XML: The Future

Extensible Markup Language, or XML, is rapidly revolutionizing the creation and publishing of digital assets. XML is a media-independent format that defines the different elements of an asset with custom tags, instead of defining the entire asset by file format. In other words, XML is able to tag, or wrap code around, any element, such as copy or Web design. This standardizes data, which can then be read by any other XML system.

HTML tags elements in order to control their placement within a page but does not provide any structure to the data. But XML is designed for exchanging data. With XML, you need to create only one version of each digital asset — not one each for each format being used by a different system and tied to a particular kind of output (such as .tif or .eps for print and .html for the Web).

So you can see that the implications for XML in digital asset management are enormous. Having a single standard for all assets not only saves time and money during production, but when you need to update the asset, you simply correct the XML file and then regenerate output files for all of your other formats. XML will eventually be the universal standard for all industries. Indeed, nearly all new software released today features XML.

Despite XML’s numerous advantages, however, catalogers have been slow to adopt it, since many are still using data systems — sometimes decades old — that are incompatible with XML. But once the catalog industry establishes a standard for data exchange and catalogers update their back-end systems, the use of XML will likely rise.

In addition to a growing number of XML editors (stand-alone products for creating XML documents), there are several useful tools available for converting other file formats to and from XML. One system, Avenue.Quark, converts formatting styles in existing QuarkXPress documents into corresponding XML tags, enabling users to publish QuarkXPress page layouts and other documents on the Web or other electronic media with a minimum of manual reformatting.

For more information on XML, visit XMLSoftware at www.xmlsoftware.com.

For more on digital asset management, read “Your New Technology” from the July 2000 issue of Catalog Age.

Don’t have a copy of that issue at hand? You can check it out (along with other past issues) at the Catalog Age Website at www.CatalogAgemag.com