XML Interview Questions

Give some  examples of types of applications that can benefit from using XML.

Infact there are lot of applications that use XML, the point of this question to see what all the practical usages teh candidate is used to and what all he foresee.
For instance,one appropriate answer is that XML allows content management systems to store documents independently of their format, which thereby reduces data redundancy. Another answer relates to B2B exchanges or supply chain management systems. In these instances, XML provides a mechanism for multiple companies to exchange data according to an agreed upon set of rules. A third common response involves wireless applications that require WML to render data on hand held devices.

Explain about DOM and how does it relates to XML?

The Document Object Model (DOM) is an interface specification maintained by the W3C DOM Workgroup that defines an application independent mechanism to access, parse, or update XML data. In simple terms it is a hierarchical model that allows developers to manipulate XML documents easily Any developer that has worked extensively with
XML should be able to discuss the concept and use of DOM objects freely. Additionally, it is not unreasonable to expect advanced candidates to thoroughly understand its internal workings and be able to explain how DOM differs from an event-based interface like SAX.

When should we use XML?

Here are a few reasons for using XML.

  • XML can be used to describe and identify information accurately and unambiguously, in a way that computers can be programmed to ‘understand’ (well, at least manipulate as if they could understand).
  • XML allows documents which are all the same type to be created consistently and without structural errors, because it provides a standardized way of describing, controlling, or allowing/disallowing particular types of document structure. [Note that this has absolutelynothing whatever to do with formatting, appearance, or the actual text content of your documents, only the structure of them.]
  • XML provides a robust and durable format for information storage and transmission. Robust because it is based on a proven standard, and can thus be tested and verified; durable because it uses plain-text file formats which will outlast proprietary binary ones.
  • XML provides a common syntax for messaging systems for the exchange of information between applications. Previously, each messaging system had its own format and all were different, which made inter-system messaging unnecessarily messy, complex, and expensive. If everyone uses the same syntax it makes writing these systems much faster and more reliable.
  • XML is free. Not just free of charge (free as in beer) but free of legal encumbrances (free as in speech). It doesn’t belong to anyone, so it can’t be hijacked or pirated. And you don’t have to pay a fee to use it (you can of course choose to use commercial software to deal with it, for lots of good reasons, but you don’t pay for XML itself).
  • XML information can be manipulated programmatically (under machine control), so XML documents can be pieced together from disparate sources, or taken apart and re-used in different ways. They can be converted into almost any other format with no loss of information.
  • XML lets you separate form from content. Your XML file contains your document information (text, data) and identifies its structure: your formatting and other processing needs are identified separately in a style sheet or processing system. The two are combined at output time to apply the required formatting to the text or data identified by its structure (location, position, rank, order, or whatever).

Explain the steps necessary to parse XML documents?

Basically, this is a pretty basic question. However, the point is not to determine whether candidates understand the concept of a parser but rather have them walk through the process of parsing XML documents step-by-step. Determining whether a non-validating or validating parser is needed, choosing the appropriate parser,
and handling errors are all important aspects to this process that should be included in the candidate’s response.

Give some examples of XML DTDs or schemas that you have worked with.?

Although XML does not require data to be validated against a DTD, many of the benefits of using the technology are derived from being able to validate XML documents against business or technical architecture rules. Polling for the list of DTDs that developers have worked with provides insight to their general exposure to the technology. The ideal candidate will have knowledge of several of the commonly used DTDs such as FpML, DocBook, HRML, and RDF, as well as experience designing a custom DTD for a particular project where no standard existed.

When you construct an XML DTD, how do you create an external entity reference in an attribute value?

Every interview session should have at least one trick question. Although possible when using SGML, XML DTDs don’t support defining external entity references in attribute values. It’s more important for the candidate to respond to this question in a logical way than than the candidate know the somewhat obscure answer.

How can you build a search engine for large volumes of XML data?

The way candidates answer this question may provide insight into their view of XML data. For those who view XML primarily as a way to denote structure for text files, a common answer is to build a full-text search and handle the data similarly to the way Internet portals handle HTML pages. Others consider XML as a standard way

of transferring structured data between disparate systems. These candidates often describe some scheme of importing XML into a relational or object database and relying on the database’s engine for searching. Lastly, candidates that have worked with vendors specializing in this area often say that the best way the handle this situation is to use a third party software package optimized for XML data.