XML is first and foremost a document format. It was always intended for web pages, books, scholarly articles, poems, short stories, reference manuals, tutorials, textbooks , legal pleadings, contracts, instruction sheets, and other documents that human beings would read. Its use as a syntax for computer data in applications such as order processing, object serialization, database exchange and backup, and electronic data interchange is mostly a happy accident .
Most computer programmers are better trained in working with the rigid structures one encounters in record-like applications than in the more free-form environment of an article or story. Most writers are more accustomed to the more free-form format of a book, story, or article. XML is perhaps unique in addressing the needs of both communities equally well. This chapter describes by both elucidation and example the structures encountered in narrative documents that are meant to be read by people instead of computers. Subsequent chapters will look at web pages in particular, then address technologiessuch as XSLT, XLinks, and stylesheetsthat are primarily intended for use with documents that will be read by human beings. Once we've done that, we'll look at XML as a format for more or less transitory data meant to be read by computers, rather than semipermanent documents intended for human consumption.