First look at XML Studio

I’ve been working with XML files for a while (if you’ve been reading my blog for the past few months, you’re probably sick of the XML-related stuff…). Specifically with Open XML. While I don’t always read and write XML files, I do refer to the Open XML ECMA-376 documentation and the Open XML SDK help file a lot. And then, I go look at some XML files, just to check that I wrote them correctly.

I recently found out about XML Studio from Liquid Technologies. Disclaimer: I was contacted by a company representative, and given a free developer license for the software. But go check out their software if you’re doing XML-related stuff.

I blazed through the list of features and benefits, and settled on one. Oh my fishballnoodles they can generate C# source code from XML files! It uses the XML Data Binder.

So my first thought was: Can I use it to somehow generate source code that’s (sort-of) compatible with Open XML SDK?

Short answer: No. But that’s because the XML files don’t have the Open XML SDK class names in them, so you can’t really have source code working with the SDK.

However, my next thought was: Can I at least generate an XML file that would have been generated by the equivalent source code using the SDK?

First, I loaded an XML file from an Open XML spreadsheet (after renaming .xlsx to .zip and then unzipping and then get one of ’em darn sheet.xml files). Then I found out that I couldn’t generate source code from this. *sad*

But I found out I could generate an XML schema from the XML file. Ohhkayy… Then I found out that generating source code required an XSD, an XDR or a DTD file. Alright, getting there.

Then I thought I could create a worksheet with some typical data so that I could grab the resulting XML file with some of the possible data types, which I could then use to generate a corresponding XSD schema file, and then generate corresponding source code. Note the recursive problem solving ability of my programmer mind.

And then it hit me that I could just use the correct schema file from ECMA-376. So I went to the second edition of ECMA-376 (latest is third edition as of this writing but not currently super-supported yet), and went to folder of part 1 (there are parts 1 to 4). Which has this very descriptive name of “ECMA-376, Second Edition, Part 1 – Fundamentals And Markup Language Reference”. Under this folder, there’s a zip file called “OfficeOpenXML-XMLSchema-Strict.zip”. And in that zip file is the motherlode of your schema dreams.

And so I opened up the schema file related to the Worksheet class of the SDK (which is sml.xsd). And got this:
XML Studio Schema View

Click image for larger view.

I’ve expanded the node for the Cell class. That’s awesome. You see that “0..1” to the left of CT_CellFormula? That means a Cell class can contain 0 to 1 of the complex type (see “CT_” prefix) CellFormula. For nodes that take in at least 1 to an unlimited number of children nodes, you get “1..*”. This is reflected in the schema as minOccurs=”0″ for “you don’t really need it” and maxOccurs=”unbounded” for “you just have as many children as you want, ok? But make sure they’re of this type.”

As of this writing, I still haven’t managed to generate source code that does what I want (after a few hours of wheedling code around). But essentially, I’m trying to create an alternate Open XML SDK just from the schema information from ECMA-376. I’m pretty sure XML Studio wasn’t created for this in mind… I’ll keep you posted on my findings. If you have any XML editing stuff you think I should know, tell me, because I want to see if I can break, uh, I mean utilise XML Studio to its full potential.