Thursday, 17 January 2013

XML and Microsoft Office

XML, or Extensible Mark up language is a ‘meta language’ that can be used to create a set of rules for encoding documents, which is both human-readable as well as machine-readable. It is used primarily for securely transferring and storing data. However, it has a variety of uses with many different resources. In particular, it is used frequently in relation to electronic publishing and can be also used in the creation of new internet language such as XHTML and WAP.
Nevertheless, it also plays a prominent role in the document formatting of the Microsoft Office package. In 2007, Microsoft changed their formatting to use XML and ZIP technologies. This had a range of benefits. One key benefit involves the exchanging of data. XML is a plain text file format, which therefore simplifies the process of data transfer as it can be read by different incompatible applications. In addition, the XML format enables a greater level of security in the exchanging of documents which may contain confidential information.  XML enables easy and simple identification and removal of personally identifiable information as well as business sensitive information. Furthermore, by using XML in conjunction with the ZIP container allows for the creation of much smaller file sizes due to the ease of compression. Moreover, the Microsoft format uses XML to define the connection of the parts which relate to create a document. These relationships between the parts are stored in XML and make it possible to manipulate documents without having knowledge of content mark up. Therefore, XML simplified many of the traditional processes used within Microsoft Office, whilst also improving security.

1 comment:

  1. Just as I logged on to upload my post about the same program, this popped up! So I'll put mine in as a comment:

    XML and Word Processing:

    In this post, I will be referring to Microsoft Office XML, but most of the points made are transferable to other flavours such as Office Open XML.

    The XML format is particularly useful in word processing programs due to it's ability to store large amounts of metadata within a document. As a result, the names of the author (and subsequent editors), the dates of production of a work and the title of a work may be placed within the document as individual fields, creating a set of documents that may be easily found through the search functions of many operating systems without the need for a specialised database or filing system. In my opinion, the main advantage of this is that it allows anyone to be able to find a specific (or indeed non-specific) document on any system, even if the efforts to organise work have been minimal on the part of the original contributor. Since a large amount of the metadata within a document is provided automatically by the software if none is provided by the user, the chances of finding documents is further increased.

    In addition, information on style and formatting is contained within the XML code, and so may be changed en masse in a number of documents in order to quickly and efficiently create uniformity throughout a set of documents. This is not unique to the XML format, but it's usefulness is certainly notable.

    Of course, this homogenised metadata relies somewhat on the dominating market share of the software in question, and if there was no single near-ubiquitous option then proprietary systems may become far more numerous. Whether this would be the case is of course impossible to know, but as a result of the huge market advantage of Microsoft (in both operating systems and word processing software), smaller outfits are forced to conform to terms which are compatible with the formatting of the software most likely to be used.


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