There's probably not another standardized data format in use now that's more important—and, frankly, more ornery—than...
But as great as XML is in theory, dealing with it often turns out to be a dismal experience. XML may be a plaintext format at heart, but navigating the sea of markup elements that make up your average XML document is about as straightforward as reading a Japanese dictionary backwards. The best way to deal with XML is with a third-party editor designed to handle it.
To that end, Microsoft has released a freeware utility (no WGA validation required) called XML Notepad 2007 (version 2.1). This small application (a mere 1.6MB download) puts a robust set of editing and navigational tools at your disposal for dealing with XML files. It's not just a text editor with a bunch of XML-markup highlighting routines tacked onto it. The program requires the .NET Framework 2.0 to run, but has been certified to work properly on Windows Vista as well.
Load an XML file into XML Notepad and you're presented with two possible views: a hierarchical tree view, in which every node of the XML document is exposed, and an XSL Output view, where the document can be formatted through the use of an external XSL file. The program comes with a bunch of sample XML documents and XSL templates; one of the best is an XML-marked, XSL-formatted copy of Hamlet.
When you edit a document in the tree view, right-clicking on any element gives you a list of things you can insert above or below the element in question—a whole new element, attribute, text, comment, CDATA or PI (processing instruction) item. Select the element in the tree view and any of its children will be visible in the right-hand pane. You can also right-click to expand or collapse any portion of the document tree. All elements are validated against the schema and any warnings are displayed in a separate window at the bottom of the document.
Other features include XML Diff (for comparing two XML documents for changes), Intellisense support for commonly used items, and find/replace functions that support regular expressions and the XML XPath standard for document navigation.
About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter, which is devoted to hints, tips, tricks, news and goodies for Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP users and administrators. He has more than 10 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.
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