Chapter 3. Understanding XML

This chapter explores the fundamentals of building a custom user interface in Office 2007. Chapter 2 discussed how to access the customization layer, so you are now ready to learn how to create the core XML framework needed to access and manipulate the built-in Ribbon.

This chapter begins by exploring what XML is and how it factors into customizing the new UI. It then follows with an explanation of each of the core elements needed to create or modify the Ribbon. Each section builds on the ones before, and they each employ only XML code.

If you've never programmed anything before, don't worry. No programming knowledge is required to get started — at least, nothing more complicated than how to open the file for customization, which was covered in Chapter 2.

As you are preparing to work through the examples, we encourage you to download the companion files. The source code and files for this chapter can be found on the book's web site at

What Is XML and Why Do You Need It?

XML is an acronym for Extensible Markup Language, originally published by the W3C World Wide Web Consortium. It is not truly a programming language, as it lacks any mechanism to perform actions, but rather is a set of rules intended to simplify the sharing of data across platforms.

As you saw in detail in Chapter 2, Office 2007 files are deployed in Microsoft's OpenXML format, which is simply a zipped container holding several XML files. So why XML?

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