Have you started noticing XML files all over the place? That’s entirely understandable. More data is being generated and shared all over the world, and XML is the most efficient way to transport it.
You’ll learn everything you need to know about the XML format in this article. Web development, programming, and anything else that involves storing, structuring, and transmitting data require an understanding of XML. Continue reading to learn more about XML, including what it is, what it is used for, and how to open an XML file.
What Is XML?
eXtensible Markup Language is the abbreviation for eXtensible Markup Language. XML is a markup language, not a programming language. HTML is another widely used markup language that you should be familiar with. These languages use tags to define various elements in a document, and instead of standard programming syntax, they use plain English words that we can understand.
XML, on the other hand, is a tool for storing and transmitting content over the internet. It employs a simple language that almost any application can comprehend, allowing humans and machines to easily read the data. Here’s an example of XML code:
XML code can be read and understood by anyone. The plain text is written in black, and the tags are written in red in the example above. The plain text represents the data we’re storing or sending. The tags inform the computer about the plain text’s type of data and what to do with it.
The Difference Between XML and HTML
As previously stated, XML is a markup language similar to HTML. Both are written in plain text and make use of tags. The main distinction between the two is that XML can be extended. XML allows you to create an unlimited number of markup tags to describe the content, whereas HTML has a predefined language.
HTML is used to format content, while XML is used to store it.
What Is XML Used for?
Plain text files, or XML files, are simple to create, share, and store. To store data or share it with other apps, most web applications use XML.
Have you ever wondered why the “X” at the end of the Microsoft Word DOCX file extension? It’s all thanks to XML. The structure of documents in the Office suite has been based on XML since 2007. The same can be said for Excel files (XLSX) and PowerPoint files (PPTX instead of PPT). Computers can quickly structure and retrieve data when they need it thanks to XML.
There are a couple of other places where XML is used. You’ll learn about those next.
XML files are used by websites to get data for their pages. HTML and XML are combined in this case. If you’re creating a dynamic website, XML is especially important. You need XML to display content that changes frequently due to the interactive nature of the page.
You should be familiar with XML sitemaps if you’ve ever built a website. Search engine optimization necessitates the use of sitemaps. An XML sitemap is used to provide Google with information about your website’s pages so that it can categorize and rank it.
How to Open an XML File?
Plain text files are XML files. A simple text editor, a dedicated XML editor, or even a browser like Firefox or Chrome can open an XML file. We’ll go over all three methods in detail below.
Using a Web Browser
A web browser is all that is required to view an XML file. XML files can be read by any modern browser, including Google Chrome, Firefox, and Edge.
To open an XML file in a browser, right-click on it, choose Open with from the menu, and then select your preferred browser.
In this example, we’re using Internet Explorer to open the XML file to demonstrate that even this antiquated browser can do the job. This is how the XML file looks.
The data in the XML file is well-organized and presented in a color-coded format. The information is easy to read because the tags are purple and the plain text is black.
The only drawback is that you can only read the data with this method. It is not editable.
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Using a Text Editor
XML files are simply text files, as previously stated. This means that any text editor, such as Notepad, can open XML files. When you only need to view the file, make minor changes, and share it with others, a plain text editor is ideal.
To open the XML file in Notepad, right-click it, select Open with again, and then select Notepad.
In Notepad, this is how the XML file looks.
Although the XML code is properly formatted, there is no color coding. This makes it more difficult to read because you can’t tell the tags apart from the plain text right away.
You can also use more advanced markdown editors like Notepad++ and Atom, which highlight syntax and format the code better. In Atom, this is how our XML file looks.
The code looks cleaner thanks to line numbers and additional color coding for different data types.
Using an Online XML Editor
XML editors can read the file’s content, modify it, and even convert it to another format like CSV or JSON. If you’re not used to reading XML syntax, the text is often easier to read and understand.
Let’s take a look at XML Viewer, a free online XML editor with a lot of features.
Go to the XML Viewer web page and paste your XML code from the XML file into the XML Input window.
If you want to link XML content from a web page, you can use the Browse button to upload your XML file or the Load URL button to link XML content from a web page.
After that, you can choose Tree View to see the file’s content in a more readable format.
If your XML code isn’t neatly formatted, select the Beautify option from the Tree View menu.