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Evaluating XML Editors

You've learned enough XML that you no longer need to use a simple text editor. You want something that will make your job less tedious, more fun, and help you create what you've pictured in your head. Welcome to the world of XML editing programs and application suites. How do you choose one? Dan Wellman gives you the goods, from the freeware through the most professional offerings. Read on to learn more.

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By: Dan Wellman
Rating: 4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars / 14
December 27, 2004
  1. · Evaluating XML Editors
  2. · The Simple Editing Tools
  3. · The Full-Fledged Applications
  4. · The High End, Priced Appropriately

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Evaluating XML Editors - The Simple Editing Tools
(Page 2 of 4 )

A step up from Notepad itself, Microsoft’s XML Notepad is a simple, freeware tree editing tool. It is laid out in much the same way as Notepad itself; Microsoft seems intent on providing a GUI with absolutely no style whatsoever. That aside, the program is robust and functional, and with a little experimentation, well-formed XML documents can be produced. The view source function is useful for previewing the output of your effort. The element value fields are far too small however, even in full-screen mode, meaning that you can’t see the whole of the content of your element if it is longer than about six words. All in all, this is a small, mediocre program that transforms the X in XML from eXstensible to eXtremely boring.

XML Viewer 1.3 is a very small, freeware application by MindFusion. It is aptly named, being good for viewing XML documents you have already written, but unfortunately, it is not well suited to creating XML documents from scratch. It looks slightly better, but works slightly less well and in a less intuitive manner than Microsoft’s offering.

Another tree-style editor is XML Mind. This program looks a lot better than the previous two, and has possibly the nicest GUI of all the freeware, tree editors. It also lets you edit the contents of elements directly in the tree rather than messing about with value fields which can save you time and confusion. The program is definitely angled towards using the DocBook specification, which is a DTD developed way back in 1991 specifically for writing ebooks. When clicking the new button, you are not given the option of a blank XML document or even a plain document. In fact it is easier to create XHTML documents from scratch rather than XML.

Peters XML Editor, written by Peter Reynolds, is an interesting program that gives you the option of editing documents using either a tree-style layout of your elements, or by using a text-editor type page. It also features a file management pane in the main program window. You switch between the two settings by using tabs along the bottom of your workspace. The source view has useful extras such as line numbering and syntax highlighting, and the tree view is laid out in the not quite so useful tree/value format which suffers from the same drawbacks as the XML Notepad regarding value field size. Once again, editing documents is far easier than creating them. It is worth using if you are looking for a basic, uncluttered program that doesn’t cost anything and won’t blow you away instantly with its complexity.

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