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Can I use JavaScript, ActiveX, etc in XML files? This will depend on what facilities your users' browsers implement. XML is about describing information; scripting languages and languages for embedded functionality are software which enables the inform

XML Interviews Question page10

     

  1. Can I use JavaScript, ActiveX, etc in XML files? 
    This will depend on what facilities your users' browsers implement. XML is about describing information; scripting languages and languages for embedded functionality are software which enables the information to be manipulated at the user's end, so these languages do not normally have any place in an XML file itself, but in stylesheets like XSL and CSS where they can be added to generated HTML. XML itself provides a way to define the markup needed to implement scripting languages: as a neutral standard it neither encourages not discourages their use, and does not favour one language over another, so it is possible to use XML markup to store the program code, from where it can be retrieved by (for example) XSLT and re-expressed in a HTML script element. Server-side script embedding, like PHP or ASP, can be used with the relevant server to modify the XML code on the fly, as the document is served, just as they can with HTML. Authors should be aware, however, that embedding server-side scripting may mean the file as stored is not valid XML: it only becomes valid when processed and served, so care must be taken when using validating editors or other software to handle or manage such files. A better solution may be to use an XML serving solution like Cocoon, AxKit, or PropelX. Can I use Java to create or manage XML files? Yes, any programming language can be used to output data from any source in XML format. There is a growing number of front-ends and back-ends for programming environments and data management environments to automate this. Java is just the most popular one at the moment. There is a large body of middleware (APIs) written in Java and other languages for managing data either in XML or with XML input or output.
       
  2. How do I execute or run an XML file?
    A: XML itself is not a programming language, so XML files don't ?run' or ?execute'. XML is a markup specification language and XML files are just data: they sit there until you run a program which displays them (like a browser) or does some work with them (like a converter which writes the data in another format, or a database which reads the data), or modifies them (like an editor). If you want to view or display an XML file, open it with an XML editor or an question B.3, XML browser. The water is muddied by XSL (both XSLT and XSL:FO) which use XML syntax to implement a declarative programming language. In these cases it is arguable that you can ?execute' XML code, by running a processing application like Saxon, which compiles the directives specified in XSLT files into Java bytecode to process XML.
      
  3. How do I control formatting and appearance?
     In HTML, default styling was built into the browsers because the tagset of HTML was predefined and hardwired into browsers. In XML, where you can define your own tagset, browsers cannot possibly be expected to guess or know in advance what names you are going to use and what they will mean, so you need a stylesheet if you want to display formatted text. Browsers which read XML will accept and use a CSS stylesheet at a minimum, but you can also use the more powerful XSLT stylesheet language to transform your XML into HTML?which browsers, of course, already know how to display (and that HTML can still use a CSS stylesheet). This way you get all the document management benefits of using XML, but you don't have to worry about your readers needing XML smarts in their browsers. 
      
  4. How do I use graphics in XML? 
    Graphics have traditionally just been links which happen to have a picture file at the end rather than another piece of text. They can therefore be implemented in any way supported by the XLink and XPointer specifications  including using similar syntax to existing HTML images. They can also be referenced using XML's built-in NOTATION and ENTITY mechanism in a similar way to standard SGML, as external unparsed entities. However, the SVG specification  lets you use XML markup to draw vector graphics objects directly in your XML file. This provides enormous power for the inclusion of portable graphics, especially interactive or animated sequences, and it is now slowly becoming supported in browsers. The XML linking specifications for external images give you much better control over the traversal and activation of links, so an author can specify, for example, whether or not to have an image appear when the page is loaded, or on a click from the user, or in a separate window, without having to resort to scripting. XML itself doesn't predicate or restrict graphic file formats: GIF, JPG, TIFF, PNG, CGM, EPS, and SVG at a minimum would seem to make sense; however, vector formats (EPS, SVG) are normally essential for non-photographic images (diagrams). You cannot embed a raw binary graphics file (or any other binary [non-text] data) directly into an XML file because any bytes happening to resemble markup would get misinterpreted: you must refer to it by linking (see below). It is, however, possible to include a text-encoded transformation of a binary file as a CDATA Marked Section, using something like UUencode with the markup characters ], & and > removed from the map so that they could not occur as an erroneous CDATA termination sequence and be misinterpreted. You could even use simple hexadecimal encoding as used in PostScript. For vector graphics, however, the solution is to use SVG . Sound files are binary objects in the same way that external graphics are, so they can only be referenced externally. Music files written in MusiXML or an XML variant of SMDL could however be embedded in the same way as for SVG. The point about using entities to manage your graphics is that you can keep the list of entity declarations separate from the rest of the document, so you can re-use the names if an image is needed more than once, but only store the physical file specification in a single place. This is available only when using a DTD, not a Schema.
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Posted on: March 10, 2008

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