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XML Guide Glossary


A self-contained program that performs a specific function directly for the user. An example of an application is XMLwriter. It is a standalone program that allows you to edit XML files as well as other text files.


Attributes are inserted in start or empty element tags in the form attribute_name="attribute_value". They are additional information about an element, intended for interpretation by an application. An example of an attribute is <img src="logo.gif"/>, where src is the attribute_name, and logo.gif is the attribute_value.

attribute-list (ATTLIST) declaration

Attribute-list declarations are placed inside a DTD. They specify what attributes are allowed in an XML document, to which element they belong, and what the default value of an attribute may be. An example of an ATTLIST declaration is <!ATTLIST img src EMPTY>.


A program that allows you to interact with information stored in a variety of formats on the World Wide Web, private networks, or locally. Most browsers support a variety of information types including XML, HTML and Java. An example of a browser is Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5.


Character data, or text that does not need to be parsed. Markup within CDATA sections will not be interpreted as markup.


In XML, a character is any legal graphic character of the ISO/IEC 10646 or Unicode standard (the two standards are identical). Other legal characters include a carriage return, tab and line feed.

child element

An element nested inside another (parent) element. For example:



Cascading Style Sheets. CSS are used to apply style (formatting) to HTML and XML documents.

document type (DOCTYPE) declaration

Used to contain an internal DTD, or point to an external DTD.

Document Type Definition

A set of rules describing the structure of an XML document. The document must conform to these rules in order to be valid.


See Document Type Definition.

empty tag

An element that has no content. In XML, an empty tag follows the syntax: <name></name> or <name/>.

end tag

The closing tag of an element. It follows the syntax: </name>, and must match the name in the start tag to be well-formed XML.

element type

The name that appears in a start, end or empty tag. In the following example there are three elements but only two element types:


ELEMENT type declaration

Element type declarations are placed inside a DTD. They specify what elements are allowed in an XML document, and what their content may be. An example of an ELEMENT declaration is <!ELEMENT student (id,surname)>.

encoding names

Encoding Name Character Set Description
UTF-8 8-bit Unicode transformation.
UTF-16 16,32-bit Unicode transformation.
ISO-10646-UCS-2 16 bit Unicode character set.
ISO-10646-UCS-4 32 bit Unicode character set.
ISO-8859-1 Latin-1 (Latin America, Western Europe).
ISO-8859-2 Latin-2 (Central and Eastern European).
ISO-8859-3 Latin-3 (South-east Europe, miscellaneous).
ISO-8859-4 Latin-4 (Scandinavia, Baltic).
ISO-8859-5 Latin, Cyrillic.
ISO-8859-6 Latin, Arabic.
ISO-8859-7 Latin, Greek.
ISO-8859-8 Latin, Hebrew.
ISO-8859-9 Latin-5 (Latin, Turkish).
ISO-2022-JP Japanese (multibyte).
Shift_JIS Japanese, Windows (multibyte).
EUC-JP Japanese, UNIX (multibyte).

ENTITY declaration

Entity declarations are placed inside a DTD. They contain the abbreviation to be used for an entity, and the text to be substituted for that abbreviation. They may also contain a URI if the text or data is stored at a remote location. An example of an ENTITY declaration is <!ENTITY js "Jo Smith">.

external DTD

A DTD that is contained in another file which may reside at a remote location.

general entity reference

An entity used in the content of an XML document. General entities follow the syntax '&name;'.


HyperText Markup Language. One of the publishing languages of the World Wide Web. HTML consists of a set of predefined tags that tell a browser how to display text and images to the end-user.


Internet Assigned Numbers Authority.

internal DTD

A DTD that is located within the XML document.


A platform independent, object-oriented computer language, that has a similar syntactic structure to C++.


Syntax used with text to indicate formatting instructions to a processor (or parser). In XML, the characters '<' and '&' signify the start of markup.


A definition or description of a collection of data.


In XML, an element, attribute, or entity name must begin with a letter, '_', or ':', and may continue with zero or more letters, digits, '.', '-', '_', or ':'.

NOTATION declaration

Notation declarations are placed inside a DTD. They are used to identify the format of non-XML data, and name (or point to) applications that will interpret the data. An example of a NOTATION declaration is <!NOTATION gif PUBLIC "gif viewer">.

parameter entity reference

An entity used within the DTD. Parameter entities follow the syntax '%name;'.

parent element

An element in which another (child) element is nested. For example:



An application that processes a document and identifies text from markup. It interprets the markup and determines the content and characteristics of a document. An example of a parser is Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5 XML validating engine.


Parsed character data. Text that is not markup that is processed by a parser.

processing instruction

Used in an XML document to embed information intended for proprietary applications. An example of a processing instruction is <?word document="test.doc" ?>.


When something refers to itself.

root element

The first element in a document. It may not be contained by any other element in the document, hence, forms the basis of the document's element tree.

Schema document

An XML document which defines the structure and contents of other XML documents, in a similar manner to a DTD.

start tag

The opening tag of an element. It follows the syntax: <name>, and must match the name in the end tag to be well-formed XML.


A start tag, end tag, or empty tag. A tag contains the name of an element.


A system for the display, interchange, and processing of text written in any of a wide range of supported languages. The Unicode character set is a multi-byte character set that supports a wide range of international characters.


Contains information that cannot be interpreted as text or markup.


Uniform Resource Identifier. The generic set of all names or addresses that refer to resources.


Uniform Resource Locator. They are URIs that locate and access resources specifically via the Internet. URLs can be absolute (http://www.xmlwriter.net), or relative (doc001.xml).

validity constraint

Rules defined in the XML specification that are imposed on an XML document via the DTD. A document is valid if it conforms to the DTD and is well-formed.


World Wide Web Consortium. The W3C is responsible for releasing standards related to World Wide Web technology.

well-formedness constraint

Rules defined in the XML specification related to XML syntax. An XML document can exist merely as a well-formed document (i.e. not have any validity constraints).


Extensible Markup Language. It is a subset of SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language), using semantic tags in a structured format. XML is a flexible way to create information formats, and share both data and meta-data with other applications and users.

XML declaration

The processing instruction situated on the first line of an XML document. Every XML document should include an XML declaration. An example of an XML declaration is <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="yes" ?>

XML specification

A recommendation released by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on the 10th, February, 1998, as the official standard on how to write documents using XML. A complete listing of version 1.0 of the specification can be found at http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-xml.


XML Declaration
DOCTYPE Declaration & DTDs
ELEMENT Type Declaration
ATTLIST Declaration
ENTITY Declaration
NOTATION Declaration
CDATA Section
Processing Instruction
Conditional Section


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