Developer

Web review: XML.com, a developer's paradise

Planning to bone up on your XML skills? Be sure to bookmark XML.com, an all-in-one resource guide to the new language.


If you’re thinking of adding Extensible Markup Language (XML) to your list of skills, XML.com is a definite stopping point on the road to proficiency in the new language.

The creators of XML.com offer a wealth of resources for developers who are already working with XML, as well as for HTML users who want to "graduate" to XML's power and complexity. To serve this audience, the site digs deep into the nitty-gritty aspects of the language, according to Edd Dumbill, managing editor of XML.com.

“The current state of XML development is very much for those who like getting their hands dirty and building things from basic parts,” Dumbill said.

Resources
I found the resources section the most interesting and helpful. The resource guide includes information on a variety of XML-related issues, broken down into the following discussion areas:
  • ·        Community
  • ·        Companies
  • ·        E-commerce
  • ·        Instruction
  • ·        Linking
  • ·        Metadata
  • ·        Multimedia
  • ·        Perspectives
  • ·        Programming
  • ·        Publishing
  • ·        Specifications
  • ·        Style
  • ·        Tools
  • ·        Vertical Industries
  • ·        Vocabularies

Within those discussion areas are reader submissions consisting of everything from useful tidbits to links to white papers. Other helpful areas of focus within the resource section include a buyer’s guide, in which products are categorized; an events calendar that comprises trade shows and seminars for the next sixth months; and lengthy standards and submissions lists.

The rest of the site
A core feature of the site is the Annotated XML Specification section, which gives detailed descriptions of XML’s historical background, advice on how to use the specification, and technical explanations—including amplifications, corrections, and answers to frequently asked questions.

On the FAQ page, you’ll find answers to a wide range of XML questions—including simple definitions, reasons for using XML over HTML, and tips on catching errors in a script. If there’s no answer to your question, you can scroll to the bottom of the page and e-mail your question to the editors.

Each week, a new batch of feature articles appears on the site. For the week of Feb. 14, for example, topics included design patterns in XML applications, component-based page layouts, XML deviants, and the IPO of a company called webMethods. All features are archived for readers’ perusal.

A daily news feed from xmlhack, developer news for the XML community, will be popular with the programmers who want to stay on top of this constantly evolving language. XML.com’s own Robin Cover also posts industry news on a semi-daily basis.

Overall impressions
XML.com won’t make you XML-literate overnight, but it will offer the tools you need to get there. It’s designed well and easy to follow, although some reader comments are too cryptic to be understood by a newbie to XML.

As Dumbill points out, XML is quickly becoming a must-have skill for both small and large companies.

“XML allows an organization to make the best value of its information and to integrate and exchange information from third parties,” he said. “The most important thing that organization needs to know is how to analyze and describe its data. The architecture and organization of the information is paramount—you can know all the XML you want but still make a bad job of defining the structure of your business information.”

With that said, visit XML.com—whether your needs are immediate or further down the road. Programmers and developers will want to bookmark the site as they develop their skills and use it as a resource for staying current in the field.
Tell us about your experiences with XML by posting a comment below. If you have a story idea you’d like to share, please drop us a note.

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