Mar 222014
 

Microsoft ' s Free XML Parser Microsoft’s Free XML ParserXML is surfing the wave of the future in technical communication. Quite simply, it is a markup language that allows anyone to publish content in different formats, such as HTML and PDF. XML, an acronym for Extensible Markup Language, is a language readable by both humans and computers. Your content is “metadata” and is included in the code by tags, attributes, and other code pieces. Using this language, your content can be delivered in a number of target publishing formats that interpret the tags, attributes, and other elements to fit the medium.

The benefits to XML are numerous. Because of its ease to learn and use, it has been widely adopted in the software industry. It is a great way to publish in HTML and PDF in particular. The language is very structured so that mistakes can be easily found. Pages look professional and are usually ready to be published. XML language can easily combine text, sound, video and graphics into one document. It is possible to create many different types of documents using the same content by changing a few simple elements in the code. Also, XSL style sheets can change the look of a document easily. By learning XML, a technical communicator adds to his or her skill set and adds value to their work.

XML fragment An example of XML structured language from the unl.edu website.

MSXML 6.0 might be a good place to introduce yourself to XML, due to its compatibility with Windows. Also known as Microsoft XML 6.0 core services, MSXML is a XML software system that is released as part of Microsoft’s Windows software. As an alternative, it is able to be downloaded from several sites online for free. It allows applications written in XML code to be read, creation of XML documents, parsing of XML code and reading of XML schema. It supports most XML platforms available, including JScript. MSXML is capable of reading and displaying XML content created on other formats and parsing these documents into a simplistic language. It is a full-blown, comprehensive XML software program.

Compatible operating systems include Microsoft XL, 2000, and later. Earlier operating systems will support earlier versions of the software, such as 5.0. MSXML 6.0 can be found in several places on the Internet, including CNET, Softpedia.com, freewarefiles.com, and others. However, the best place to download it is from Microsoft’s Download Center, the address of which is http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download. Once at the MSXML 6.0 Web page, there will be four downloadable files, all of which can be downloaded separately or as a group: msxml6.msi, msxml6_ia64.msi, msxml6_SDK.msi, and msxml6_x64.msi.

You need to decide which files to download. I recommend downloading them all; do this if you don’t know the difference between them. After downloading, follow the prompts to install the software. Enter your username and company. If you don’t have a company, you can make up anything; Microsoft will not verify. The files can be found under C:/Program Files/Microsoft XML Parser SDK. Your computer may not be able to open some of the files; search the Internet for software that can open the documents. It’s a good idea to create a shortcut to the folder on your Desktop.

Because MSXML is meant to read XML documents and concert them for Microsoft, learning the program will require some time. Creating XML documents is fairly easy — you can use the embedded help to guide you in writing the code, and it will even tell you if you forget an end tag, or if a command is not nested properly. Viewing XML code to on Internet Explorer, you can use either the default style sheet or specify a style sheet that is on your computer. It is best to do the latter, as you can customize how the code is viewed a little more than using the default sheet. HTML documents look good using either style sheet. To parse XML code, there is a SAX 2 parser in the program that goes a fair job of parsing code in two ways; either as a tree structure or line structure in the order of the commands that it reads in the code. There are also APIs for reading JScript, verifying and signing documents created with XML, and many other XML-related functions.

MSXML 6.0 is free as well as being available from many sources on the Internet. It has been around for many years, so there are many documents on its usage available, as well as its own very good embedded help in the program. It is made to be compatible with Microsoft products, and it is possible to do many different XML and schema commands. Another XML program does not needed to be used alongside it. Finally, MSXML 6.0 works relatively well, once it is understood.

However, MSXML 6.0 has somewhat of a learning curve — it is less intuitive than other XML programs. The software is older and not updated very often. It is an afterthought for Microsoft. In addition, the updates do not necessarily develop on older ones. Some features that you may be counting on may be redacted from newer versions.

Because of the cons involved in the software, I cannot fully recommend MSXML 6.0. There are better XML programs of the market, such as XML Marker and Altova XMLSpy. If you use XML professionally, it is worth the while to make an investment in a quality program.

  • XMetal Author is one of the best and like others, it is downloadable on a 30-day trial basis. To get their prices for full-service downloadable version, it is recommended to contact their sales department.
  • The professional version of XML Spy 2014 is currently priced at $499.
  • The oXygen editor has a range of prices depending on intended usage. For example, a yearlong Professional XML Author software license is $345.

MSXML is a quality program that has benefits to using it, but it is far from the best, newest program out there. Use it temporarily to get a feel for it, but it is recommended to move on to another program eventually.