How to use binary data with XML?

David Brownell david-b at
Wed Apr 21 17:39:46 BST 1999

xml wrote:
> Hmm... so when Sun talks about serializing objects in XML
> (such as in, they must be
> talking about storing binary data as well.

I couldn't find the word "serializing" in that article.

However, Sun is certainly investigating standard ways to encode
objects in XML.  There are two basic approaches:  "XML first",
where the data format is defined and the problem is how to bind
that XML text to some Java object; and "Java first", where the
objects are defined first (only for Java), and get archived to
XML text using some specialized format.

Clearly, both of those need to address binary data.  But that's
known to have lots of solutions.

> Given a decent editor, such as the ones in NeXTStep/Mac OS X Server,
> you can copy/paste binary data from XML files trivially, while in
> Windows and standard Unix you're pretty much stuck with editing in
> either text or binary modes.

You can't just insert raw binary data in XML text, as a rule; you
must handle situations such as illegal characters (NUL and most
control characters, unpaired surrogates, etc) and syntactically
significant characters ("&", "<", "]]>") in the data.  It needs to
be encoded to avoid such situations ... and also to address the fact
that not all character encodings support, like UTF-8 or UTF-16, the
full repertoire of XML characters.

- Dave

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