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Welcome to CA277 - Overview


Welcome to CA277 - XML and Its Applications. This course is designed as an introductory course into the XML technologies. As an introduction, we will examine many aspects of XML; including creating well-formed and valid documents; formatting the data with style sheets and other, more powerful, tools; linking XML documents together; and finally how XML is being used today. As we begin this course, XML tools are still being developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and will likely still be in development well beyond the end of this class. We will look at the current state of the technology, and where it is likely to progress in the coming months and years ahead. We will also look at how XML is actually being used in various applications across the marketplace. Although no one will leave here an XML expert, we should all improve our knowledge of this technology as the course progresses.


This course is designed for students with a fundamental understanding of HTML and how to post to a web server. Your assignments will, in general, be posted to a college maintained web server known as "web4students." Using this server I can then "poke" around in your directory if you are having difficulty getting something to work. If you have taken other Computer Applications courses recently, you are probably familiar with the web4students server. If you are familiar with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) or JavaScript you will have a slight advantage, but those skills are not required to take this course. If you are not familiar with CSS, that is okay, we will cover enough of the fundamentals that you can use it to complete your assignments. If you have any programming background, you will likely be in for a surprise when we get to Extensible Styling Language - Transformations (XSL-T) since it uses an entirely different process of programming than you are probably familiar with. No longer will you tell the computer what to do, step-by-step, instead you tell it how you want the results to look and let the computer figure out the step-by-step details.


This course will look at more that just the basic tools and technologies involved, we will also be looking at how those technologies are used in the marketplace. XML has two primary areas of development, computer-to-computer applications (like electronic data interchange), and computer-to-human applications (like web pages). We will briefly discuss the computer-to-computer types of applications, but since they typically require quite a bit of knowledge about database applications and Structured Query Language, we will not focus on those. What we will be focusing on are the types of applications that emphasize computer-to-human transactions. Perhaps the most widely used application of that type is XHTML, which applies the rules of XML to the existing structure of HTML (we will learn later that XML and HTML are both descendants from the same original coding system called SGML). In addition to examining XHTML, we will be looking at a graphical implementation of XML called Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG). XHTML and SVG allow a designer to build a complete site (words and pictures) entirely in XML. Although the navigation bar used above was created in Fireworks, it could also be designed in SVG (I'm just too lazy to build it that way).


This course will be taught using at least three different servers, so now is probably a good time to explain the overall structure of the course. What you are looking at now is the location where the general public can access, so it has minimal information. Most of the course materials will be located inside of a password protected system called WebCT (which has a link on the above navigation system). A third server, called web4students, is where you will be posting most of your assignments (not all of them require posting). The first day of class I will provide registered students with a user ID and password so they can FTP their assignments to the server.

That should be enough to get you started. If you are still interested, go to the college's main Web site ( and get yourself registered for class. See you there!

John Coliton
August 19, 2004