What is the best XML editor available? The answer depends on your level of programming and the needs of your project. The good news is that there are many good choices available.
Free vs. Paid
XML is, at heart, simply a programming methodology. It is a way of organizing information into categories and making it easier for computers to process that information and make it do what you want. This means that any text editor such as Notepad or TextEdit can be used as an XML editor, just as you can use it for a programming environment in the language of your choice.
There are also expanded editions of these free programs specifically designed to edit XML, such as XML Notepad, available free from Microsoft. This has a number of "handy features" common to almost all XML editors:
- "Tree View", showing the various "nodes" and "children" common to XML documents
- Infinite Undo/Redo as the shape of XML namespaces change
- Configurable fonts and colors, making documents easier to read
- XML schema validation, important to make sure your XML document will be parsed correctly
Unfortunately, XML Notepad is only available for Windows. A truly multi-platform editor is jEdit, which in and of itself is simply a text editor. However, it has many plugins, including several for both XML and HTML editing, that turn it into a very user-friendly program for coders. Like NotePad, it is also free, and may be handy to have for other projects. eMacs is another text editor familiar to programmers, which also has an "Nxml" mode that adds several features to the standard interface that you may be familiar with.
Other Free XML Editing Programs
There are quite a few other free programs designed to edit and create XML documents:
- XMLpad3 has most of the standard features of XML editors as well as the ability to export schema examples.
- XML Fox uses a multi-view that can show both source code and "tree view" (among others) in an interface similar to Adobe's Dreamweaver.
- XML Marker is a basic color-coding and multi-view editor that makes a virtue out of its simplicity of use and low-processsor demands.
The Best XML Editor May Cost $
According to the World Wide Web Consortium, the minimum requirements for a good XML editor are:
- Automatically close your opening tags
- Only accept valid XML
- Document-Type Definition (DTD) and schema validation against your XML
- XML syntax color customization
In order to get these features, you may have to shell out some money. Almost all the reviews of XML editors, from the Canadian SNOOK to StackOverFlow, agree that Altova's XMLSpy is one of the best programs out there, except for one thing: the price. However, even the W3C Schools recommend it over any other program, even more fully-featured ones like Dreamweaver. XMLSpy can be downloaded by itself or as part of Altova's MissionKit suite of products. Both are also available in 64-bit versions and come with 30-day free trials.
Another premium editor that comes with a free trial is the oXygen XML editor. This company includes many different products for editing, including Schema Editor, an "Author" version, and an XML Diff version for comparing and combining two or more XML documents.
Liquid XML's list of features echoes the recommendations of the W3C, and it also comes in three different editions: Starter, Designer, and Developer. This keeps you from paying for features that you may never use, so that you can focus on code rather than trying to figure out a complex interface.
XML has become an essential tool for contemporary web development. Picking the best XML editor can make generating and editing XML a more efficient and enjoyable process no matter if it's your first node or an enterprise-level schema.