XML is an important tool for all web developers, even those who dont use Flash. XML provides the basis for much of the content on the Internet, and its importance will only increase over time. Many people consider XML the lingua franca of the Internet as it provides the standards for data exchange between humans and machines in many different settings.
Web developers use XML to create their own languages to store, structure, and name data. XML content is the perfect mechanism for self-describing data. This makes XML documents ideal for sharing with other developers and IT specialists.
As a developer, you can use the same XML content for many different purposes. For example, you could use a single XML document to power a .NET application as well as a Java version. You could also transform the content into an XHTML document, a Flash movie, or a PDF file.
XML- related technologies also let you sort and filter the data within an XML document. Style sheet transformations allow you to reshape your data any way you want. You can then show the transformed content in a web browser, read it aloud , print it out, or send it to a mobile phone.
A physical XML document provides portability over and above that of a database. Creating an XML document enables you to distribute database content offline. For example, you can use the XML file with a stand-alone Flash movie and distribute it on a CD-ROM. In addition, providing an XML layer between a user and a database is a good way to prevent access to sensitive corporate data.
The built-in support for XML within Flash allows Flash developers to use XML data within any Flash movie. Using the content from XML documents enables you to update your movies without ever having to open Flash. You can store your Flash application settings in an XML file so that you can configure the application with simple changes to the document. If youre not comfortable with ActionScript, you can use the data components to add XML content to your movies. You can work with the panels in Flash so that you dont have to write any ActionScript.
You can save maintenance time by allowing your clients to manage their own content. Its often not practical for them to learn how to use Flash, and in reality, you probably dont want to give your clients access to the Flash movies that youve created. Instead, you provide mechanisms for clients to update an XML file and the Flash movie will update accordingly .
I have clients who update the content of their Flash movies using Office 2003. They make the changes within Word, Access, or Excel 2003; export the content in XML format; and replace the existing XML file with the new file theyve just created. They can use a web page to upload the new XML file to their website, or they can burn it to a CD-ROM with a stand-alone Flash file.
These clients have the flexibility to change their Flash movie content whenever they like, and Ive found that most clients are very comfortable working this way. It also saves me from continually editing their Flash movies each time the content changes.