2.9 The XML Declaration


XML documents should (but do not have to) begin with an XML declaration . The XML declaration looks like a processing instruction with the name xml and with version , standalone , and encoding pseudo-attributes. Technically, it's not a processing instruction, though; it's just the XML declaration, nothing more, nothing less. Example 2-7 demonstrates .

Example 2-7. A very simple XML document with an XML declaration
 <?xml version="1.0" encoding="ASCII" standalone="yes"?> <person>   Alan Turing </person> 

XML documents do not have to have an XML declaration. However, if an XML document does have an XML declaration, then that declaration must be the first thing in the document. It must not be preceded by any comments, whitespace, processing instructions, and so forth. The reason is that an XML parser uses the first five characters ( <?xml ) to make some reasonable guesses about the encoding, such as whether the document uses a single-byte or multibyte character set. The only thing that may precede the XML declaration is an invisible Unicode byte-order mark. We'll discuss this further in Chapter 5.

2.9.1 The version Attribute

The version attribute should have the value 1.0. Under very unusual circumstances, it may also have the value 1.1. Since specifying version="1.1 " limits the document to the most recent versions of only a couple of parsers, and since all XML 1.1 parsers must also support XML 1.0, you don't want to casually set the version to 1.1.

Don't believe us? First answer a couple of questions:

  1. Do you speak Cambodian, Burmese, Amharic, Mongolian, or Divehi?

  2. Does your data contain obsolete, nontext C0 control characters such as vertical tab, form feed, or bell?

If you answered no to both of these questions, you have absolutely nothing to gain by using XML 1.1. If you answered yes to either one, then you may have cause to use XML 1.1. XML 1.0 allows Cambodian, Burmese, Amharic, etc. to be used in character data and attribute values. XML 1.1 also allows these scripts to be used in element and attribute names , which XML 1.0 does not. XML 1.1 also allows C0 control characters (except null) to be used in character data and attribute values (provided they're escaped as numeric character references like &#x07; ), which XML 1.0 does not. If either of these conditions applies to you, then you might want to use XML 1.1 (although realize you're limiting your audience by doing so). Otherwise, you really should use XML 1.0 exclusively.

2.9.2 The encoding Attribute

So far, we've been a little cavalier about character sets and character encodings. We've said that XML documents are composed of pure text, but we haven't said what encoding that text uses. Is it ASCII? Latin-1? Unicode? Something else?

The short answer to this question is "Yes." The long answer is that, by default, XML documents are assumed to be encoded in the UTF-8 variable-length encoding of the Unicode character set. This is a strict superset of ASCII, so pure ASCII text files are also UTF-8 documents. However, most XML processors, especially those written in Java, can handle a much broader range of character sets. All you have to do is tell the parser which character encoding the document uses. Preferably, this is done through metainformation, stored in the filesystem or provided by the server. However, not all systems provide character-set metadata, so XML also allows documents to specify their own character set with an encoding declaration inside the XML declaration. Example 2-8 shows how you'd indicate that a document was written in the ISO-8859-1 (Latin-1) character set that includes letters like and § needed for many non-English Western European languages.

Example 2-8. An XML document encoded in Latin-1
 <?xml version="1.0" encoding="ISO-8859-1" standalone="yes"?> <person>   Erwin Schrdinger </person> 

The encoding attribute is optional in an XML declaration. If it is omitted and no metadata is available, the Unicode character set is assumed. The parser may use the first several bytes of the file to try to guess which encoding of Unicode is in use. If metadata is available and it conflicts with the encoding declaration, then the encoding specified by the metadata wins. For example, if an HTTP header says a document is encoded in ASCII but the encoding declaration says it's encoded in UTF-8, then the parser will pick ASCII.

The different encodings and the proper handling of non-English XML documents will be discussed in greater detail in Chapter 5.

2.9.3 The standalone Attribute

If the standalone attribute has the value no , then an application may be required to read an external DTD (that is, a DTD in a file other than the one it's reading now) to determine the proper values for parts of the document. For instance, a DTD may provide default values for attributes that a parser is required to report, even though they aren't actually present in the document.

Documents that do not have DTDs, like all the documents in this chapter, can have the value yes for the standalone attribute. Documents that do have DTDs can also have the value yes for the standalone attribute if the DTD doesn't change the content of the document in any way or if the DTD is purely internal. Details for documents with DTDs are covered in Chapter 3.

The standalone attribute is optional in an XML declaration. If it is omitted, then the value no is assumed.

XML in a Nutshell
XML in a Nutshell, Third Edition
ISBN: 0596007647
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 232

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