XML - what is it??

Lewiy

Well-known Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2007
Messages
4,284
Due to an accounts package upgrade in my company, I have been informed that we will utilising XML for creating/editing live reports in the new package. As the company’s Excel guy, I have been approached by management to look into what can be done with XML and how it works. Whilst I am aware of the existence of XML, that is about where my knowledge stops!! A brief Google search has advised me that it is related to HTML and the Web in some respect but it would seem that I need to know more of the basics before I can understand the documentation I have found.

If anyone can offer a brief overview of what it is and how it is likely to be used for reporting (particularly with respect to Excel), or knows of any good websites to start me off, I would be more than grateful!! :)
 

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Thorin

Board Regular
Joined
Feb 8, 2007
Messages
243
Extensible Markup Language (XML) is used within our business as a method of exchanging documents between two differing systems.

Many companies use this method to exchange documents between themselves (typically over the web), instead of having a defined link to each supplier/customer it is much easier to output/receive an xml document.

XML documents have to adhere to agreed standards (or schema's as they are called), our company has signed up to a standard created by a company called First4Farming (F4F), lots of other agricultural companies have also signed up to this standard and output their documents in the same format.

The typical types of documents we exchange are :-

Invoices
Contracts
GRN's
Acknowledgements
Delivery Requests

By receiving a F4F style document, we know the format & fields contained in it and our system is geared up to action these.

Try this site for more explainations :-

http://www.xml.com/
 

TrippyTom

Well-known Member
Joined
Nov 16, 2004
Messages
587
In my opinion, you have a long road of frustration ahead of you if you are going to use it with Excel. Yes, it supports it, but it's not intuitive at all. And unless your company already has schemas you can follow, making your own will just add to the frustration.

I think it might be more useful with Access if you combine it with ASP and make some sort of web application. Like you, I'm very new to XML and have read (even purchased boooks) a lot of documentation on the subject, but I'm still left with a feeling of helplessness.

I asked about starting a forum for XML a while back and there was little to no interest in it whatsoever.
 

SydneyGeek

MrExcel MVP
Joined
Aug 5, 2003
Messages
12,251
Maybe this will help a bit...

XML is related to HTML (they are both subsets of a much bigger markup language). But...

XML is really intended to be machine-readable, not human-readable, so you end up with a huge tag soup.

In XML you define your own tags, instead of using the pre-existing ones in HTML.
To make sense of these tags to any application that needs to read your data, you must provide a Schema file that lays out the structure. You also need to ensure that your output data conforms to the schema.
To display the data in a browser or wherever, you need a stylesheet -- much like CSS in HTML.

Office Professional has supported XML to a greater or lesser extent since XP. From what I have read, 2003 came closer to being usable, but many users still find it frustrating. 2007 uses XML as its default file format. If you have an Excel file in the 2007 format, do this:

1. Copy the file in Explorer
2. Change the extension to .zip
3. Open the zip file and browse the contents. You will find data, schema and style sheet files inside the folder, and with a bit of help from some XML resources you should be able to get an idea of how it hangs together.

Also, check out some of the MS online help with XML. There's some fairly somprehensive stuff written by guys like Ken Getz, which may help demystify some of it for you.

Denis
 

Lewiy

Well-known Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2007
Messages
4,284
Thanks guys, all the above has given me a good starting point. Unfortunately, I’m gonna have to wait until we get the new software before I can delve into the delights of XML!!

SydneyGeek, we are currently running Office 2003 on WinXP, am I to deduce that this may take a little more work/fiddling around than if we were on 2007?
 

SydneyGeek

MrExcel MVP
Joined
Aug 5, 2003
Messages
12,251
Not necessarily. Either way you still need to learn and use the Office formats and schemas for doing the data transfer. But here's some starting resources --

A couple of quick tutorials
http://www.devx.com/codemag/Article/18227
http://www.mrexcel.com/tip064.shtml

A book on XML in Office 2003, which has some good reviews
http://www.amazon.com/Office-2003-XML-Simon-Laurent/dp/0596005385

Web page and resources, from one of the book authors
http://www.simonstl.com/articles/officeXML/

From Microsoft:
Download the reference schemas
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/...52-3547-420a-a412-00a2662442d9&displaylang=en

XML Software Development Kit
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/...4f-8dee-41a3-9c25-dd889aea781c&displaylang=en

Denis
 

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