With every new release of Excel, Microsoft programmers struggle to cram in enough new features to compel Excel owners to upgrade. In Excel 2003, most of these changes are just minor frills or refinements to existing tools. However, one new offering stands out from the rest, and it might even represent the start of a new Excel revolution: Excel's support for XML (Extensible Markup Language), a system for structuring and organizing data in a file.
XML makes it possible for you to exchange information with just about anyone, letting you send your spreadsheet data to other businesses that don't use Excel, or analyze raw information created with other programs. In this chapter, you'll not only learn how to use Excel and XML—you'll also see a practical example, and look under the hood to learn what XML really is.
In a confusing move, Microsoft has decided to limit XML support to certain editions of Office 2003. If you don't have Office's full Professional Edition or Enterprise Edition, you may want to stop reading now. All other Office versions (including Standard, Small Business, Student and Teacher, and all editions of Office 2002) omit the XML goodies that this chapter explores.
XML alone sounds pretty modest. It's often described as a format for storing information. For example, instead of saving data in Word documents (.doc files), Excel spreadsheets (.xls files), or ordinary text files, you can save data in an XML file. This simplicity is deceiving, and ...