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EXtensible Markup Language (XML) is permeating virtually every other software technology. Most of the key software companies are hard at work integrating XML into their existing products or creating new products to leverage this exciting technology. Oracle is incorporating it into their DBMS. Microsoft SQL Server 2000 is also adding significant XML features. Microsoft is also hard at work integrating XML into the next version of Office and all of their development tools. Because XML is a text-based technology, it is easily ported to any platform. Recently, XML and a host of supporting technologies were explored in depth at the XML Connections conference in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The XML Connections conference was one of six Connections conferences held in Scottsdale recently. Along with XML, there were Connections conferences on ASP, Visual Basic, Visual C++, and Windows and Outlook. It was interesting to note that XML topics weren’t confined to the XML Connections conference. Many of the other conferences highlighted XML sessions, too. In the ASP Connections conference, for example, many of the best-attended sessions were on the topic of XML.

Experts in the XML community are just starting to surface. Among them are Paul Litwin, Jeff Niblack, Robert MacHale, Bill Hatfield, and Ken Spencer. Each of these experts presented XML sessions.

Paul Litwin focused on XML topics of interest to the ASP developer. In addition to discussing the use of XML itself, Paul also covered introduced DTDs and schemas, the Document Object Model (DOM), XML on the server, and XSL/XSLT style sheets.

Jeff Niblack also focused on the Document Object Model. The DOM is a W3C standard for APIs which provide access to XML documents. By using the objects and methods of DOM you can navigate through XML data. Robert MacHale covered XHTML, which is a structured, XML-like implementation of HTML.

For those familiar with XML but needing to know more about transforming XML documents, Bill Hatfield covered XSLT, the Extensible Stylesheet Language Transforms. XSLT is a technology which allows you to create new XML documents based on existing documents (or to transform XML documents into HTML to be displayed in a browser). XSLT’s execution process and its schema for creating templates are what make transformation of XML data possible.

Ken Spencer presented information on integrating XML with components and Internet technologies. Ken explained how to use XML from ASP, with ActiveX Data Objects (ADO), and within SQL Server. He also addressed transferring data from one system to another with XML.

In addition to XML, the Connections conferences focused on ASP, Exchange, Visual Basic, Visual C++, Windows, and much more. Each of these individual conferences had its own keynote presentation with presenters such as Tod Neilson, Tony Goodwin, David Medlin, and more. While there weren’t the thousands of attendees that an XML One, Microsoft Tech Ed, or a Professional Developer’s Conference (PDC) would draw, there were still many key movers and shakers in the development industry. And because this was a smaller conference, it was easy to ask questions. There was even a session at the end of each conference where many of the speakers came just to answer specific questions from the audience. This opportunity for interaction really increased the value of the conference. Additionally, with industry practitioners, rather than marketing-types, leading the sessions, it was much easier to get a clear picture of how the technology works in the real world and what really works and what doesn’t for corporate development. For those implementing solutions in the software development industry today, this is extremely valuable.

Look for technical articles in the coming months from some of the experts listed here, as well as articles based on information presented at these conferences.

For additional information on the Connections conferences, check out and

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