information to be manipulated at the user's end, so these languages do not normally have any place in an XML file itself, but in stylesheets like XSL and CSS where they can be added to generated HTML.
XML itself provides a way to define the markup needed to implement scripting languages: as a neutral standard it neither encourages not discourages their use, and does not favour one language over another, so it is possible to use XML markup to store the program code, from where it can be retrieved by (for example) XSLT and re-expressed in a HTML script element.
Server-side script embedding, like PHP or ASP, can be used with the relevant server to modify the XML code on the fly, as the document is served, just as they can with HTML. Authors should be aware, however, that embedding server-side scripting may mean the file as stored is not valid XML: it only becomes valid when processed and served, so care must be taken when using validating editors or other software to handle or manage such files. A better solution may be to use an XML serving solution like Cocoon, AxKit, or PropelX.

Can I use Java to create or manage XML files?
Yes, any programming language can be used to output data from any source in XML format. There is a growing number of front-ends and back-ends for programming environments and data management environments to automate this. Java is just the most popular one at the moment.
There is a large body of middleware (APIs) written in Java and other languages for managing data either in XML or with XML input or output.

How do I execute or run an XML file?
You can't and you don't. XML itself is not a programming language, so XML files don't ‘run’ or ‘execute’. XML is a markup specification language and XML files are just data: they sit there until you run a program which displays them (like a browser) or does some work with them (like a converter which writes the data in another format, or a database which reads the data), or modifies them (like an editor).
If you want to view or display an XML file, open it with an XML editor or an question B.3, XML browser.
The water is muddied by XSL (both XSLT and XSL:FO) which use XML syntax to implement a declarative programming language. In these cases it is arguable that you can ‘execute’ XML code, by running a processing application like Saxon, which compiles the directives specified in XSLT files into Java bytecode to process XML.

How do I control formatting and appearance?
In HTML, default styling was built into the browsers because the tagset of HTML was predefined and hardwired into browsers. In XML, where you can define your own tagset, browsers cannot possibly be expected to guess or know in advance what names you are going to use and what they will mean, so you need a stylesheet if you want to display formatted text.
Browsers which read XML will accept and use a CSS stylesheet at a minimum, but you can also use the more powerful XSLT stylesheet language to transform your XML into HTML—which browsers, of course, already know how to display (and that HTML can still use a CSS stylesheet). This way you get all the document management benefits of using XML, but you don't have to worry about your readers needing XML smarts in their browsers.

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