If you have done an Internet search, bought anything from a Web site or subscribed to a news alert service, chances are you used a special computer document language called XML. Similar to HTML, which is used to format web pages, XML allows computers to exchange information and act on it. Rules called schemas that stipulate precisely the type of information included in the document and how to handle it are critical to XML communication. Every month thousands of new schemas are introduced. Not all of them, however, are precise enough to transmit the needed information without misunderstandings.
Computer scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) hope to avoid interoperability problems caused by poorly designed or imprecise schemas. The NIST engineers have just released a tool to help others develop well thought out schemas that are easy to understand, implement, maintain and expand. The test site contains sets of design rules for schemas as well as tests for the rules. Visitors to the site can use the rules to check whether a schema that they are developing or using meets good XML communication guidelines. Computer engineers skilled in XML are also encouraged to use the site to share their own rules with others in the XML community.
More information on the XML Quality of Design (QOD) Tool can be found at http://syseng.nist.gov/b2bTestbed/projects/QOD/ Additional XML tools developed at NIST can be found at www.mel.nist.gov/msid/xml_related.htm and www.nist.gov/xml/.