Importance of XML

With the ever increasing number of different media and output formats, it undoubtedly has become a necessity to separate the content from the structure and format of source documents and to use universally applicable formats to interchange data between applications and storage entities.

In this context XML based structured authoring and the conversion of documents from an unstructured format into XML is a great help and a precondition for cross-media publishing. Unfortunately, XML is often regarded or "sold" as a panacea, but XML users experience quickly that XML is not the panacea that it is claimed to be in these highly polished tool brochures and websites. There are many reasons for this, which can be summarized by stating that it needs much more than just XML as another well designed and structured file format to make incompatible worlds really and truly compatible to one another! XML alone cannot solve this - not by itself!

Still, XML is certainly a great leap forward. But despite XML most processes are still everything else but automatic. For example, converting a DTP document to HTML while preserving the same carefully designed paper layout to maintain cross-media CI integrity or to automatically publishing the contents of an article database for paper and for the Internet is hardly done without major involvement of manual interaction. XML only marginally helps.

The problem is in the structure and in the semantics of the data. This can, of course, be defined in XML syntax but it is not defined by XML itself. So, if the application reading XML does not know how to interpret the semantical qualifiers written by the application, which wrote the XML, the best XML won't help anything. This is the part where the problems are really in. And this is where XML per se cannot help.

In case of publication documents from DTP files the problem is in the fact, that none of the data therein is somehow indexed nor anyhow interrelated nor linked to a database. What looks like a table on a DTP page is really just a loose assortment of independent text boxes and lines, which are in no way related to one another (grouping creates no relations). XML cannot change the deficiencies inherent to DTP structures either. And here again, XML cannot help either.