APIs improving in XML–Java arena

The state of the marriage of XML and Java is improving, said Brett McLaughlin, author of the newly released second edition of Java & XML from O'Reilly & Associates.

"It's definitely much better than a couple of years ago. Two years ago, if you wanted to use XML, you had to use a homebrewed solution. In terms of using code you had to write your own proprietary solutions," said author McLaughlin, who also serves as Enhydra strategist for Lutris Technologies.

That changed with the advent of several new low-level APIs, said McLaughlin. "SAX or DOM let developers interoperate with a document directly in its own structure, not character-by-character."

According to McLaughlin, even higher-level techniques—he mentions XML binding, among others—are helping the cause. But things are clearly not advanced to the point where tools do the chores and developers do not find it challenging to mix Java and XML.

There is still a need to understand this emerging style of computing, and for useful books such as McLaughlin's. Developers need to know what goes on under the covers, when software wizard programs do their work.

"I draw a distinction between using an API or technology, and using it well," said McLaughlin. "If you don't understand the 'magic' [of API], you may get a system to work, but you may not achieve the most efficient [XML] transformation." So, tactless reliance on APIs can lead to XML–Java systems that are inefficient and slow.

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About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.