Set - 1

Question 1 :

Using XSLT, how would you extract a specific attribute from an element in an XML document? 

Answer :

Successful candidates should recognize this as one of the most basic applications of XSLT. If they are not able to construct a reply similar to the example below, they should at least be able to identify the components necessary for this operation: xsl:template to match the appropriate XML element, xsl:value-of to select the attribute value, and the optional xsl:apply-templates to continue processing the document.

Extract Attributes from XML Data 
Example 1.

<xsl:template match="element-name">

Attribute Value:

<xsl:value-of select="@attribute"/>

Question 2 :

What is the difference between XML and C or C++ or Java ?

Answer :

C and C++ (and other languages like FORTRAN, or Pascal, or Visual Basic, or Java or hundreds more) are programming languages with which you specify calculations, actions, and decisions to be carried out in order:

mod curconfig[if left(date,6) = "01-Apr", 
t.put "April googlel!", 
f.put days('31102005','DDMMYYYY') -
" more shopping days to Samhain"];

XML is a markup specification language with which you can design ways of describing information (text or data), usually for storage, transmission, or processing by a program. It says nothing about what you should do with the data (although your choice of element names may hint at what they are for):

<part num="DA42" models="LS AR DF HG KJ" update="2001-11-22">
<name>Camshaft end bearing retention circlip</name>
<image drawing="RR98-dh37" type="SVG" x="476" y="226"/> <maker id="RQ778">Ringtown Fasteners Ltd</maker>
<notes>Angle-nosed insertion tool <tool id="GH25"/> is required for the removal and replacement of this part.</notes>

On its own, an SGML or XML file (including HTML) doesn't do anything. It's a data format which just sits there until you run a program which does something with it.

Question 3 :

What does an XML document actually look like (inside)?

Answer :

The basic structure of XML is similar to other applications of SGML, including HTML. The basic components can be seen in the following examples. An XML document starts with a Prolog: 
1. The XML Declaration
which specifies that this is an XML document;
2. Optionally a Document Type Declaration
which identifies the type of document and says where the Document Type Description (DTD) is stored;
The Prolog is followed by the document instance:
1. A root element, which is the outermost (top level) element (start-tag plus end-tag) which encloses everything else: in the examples below the root elements are conversation and titlepage;
2. A structured mix of descriptive or prescriptive elements enclosing the character data content (text), and optionally any attributes ('name=value' pairs) inside some start-tags.
XML documents can be very simple, with straightforward nested markup of your own design:

<?xml version="1.0" standalone="yes"?>
<greeting>Hello, world!</greeting>
<response>Stop the planet, I want to get 

Or they can be more complicated, with a Schema or question C.11, Document Type Description (DTD) or internal subset (local DTD changes in [square brackets]), and an arbitrarily complex nested structure:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="iso-8859-1"?>
<!DOCTYPE titlepage SYSTEM "" [<!ENTITY % active.links "INCLUDE">]><titlepage id="BG12273624">
<white-space type="vertical" amount="36"/>
<title font="Baskerville" alignment="centered"size="24/30">Hello, world!</title>
<white-space type="vertical" amount="12"/>
<!-- In some copies the following 
decoration is hand-colored, presumably 
by the author -->
<image location="" type="URI" alignment="centered"/>
<white-space type="vertical" amount="24"/>
<author font="Baskerville" size="18/22" style="italic">Vitam capias</author>
<white-space type="vertical" role="filler"/>

Or they can be anywhere between: a lot will depend on how you want to define your document type (or whose you use) and what it will be used for. Database-generated or program-generated XML documents used in e-commerce is usually unformatted (not for human reading) and may use very long names or values, with multiple redundancy and sometimes no character data content at all, just values in attributes:

<?xml version="1.0"?> <ORDER-UPDATE AUTHMD5="4baf7d7cff5faa3ce67acf66ccda8248" ORDER-UPDATE-ISSUE="193E22C2-EAF3-11D9-9736-CAFC705A30B3" ORDER-UPDATE-DATE="2005-07-01T15:34:22.46" ORDER-UPDATE-DESTINATION="6B197E02-EAF3-11D9-85D5-997710D9978F" ORDER-UPDATE-ORDERNO="8316ADEA-EAF3-11D9-9955-D289ECBC99F3">

Question 4 :

How does XML handle white-space in my documents?

Answer :

All white-space, including linebreaks, TAB characters, and normal spaces, even between 'structural' elements where no text can ever appear, is passed by the parser unchanged to the application (browser, formatter, viewer, converter, etc), identifying the context in which the white-space was found (element content, data content, or mixed content, if this information is available to the parser, eg from a DTD or Schema). This means it is the application's responsibility to decide what to do with such space, not the parser's:
* insignificant white-space between structural elements (space which occurs where only element content is allowed, ie between other elements, where text data never occurs) will get passed to the application (in SGML this white-space gets suppressed, which is why you can put all that extra space in HTML documents and not worry about it)
* significant white-space (space which occurs within elements which can contain text and markup mixed together, usually mixed content or PCDATA) will still get passed to the application exactly as under SGML. It is the application's responsibility to handle it correctly.
The parser must inform the application that white-space has occurred in element content, if it can detect it. (Users of SGML will recognize that this information is not in the ESIS, but it is in the Grove.)

<title> My title for Chapter 1. </title> 
<para> text </para> 

In the example above, the application will receive all the pretty-printing linebreaks, TABs, and spaces between the elements as well as those embedded in the chapter title. It is the function of the application, not the parser, to decide which type of white-space to discard and which to retain. Many XML applications have configurable options to allow programmers or users to control how such white-space is handled.

Question 5 :

Which parts of an XML document are case-sensitive?

Answer :

All of it, both markup and text. This is significantly different from HTML and most other SGML applications. It was done to allow markup in non-Latin-alphabet languages, and to obviate problems with case-folding in writing systems which are caseless.
* Element type names are case-sensitive: you must follow whatever combination of upper- or lower-case you use to define them (either by first usage or in a DTD or Schema). So you can't say <BODY>…</body>: upper- and lower-case must match; thus <Img/>, <IMG/>, and <img/> are three different element types;
* For well-formed XML documents with no DTD, the first occurrence of an element type name defines the casing;
* Attribute names are also case-sensitive, for example the two width attributes in <PIC width="7in"/> and <PIC WIDTH="6in"/> (if they occurred in the same file) are separate attributes, because of the different case of width and WIDTH;
* Attribute values are also case-sensitive. CDATA values (eg Url="MyFile.SGML") always have been, but NAME types (ID and IDREF attributes, and token list attributes) are now case-sensitive as well;
* All general and parameter entity names (eg Á), and your data content (text), are case-sensitive as always.

Question 6 :

What's a Document Type Definition (DTD) and where do I get one?

Answer :

A DTD is a description in XML Declaration Syntax of a particular type or class of document. It sets out what names are to be used for the different types of element, where they may occur, and how they all fit together. (A question C.16, Schema does the same thing in XML Document Syntax, and allows more extensive data-checking.) 
For example, if you want a document type to be able to describe Lists which contain Items, the relevant part of your DTD might contain something like this:

<!ELEMENT List (Item)+> 

This defines a list as an element type containing one or more items (that's the plus sign); and it defines items as element types containing just plain text (Parsed Character Data or PCDATA). Validators read the DTD before they read your document so that they can identify where every element type ought to come and how each relates to the other, so that applications which need to know this in advance (most editors, search engines, navigators, and databases) can set themselves up correctly. The example above lets you create lists like:


(The indentation in the example is just for legibility while editing: it is not required by XML.) 
A DTD provides applications with advance notice of what names and structures can be used in a particular document type. Using a DTD and a validating editor means you can be certain that all documents of that particular type will be constructed and named in a consistent and conformant manner. 
DTDs are not required for processing the tip in question Bwell-formed documents, but they are needed if you want to take advantage of XML's special attribute types like the built-in ID/IDREF cross-reference mechanism; or the use of default attribute values; or references to external non-XML files ('Notations'); or if you simply want a check on document validity before processing. 
There are thousands of DTDs already in existence in all kinds of areas (see the SGML/XML Web pages for pointers). Many of them can be downloaded and used freely; or you can write your own (see the question on creating your own DTD. Old SGML DTDs need to be converted to XML for use with XML systems: read the question on converting SGML DTDs to XML, but most popular SGML DTDs are already available in XML form. 
The alternatives to a DTD are various forms of question C.16, Schema. These provide more extensive validation features than DTDs, including character data content validation.

Question 7 :

How do I write my own DTD?

Answer :

You need to use the XML Declaration Syntax (very simple: declaration keywords begin with

<!ELEMENT Shopping-List (Item)+>

It says that there shall be an element called Shopping-List and that it shall contain elements called Item: there must be at least one Item (that's the plus sign) but there may be more than one. It also says that the Item element may contain only parsed character data (PCDATA, ie text: no further markup). 
Because there is no other element which contains Shopping-List, that element is assumed to be the 'root' element, which encloses everything else in the document. You can now use it to create an XML file: give your editor the declarations:

<?xml version="1.0"?> 
<!DOCTYPE Shopping-List SYSTEM "shoplist.dtd">

(assuming you put the DTD in that file). Now your editor will let you create files according to the pattern:


It is possible to develop complex and powerful DTDs of great subtlety, but for any significant use you should learn more about document systems analysis and document type design. See for example Developing SGML DTDs: From Text to Model to Markup (Maler and el Andaloussi, 1995): this was written for SGML but perhaps 95% of it applies to XML as well, as XML is much simpler than full SGML—see the list of restrictions which shows what has been cut out. 

Incidentally, a DTD file never has a DOCTYPE Declaration in it: that only occurs in an XML document instance (it's what references the DTD). And a DTD file also never has an XML Declaration at the top either. Unfortunately there is still software around which inserts one or both of these.

Question 8 :

I keep hearing about alternatives to DTDs. What's a Schema?

Answer :

The W3C XML Schema recommendation provides a means of specifying formal data typing and validation of element content in terms of data types, so that document type designers can provide criteria for checking the data content of elements as well as the markup itself. Schemas are written in XML Document Syntax, like XML documents are, avoiding the need for processing software to be able to read XML Declaration Syntax (used for DTDs). 
There is a separate Schema FAQ at http://www.schemavalid.comFAQ. The term 'vocabulary' is sometimes used to refer to DTDs and Schemas together. Schemas are aimed at e-commerce, data control, and database-style applications where character data content requires validation and where stricter data control is needed than is possible with DTDs; or where strong data typing is required. They are usually unnecessary for traditional text document publishing applications. 
Unlike DTDs, Schemas cannot be specified in an XML Document Type Declaration. They can be specified in a Namespace, where Schema-aware software should pick it up, but this is optional:

<invoice id="abc123"

More commonly, you specify the Schema in your processing software, which should record separately which Schema is used by which XML document instance. 
In contrast to the complexity of the W3C Schema model, Relax NG is a lightweight, easy-to-use XML schema language devised by James Clark (see with development hosted by OASIS. It allows similar richness of expression and the use of XML as its syntax, but it provides an additional, simplified, syntax which is easier to use for those accustomed to DTDs.

Question 9 :

How will XML affect my document links?

Answer :

The linking abilities of XML systems are potentially much more powerful than those of HTML, so you'll be able to do much more with them. Existing href-style links will remain usable, but the new linking technology is based on the lessons learned in the development of other standards involving hypertext, such as TEI and HyTime, which let you manage bidirectional and multi-way links, as well as links to a whole element or span of text (within your own or other documents) rather than to a single point. These features have been available to SGML users for many years, so there is considerable experience and expertise available in using them. Currently only Mozilla Firefox implements XLink. 
The XML Linking Specification (XLink) and the XML Extended Pointer Specification (XPointer) documents contain the details. An XLink can be either a URI or a TEI-style Extended Pointer (XPointer), or both. A URI on its own is assumed to be a resource; if an XPointer follows it, it is assumed to be a sub-resource of that URI; an XPointer on its own is assumed to apply to the current document (all exactly as with HTML). 
An XLink may use one of #, ?, or |. The # and ? mean the same as in HTML applications; the | means the sub-resource can be found by applying the link to the resource, but the method of doing this is left to the application. An XPointer can only follow a #. 
The TEI Extended Pointer Notation (EPN) is much more powerful than the fragment address on the end of some URIs, as it allows you to specify the location of a link end using the structure of the document as well as (or in addition to) known, fixed points like IDs. For example, the linked second occurrence of the word 'XPointer' two paragraphs back could be referred to with the URI (shown here with linebreaks and spaces for clarity: in practice it would of course be all one long string):
This means the first link element within the second paragraph within the answer in the element whose ID is hypertext (this question). Count the objects from the start of this question (which has the ID hypertext) in the XML source: 
1. the first child object is the element containing the question ();
2. the second child object is the answer (the element);
3. within this element go to the second paragraph;
4. find the first link element.
Eve Maler explained the relationship of XLink and XPointer as follows:
XLink governs how you insert links into your XML document, where the link might point to anything (eg a GIF file); XPointer governs the fragment identifier that can go on a URL when you're linking to an XML document, from anywhere (eg from an HTML file).
[Or indeed from an XML file, a URI in a mail message, etc…Ed.]
David Megginson has produced an xpointer function for Emacs/psgml which will deduce an XPointer for any location in an XML document. XML Spy has a similar function.

Question 10 :

How do I include one XML file in another? 

Answer :

This works exactly the same as for SGML. First you declare the entity you want to include, and then you reference it by name:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<!DOCTYPE novel SYSTEM "/dtd/novel.dtd" [
<!ENTITY chap1 SYSTEM "mydocs/chapter1.xml">
<!ENTITY chap2 SYSTEM "mydocs/chapter2.xml">
<!ENTITY chap3 SYSTEM "mydocs/chapter3.xml">
<!ENTITY chap4 SYSTEM "mydocs/chapter4.xml">
<!ENTITY chap5 SYSTEM "mydocs/chapter5.xml">
...blah blah...

The difference between this method and the one used for including a DTD fragment (see question D.15, 'How do I include one DTD (or fragment) in another?') is that this uses an external general (file) entity which is referenced in the same way as for a character entity (with an ampersand). 
The one thing to make sure of is that the included file must not have an XML or DOCTYPE Declaration on it. If you've been using one for editing the fragment, remove it before using the file in this way. Yes, this is a pain in the butt, but if you have lots of inclusions like this, write a script to strip off the declaration (and paste it back on again for editing).

Question 11 :

What is parsing and how do I do it in XML

Answer :

Parsing is the act of splitting up information into its component parts (schools used to teach this in language classes until the teaching profession collectively caught the anti-grammar disease). 
'Mary feeds Spot' parses as
1. Subject = Mary, proper noun, nominative case
2. Verb = feeds, transitive, third person singular, present tense
3. Object = Spot, proper noun, accusative case
In computing, a parser is a program (or a piece of code or API that you can reference inside your own programs) which analyses files to identify the component parts. All applications that read input have a parser of some kind, otherwise they'd never be able to figure out what the information means. Microsoft Word contains a parser which runs when you open a .doc file and checks that it can identify all the hidden codes. Give it a corrupted file and you'll get an error message. 
XML applications are just the same: they contain a parser which reads XML and identifies the function of each the pieces of the document, and it then makes that information available in memory to the rest of the program. 
While reading an XML file, a parser checks the syntax (pointy brackets, matching quotes, etc) for well-formedness, and reports any violations (reportable errors). The XML Specification lists what these are. 
Validation is another stage beyond parsing. As the component parts of the program are identified, a validating parser can compare them with the pattern laid down by a DTD or a Schema, to check that they conform. In the process, default values and datatypes (if specified) can be added to the in-memory result of the validation that the validating parser gives to the application.

<person corpid="abc123" birth="1960-02-31" gender="female"> <name> <forename>Judy</forename> <surname>O'Grady</surname> </name> </person> 
The example above parses as: 1. Element person identified with Attribute corpid containing abc123 and Attribute birth containing 1960-02-31 and Attribute gender containing female containing ...
2. Element name containing ...
3. Element forename containing text 'Judy' followed by ...
4. Element surname containing text 'O'Grady'
(and lots of other stuff too).
As well as built-in parsers, there are also stand-alone parser-validators, which read an XML file and tell you if they find an error (like missing angle-brackets or quotes, or misplaced markup). This is essential for testing files in isolation before doing something else with them, especially if they have been created by hand without an XML editor, or by an API which may be too deeply embedded elsewhere to allow easy testing.

Question 12 :

When should I use a CDATA Marked Section?

Answer :

You should almost never need to use CDATA Sections. The CDATA mechanism was designed to let an author quote fragments of text containing markup characters (the open-angle-bracket and the ampersand), for example when documenting XML (this FAQ uses CDATA Sections quite a lot, for obvious reasons). A CDATA Section turns off markup recognition for the duration of the section (it gets turned on again only by the closing sequence of double end-square-brackets and a close-angle-bracket). 
Consequently, nothing in a CDATA section can ever be recognised as anything to do with markup: it's just a string of opaque characters, and if you use an XML transformation language like XSLT, any markup characters in it will get turned into their character entity equivalent. 
If you try, for example, to use:
some text with <![CDATA[markup]]> in it.
in the expectation that the embedded markup would remain untouched, it won't: it will just output
some text with <em>markup</em> in it.
In other words, CDATA Sections cannot preserve the embedded markup as markup. Normally this is exactly what you want because this technique was designed to let people do things like write documentation about markup. It was not designed to allow the passing of little chunks of (possibly invalid) unparsed HTML embedded inside your own XML through to a subsequent process—because that would risk invalidating the output. 
As a result you cannot expect to keep markup untouched simply because it looked as if it was safely 'hidden' inside a CDATA section: it can't be used as a magic shield to preserve HTML markup for future use as markup, only as characters.

Question 13 :

How can I handle embedded HTML in my XML

Answer :

Apart from using CDATA Sections, there are two common occasions when people want to handle embedded HTML inside an XML element:
1. when they have received (possibly poorly-designed) XML from somewhere else which they must find a way to handle;
2. when they have an application which has been explicitly designed to store a string of characters containing < and & character entity references with the objective of turning them back into markup in a later process (eg FreeMind, Atom).
Generally, you want to avoid this kind of trick, as it usually indicates that the document structure and design has been insufficiently thought out. However, there are occasions when it becomes unavoidable, so if you really need or want to use embedded HTML markup inside XML, and have it processable later as markup, there are a couple of techniques you may be able to use:
* Provide templates for the handling of that markup in your XSLT transformation or whatever software you use which simply replicates what was there, eg

<xsl:template match="b">

* Use XSLT's 'deep copy' instruction, which outputs nested well-formed markup verbatim, eg

<xsl:template match="ol">
<xsl:copy-of select="."/>

* As a last resort, use the disable-output-escaping attribute on the xsl:text element of XSL[T] which is available in some processors, eg

<xsl:text disable-output-escaping="yes"><![CDATA[<b>Now!</b>]]></xsl:text>

* Some processors (eg JX) are now providing their own equivalents for disabling output escaping. Their proponents claim it is 'highly desirable' or 'what most people want', but it still needs to be treated with care to prevent unwanted (possibly dangerous) arbitrary code from being passed untouched through your system. It also adds another dependency to your software.
For more details of using these techniques in XSL[T], see the relevant question in the XSL FAQ.

Question 14 :

What are the special characters in XML ?

Answer :

For normal text (not markup), there are no special characters: just make sure your document refers to the correct encoding scheme for the language and/or writing system you want to use, and that your computer correctly stores the file using that encoding scheme. See the question on non-Latin characters for a longer explanation. 
If your keyboard will not allow you to type the characters you want, or if you want to use characters outside the limits of the encoding scheme you have chosen, you can use a symbolic notation called 'entity referencing'. Entity references can either be numeric, using the decimal or hexadecimal Unicode code point for the character (eg if your keyboard has no Euro symbol (€) you can type €); or they can be character, using an established name which you declare in your DTD (eg ) and then use as € in your document. If you are using a Schema, you must use the numeric form for all except the five below because Schemas have no way to make character entity declarations. 
If you use XML with no DTD, then these five character entities are assumed to be predeclared, and you can use them without declaring them: 
The less-than character (<) starts element markup (the first character of a start-tag or an end-tag).

The ampersand character (>) starts entity markup (the first character of a character entity reference).
The greater-than character (>) ends a start-tag or an end-tag.
The double-quote character (") can be symbolised with this character entity reference when you need to embed a double-quote inside a string which is already double-quoted.
The apostrophe or single-quote character (') can be symbolised with this character entity reference when you need to embed a single-quote or apostrophe inside a string which is already single-quoted.
If you are using a DTD then you must declare all the character entities you need to use (if any), including any of the five above that you plan on using (they cease to be predeclared if you use a DTD). If you are using a Schema, you must use the numeric form for all except the five above because Schemas have no way to make character entity declarations.

Question 15 :

Can I (and my authors) still use client-side inclusions?

Answer :

The same rule applies as for server-side inclusions, so you need to ensure that any embedded code which gets passed to a third-party engine (eg calls to SQL, VB, Java, etc) does not contain any characters which might be misinterpreted as XML markup (ie no angle brackets or ampersands). Either use a CDATA marked section to avoid your XML application parsing the embedded code, or use the standard <, and & character entity references instead.

Question 16 :

How can I include a conditional statement in my XML? 

Answer :

You can't: XML isn't a programming language, so you can't say things like 
<google if {DB}="A">bar</google> 
If you need to make an element optional, based on some internal or external criteria, you can do so in a Schema. DTDs have no internal referential mechanism, so it isn't possible to express this kind of conditionality in a DTD at the individual element level. 
It is possible to express presence-or-absence conditionality in a DTD for the whole document, by using parameter entities as switches to include or ignore certain sections of the DTD based on settings either hardwired in the DTD or supplied in the internal subset. Both the TEI and Docbook DTDs use this mechanism to implement modularity. 
Alternatively you can make the element entirely optional in the DTD or Schema, and provide code in your processing software that checks for its presence or absence. This defers the checking until the processing stage: one of the reasons for Schemas is to provide this kind of checking at the time of document creation or editing.

Question 17 :

I have to do an overview of XML for my manager/client/investor/advisor. What should I mention?

Answer :

* XML is not a markup language. XML is a 'metalanguage', that is, it's a language that lets you define your own markup languages (see definition).
* XML is a markup language [two (seemingly) contradictory statements one after another is an attention-getting device that I'm fond of], not a programming language. XML is data: is does not 'do' anything, it has things done to it.
* XML is non-proprietary: your data cannot be held hostage by someone else.
* XML allows multi-purposing of your data.
* Well-designed XML applications most often separate 'content' from 'presentation'. You should describe what something is rather what something looks like (the exception being data content which never gets presented to humans).
Saying 'the data is in XML' is a relatively useless statement, similar to saying 'the book is in a natural language'. To be useful, the former needs to specify 'we have used XML to define our own markup language' (and say what it is), similar to specifying 'the book is in French'.
A classic example of multipurposing and separation that I often use is a pharmaceutical company. They have a large base of data on a particular drug that they need to publish as:
* reports to the FDA;
* drug information for publishers of drug directories/catalogs;
* 'prescribe me!' brochures to send to doctors;
* little pieces of paper to tuck into the boxes;
* labels on the bottles;
* two pages of fine print to follow their ad in Reader's Digest;
* instructions to the patient that the local pharmacist prints out;
* etc.
Without separation of content and presentation, they need to maintain essentially identical information in 20 places. If they miss a place, people die, lawyers get rich, and the drug company gets poor. With XML (or SGML), they maintain one set of carefully validated information, and write 20 programs to extract and format it for each application. The same 20 programs can now be applied to all the hundreds of drugs that they sell.
In the Web development area, the biggest thing that XML offers is fixing what is wrong with HTML:
* browsers allow non-compliant HTML to be presented;
* HTML is restricted to a single set of markup ('tagset').
If you let broken HTML work (be presented), then there is no motivation to fix it. Web pages are therefore tag soup that are useless for further processing. XML specifies that processing must not continue if the XML is non-compliant, so you keep working at it until it complies. This is more work up front, but the result is not a dead-end.
If you wanted to mark up the names of things: people, places, companies, etc in HTML, you don't have many choices that allow you to distinguish among them. XML allows you to name things as what they are:
<person>Charles Goldfarb</person> worked 
at <company>IBM</company>
gives you a flexibility that you don't have with HTML:
<B>Charles Goldfarb</B> worked at<B>IBM<</B>
With XML you don't have to shoe-horn your data into markup that restricts your options.

Question 18 :

What is the purpose of XML namespaces?

Answer :

XML namespaces are designed to provide universally unique names for elements and attributes. This allows people to do a number of things, such as:
* Combine fragments from different documents without any naming conflicts. (See example below.)
* Write reusable code modules that can be invoked for specific elements and attributes. Universally unique names guarantee that such modules are invoked only for the correct elements and attributes.
* Define elements and attributes that can be reused in other schemas or instance documents without fear of name collisions. For example, you might use XHTML elements in a parts catalog to provide part descriptions. Or you might use the nil attribute defined in XML Schemas to indicate a missing value.
As an example of how XML namespaces are used to resolve naming conflicts in XML documents that contain element types and attributes from multiple XML languages, consider the following two XML documents:

<?xml version="1.0" ?>
<Street>Apple 7</Street>
<?xml version="1.0" ?>

Each document uses a different XML language and each language defines an Address element type. Each of these Address element types is different -- that is, each has a different content model, a different meaning, and is interpreted by an application in a different way. This is not a problem as long as these element types exist only in separate documents. But what if they are combined in the same document, such as a list of departments, their addresses, and their Web servers? How does an application know which Address element type it is processing?
One solution is to simply rename one of the Address element types -- for example, we could rename the second element type IPAddress. However, this is not a useful long term solution. One of the hopes of XML is that people will standardize XML languages for various subject areas and write modular code to process those languages. By reusing existing languages and code, people can quickly define new languages and write applications that process them. If we rename the second Address element type to IPAddress, we will break any code that expects the old name.
A better answer is to assign each language (including its Address element type) to a different namespace. This allows us to continue using the Address name in each language, but to distinguish between the two different element types. The mechanism by which we do this is XML namespaces.
(Note that by assigning each Address name to an XML namespace, we actually change the name to a two-part name consisting of the name of the XML namespace plus the name Address. This means that any code that recognizes just the name Address will need to be changed to recognize the new two-part name. However, this only needs to be done once, as the two-part name is universally unique.

Question 19 :

What do XML namespaces actually contain?

Answer :

XML namespaces are collections of names, nothing more. That is, they contain the names of element types and attributes, not the elements or attributes themselves. For example, consider the following document.
<google:A xmlns:google="">
<B google:C="google" D="bar"/>
The element type name A and the attribute name C are in the namespace because they are mapped there by the google prefix. The element type name B and the attribute name D are not in any XML namespace because no prefix maps them there. On the other hand, the elements A and B and the attributes C and D are not in any XML namespace, even though they are physically within the scope of the namespace declaration. This is because XML namespaces contain names, not elements or attributes.
XML namespaces also do not contain the definitions of the element types or attributes. This is an important difference, as many people are tempted to think of an XML namespace as a schema, which it is not.

Question 20 :

Are the names of all element types and attributes in some XML namespace?

Answer :

If an element type or attribute name is not specifically declared to be in an XML namespace -- that is, it is unprefixed and (in the case of element type names) there is no default XML namespace -- then that name is not in any XML namespace. If you want, you can think of it as having a null URI as its name, although no "null" XML namespace actually exists. For example, in the following, the element type name B and the attribute names C and E are not in any XML namespace: 
<google:A xmlns:google="">
<B C="bar"/>
<google:D E="bar"/>