The Basics of Using XML Data in Excel

As intimidating as an XML document may seem, it's really nothing more than a text file that contains data wrapped in markup (tags that denote structure and meaning). These tags essentially make the text file machine-readable. The term machine-readable essentially means that any application or web-based solution designed to read XML files will be able to discern the structure and content of your file.

Because XML is text-based, it is not platform-dependent. That is to say, XML is not dependent on a specific application for construction, reading, or editing. This versatility promotes application interoperability, collaboration, and data sharing. In addition, because of their text-based nature, XML documents tend to compress at a higher compression rate than binary files, making them ideal for storing and archiving data.

Another benefit of XML documents is that they internally describe their own content and structure in parent/child hierarchies. This allows applications to search and extract data far more efficiently than standard text files. And because XML documents are intrinsically open, programmers don't have to spend valuable time developing processes to work around the ugly internal details of proprietary components.

This section gives you a solid understanding of the fundamentals of XML. You will also get some context for XML functionality in Excel by exploring some of the ways Excel allows you to work with XML data through the user interface.

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