PDF or Portable Document Format is a file format that combines and displays both text and image. Meanwhile, XML, short for Extensible Markup Language, is a text-based format.
At first glance, you’d think that PDF, a format that can integrate both image and text, is superior to XML, a text-based format. Though that’s one thing PDF has got XML beat, there are numerous characteristics XML has and excels in that PDF also happens to lack. And in this article, we will discuss these characteristics and why you should convert your PDF files into XML. Read on for this insight!
1. Computers Cannot Interpret PDF Files
PDF is a commonly-used file format in pretty much any setting. Business people opt for PDF when creating business reports, teachers use it for their lesson plans, and students choose PDF when submitting schoolwork over anything else. It is because it’s easy to read and understand, at least for humans. But for machines or computers, it’s a different story.
If you aren’t aware, data can be machine-readable, human-readable, or both. Just because you can read a document doesn’t mean the computer can as well. That’s what PDF files are.
The computer cannot read or interpret data inside a PDF document as well as it needs to. That’s why you may notice that when editing PDF, the computer may struggle to determine which is a text and which is an image. In most cases, you may even need to install third-party software to edit a PDF. On the other hand, XML is both human- and machine-readable.
So, you can use XML in ways that aren’t plausible when it was still PDF. For example, it’s perfect for datasets, though it requires using define XML, a subcategory of the format.
2. XML Can Be As Digestible As PDF
As stated earlier, the main idea behind PDF files is to take the data of photos and text and turn it into an electronic image that you can read and understand. It’s what PDF excels in, but it’s not something the XML file format cannot do. If you use a converter to turn PDF files into XML, you’ll find that there’s not much difference, at least as far as appearance goes.
Hence, if your main reason for using PDF is for appearance, turning it into XML won’t be a downside. Plus, the decision to convert PDF to XML can bring a lot of upsides.
However, PDF is known for its appearance for a reason. Unlike XML, PDF uses vector graphics, which designers often prefer since it’s easy to manipulate using editing software. Vector graphics also tend to be lightweight, hence why PDF files, in general, are also light. But XML can compete in that regard as well.
3. XML Is Relatively Lightweight
Among the list of markup languages available on computers, XML ranks fairly well size-wise. It is relatively small, and perhaps the only other markup language that can compete in terms of being lightweight is JSON. Granted, when it’s used for documents, it’s not as light as PDF, but that’s primarily because XML stores other data that may be crucial for the document. One example of this is metadata tags of images and texts.
4. Many Tools Use The XML File Format
PDF is relatively popular among office tools, but that’s its extent, office tools. Outside of office tools, you’ll rarely find people using PDF. That’s one thing you cannot take away from XML.
XML is highly versatile. While it requires considerable technical knowledge, any expert can use it for purposes other than document viewing. You can use it in the following ways:
- Insert schemas in spreadsheets
- Design websites
- Create XML sitemaps
- Generate a database
Of course, this is not relevant to documents, which is likely why you’re reading this article. However, it proves the point that XML is several times more versatile than PDF.
5. XML Is Platform-Agnostic
One characteristic that people often overlook about XML is that it’s platform-agnostic. If you don’t know, platform agnostic means it can run on any combination of devices and operating systems. It’s what most people call nowadays ‘cross-platform.’ You can open an XML file on a Windows PC, macOS computer, laptops, and even Android and Apple smartphones.
In fact, if you don’t have a PDF reader on your phone and you open a PDF, it’ll ask if you want to open it in XML. That’s because devices often have a built-in XML reader.
XML has never been the most popular format for documents. PDF fits that description better, so it’s surprising to find that XML, a markup language, can fare pretty well against PDF. But of course, while the XML file format has some fascinating features, PDF also has its fair share of benefits. The best option ultimately depends on your specific needs, whether you want a simpler or a more technical format for your documents.