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XML Interview Questions and Answers



How do I use graphics in XML?
Graphics have traditionally just been links which happen to have a picture file at the end rather than another piece of text. They can therefore be implemented in any way supported by the XLink and XPointer specifications (see question C.18, ‘How will XML affect my document links?’), including using similar syntax to existing HTML images. They can also be referenced using XML's built-in NOTATION and ENTITY mechanism in a similar way to standard SGML, as external unparsed entities.
However, the SVG specification (see the tip below, by Peter Murray-Rust) lets you use XML markup to draw vector graphics objects directly in your XML file. This provides enormous power for the inclusion of portable graphics, especially interactive or animated sequences, and it is now slowly becoming supported in browsers.
The XML linking specifications for external images give you much better control over the traversal and activation of links, so an author can specify, for example, whether or not to have an image appear when the page is loaded, or on a click from the user, or in a separate window, without having to resort to scripting.
XML itself doesn't predicate or restrict graphic file formats: GIF, JPG, TIFF, PNG, CGM, EPS, and SVG at a minimum would seem to make sense; however, vector formats (EPS, SVG) are normally essential for non-photographic images (diagrams).
You cannot embed a raw binary graphics file (or any other binary [non-text] data) directly into an XML file because any bytes happening to resemble markup would get misinterpreted: you must refer to it by linking (see below). It is, however, possible to include a text-encoded transformation of a binary file as a CDATA Marked Section, using something like UUencode with the markup characters ], & and > removed from the map so that they could not occur as an erroneous CDATA termination sequence and be misinterpreted. You could even use simple hexadecimal encoding as used in PostScript. For vector graphics, however, the solution is to use SVG (see the tip below, by Peter Murray-Rust).
Sound files are binary objects in the same way that external graphics are, so they can only be referenced externally (using the same techniques as for graphics). Music files written in MusiXML or an XML variant of SMDL could however be embedded in the same way as for SVG.
The point about using entities to manage your graphics is that you can keep the list of entity declarations separate from the rest of the document, so you can re-use the names if an image is needed more than once, but only store the physical file specification in a single place. This is available only when using a DTD, not a Schema.

How do I include one XML file in another?
This works exactly the same as for SGML. First you declare the entity you want to include, and then you reference it by name:
<?xml version="1.0"?>
<!DOCTYPE novel SYSTEM "/dtd/novel.dtd" [
<!ENTITY chap1 SYSTEM "mydocs/chapter1.xml">
<!ENTITY chap2 SYSTEM "mydocs/chapter2.xml">
<!ENTITY chap3 SYSTEM "mydocs/chapter3.xml">
<!ENTITY chap4 SYSTEM "mydocs/chapter4.xml">
<!ENTITY chap5 SYSTEM "mydocs/chapter5.xml">
]>
<novel>
<header>
...blah blah...
</header>
&chap1;
&chap2;
&chap3;
&chap4;
&chap5;
</novel>

The difference between this method and the one used for including a DTD fragment (see question D.15, ‘How do I include one DTD (or fragment) in another?’) is that this uses an external general (file) entity which is referenced in the same way as for a character entity (with an ampersand).
The one thing to make sure of is that the included file must not have an XML or DOCTYPE Declaration on it. If you've been using one for editing the fragment, remove it before using the file in this way. Yes, this is a pain in the butt, but if you have lots of inclusions like this, write a script to strip off the declaration (and paste it back on again for editing).

What is parsing and how do I do it in XML
Parsing is the act of splitting up information into its component parts (schools used to teach this in language classes until the teaching profession collectively caught the anti-grammar disease).
‘Mary feeds Spot’ parses as
1. Subject = Mary, proper noun, nominative case
2. Verb = feeds, transitive, third person singular, present tense
3. Object = Spot, proper noun, accusative case
In computing, a parser is a program (or a piece of code or API that you can reference inside your own programs) which analyses files to identify the component parts. All applications that read input have a parser of some kind, otherwise they'd never be able to figure out what the information means. Microsoft Word contains a parser which runs when you open a .doc file and checks that it can identify all the hidden codes. Give it a corrupted file and you'll get an error message.
XML applications are just the same: they contain a parser which reads XML and identifies the function of each the pieces of the document, and it then makes that information available in memory to the rest of the program.
While reading an XML file, a parser checks the syntax (pointy brackets, matching quotes, etc) for well-formedness, and reports any violations (reportable errors). The XML Specification lists what these are.
Validation is another stage beyond parsing. As the component parts of the program are identified, a validating parser can compare them with the pattern laid down by a DTD or a Schema, to check that they conform. In the process, default values and datatypes (if specified) can be added to the in-memory result of the validation that the validating parser gives to the application.

<person corpid="abc123" birth="1960-02-31" gender="female"> <name> <forename>Judy</forename> <surname>O'Grady</surname> </name> </person>
The example above parses as: 1. Element person identified with Attribute corpid containing abc123 and Attribute birth containing 1960-02-31 and Attribute gender containing female containing ...
2. Element name containing ...
3. Element forename containing text ‘Judy’ followed by ...
4. Element surname containing text ‘O'Grady’
(and lots of other stuff too).
As well as built-in parsers, there are also stand-alone parser-validators, which read an XML file and tell you if they find an error (like missing angle-brackets or quotes, or misplaced markup). This is essential for testing files in isolation before doing something else with them, especially if they have been created by hand without an XML editor, or by an API which may be too deeply embedded elsewhere to allow easy testing.

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