To appreciate the addition of Extensible Markup Language (XML) support throughout Microsoft Office products like Microsoft Excel and Access since Office XP is to understand the momentum with which XML has been accepted in the web publishing community since its approval by the W3 Consortium in 2000. The promise and the reality of XML is that it breaks the boundaries of the ultra-simple HTML for Web page creation by allowing you to manage Web-based information in a much fuller context.
XML, for those who do not know it, is the universal data format of the Web. You see it virtually everywhere today that data gets transferred between different devices and networks. Or, that is, you may not see it; you just know that your bits and bytes travel seamlessly between something like your online banking page into your Excel workbook.
If you have never worked with XML before, imagine creating your own simple-to-very-complex database that can be changed on the fly from a Web page as well as accessed by your customers, your clients, and others on your team. Unlike HTML tags, you define the tags. You just need to be consistent throughout. There are dozens of Web sites online that will help you learn the basics of XML in no time at all so you can begin to harness the power of XML for whatever use to which you want to apply it.
But with XML comes a new challenge. A large degree of the power of XML lies in the extra information made available as part of it. Tags contained within an XML application store a host of information about the very data being presented, making it possible for you to store data about your data and even better, be able to track that information as well.
Because we’re now talking about what is known as metadata, we’re talking about not just creating content for our Internet and Intranet-based sites, but also creating the information behind that content’s metadata as well. An extra layer translates into extra labor. The more integrated we can make XML tasks and usage, the more efficiently users should be able to handle this extra mantle of responsibility associated with XML efforts.
Thus, the marriage of full XML support with Microsoft Office XP presents an excellent pairing of information management power and ease for the many offices, organizations, and companies who’ve embraced XML in producing Web documents. For example, XML data can be pulled directly into Excel through the Web and saved in Excel format. You may also query XML data directly through a Web page using Excel.
Building on that foundation, Access allows for the import and export of not just XML data, but also XML schemata (used to configure the tags) and tables. The much-discussed new Smart tags feature allows them to be saved as XML properties for documents published to a Web – or keep this information from the eyes of others through privacy tools. Such integration means that those who aren’t versed in XML can still work with it to some degree, and encourages others who haven’t worked with XML to experiment with its features. Users finding ever-more-powerful solutions to their own work issues are a powerful tool in its own right.