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What is XML DOM?

Aug 26, 2007
I find myself longing for the old days, when I could design a web site in 5 minutes on a Sunday and then go play golf for the rest of the afternoon, and still collect a full week of salary for services rendered. That was back in 1996, when the internet was still new. Websites were created exclusively with HTML. The client would email me the content for their website, which I would upload to FrontPage, then insert some tags and a template for formatting and layout, add some graphics, and that was it.

Nowadays, I find myself working up to 10 hours per day designing web sites. I have to use so many different programming languages and specifications when creating a site that it makes me dizzy. I can barely type this article because my brain literally hurts from all the different programming languages I have swirling around in my head.

You might be wondering why my job has become so complicated in recent years. Well, it started with the wireless revolution, which made cyberspace a darn mess. Now, every wireless gadget is equipped with access to the internet and email. Cell phones, palm tops, laptops, even computer screens in automobiles have web browsers. These gadgets have platforms and web browsers that are very different from what is installed on an ordinary desktop PC. These new web browsers are not compatible with many elements of the HTML programming language. As a result, websites created purely with HTML are often invisible or inaccessible to the wireless internet user.

New languages and specifications such as XHTML, XSL, and XML were created to conform to these new web browsers. XML was probably the most important innovation of them all. XML enabled web designers to define data without telling the browser how to display the data, unlike HTML, which both defines the data and tells the browser how to display it. XML data can be viewed on any platform or browser because it is a simple text file with no predefined tags, allowing the programmer to define data any number of ways. XHTML and XSL were created to convert XML files into actual web pages that had style and structure and could be viewed across all platforms and browsers.

Now that you understand how and why programming was changed, you are ready for a brief introduction to the main topic of this article, XML DOM. DOM stands for Document Object Model. XML DOM is both platform and language independent, and sets forth several document objects for XML, as well as the means for accessing and changing XML documents.

You should think of XML DOM as something that turns an XML document into a tree. Certain elements, or tags, become the branches, and other elements within those elements and their corresponding attributes are like the twigs attached to each individual branch. The elements can all be modified through this DOM tree.

The Microsoft XML Parser is used if the programmer wants to modify the tree by inserting and deleting some of the branches and twigs, and then convert the branches and twigs back to XML. The Microsoft XML Parser is compatible with all languages, including ASP, Javascript, Visual Basic, and others. Multiple browsers support the XML Parser, such as Internet Explorer and Mozilla, to name a few. The XML Parser is also used to check the syntax of the XML as needed.

If you want to load your XML document into XML DOM to create your tree and to start using the XML Parser, there are two ways you can do it. If you want to load an entire XML file into XML DOM, use the load( ) method. If you merely want to load a text string containing XML code into XML DOM, use the loadXML( ) method. To learn how to properly use these methods and how to create the XML DOM object with different programming languages, you should search for some simple online tutorials to help you get started.

Learning to use XML and all of the elements of XML programming are absolutely essential to the modern web designer. If you have no experience with XML, then instead of learning from online tutorials, it would be best if you enroll in some offline courses at a local college or computer science institute. If you do not make use of versatile specifications such as XML, XHTML, and XSL, then the websites you create will not be viewed properly across all platforms.
About the Author
Jim Pretin is the owner of http://www.forms4free.com, a service that helps programmers make email forms.
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