The Annoyance:

A big company just acquired my company, so we need to change all our business processes to match theirs. One of the changes we’ll have to make is to convert our data into Extensible Markup Language (XML) formats so that we can move the data among applications with a minimum of fuss. Of course, the “minimum of fuss” kicks in only after we get all our data into XML in the first place. I’ve done some reading, but I don’t have a firm handle on how the standard works, or how to implement it in Excel. How can I find out what I need to know?

The Fix:

Think of XML as a language that lets you store information about your data right along with the data itself; something city slickers call metadata. In contrast to the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), which only specifies how data will be displayed in a web browser, XML records whether a piece of data is a name, a position title, a product category, or whatever. Here’s what it looks like. (The following bit of XML defines a structure you could use to store information about a company’s officers.)

    <element name="Officer" maxOccurs="unbounded">
    <element name="Title" type="string" />
    <element name="FirstName" type="string" />
    <element name="LastName" type="string" />
    <element name="Salary" type="decimal" />

When you look past the procedural information in the declarations, you can see that you’re creating a data structure named ...

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