Attributes vs. text content (Was Re: RFC: Attributes and XML-RPC)

Joshua E. Smith jesmith at
Tue Sep 21 22:34:25 BST 1999

In my XML-conformant programming language (Nimble, mentioned here a couple
days ago at ), I did what seemed to me a pretty
neat thing using attributes and elements together.

In many cases, an object (represented by an Element) needs to reference
another object.  I allow the Nimble programmer to do this either as:

<Image name='splash_screen' etc... />
<Application image='splash_screen' etc... />


<Application etc...>
  <Image etc.../>

-or even-

<Application etc...>
  <Image name='splash_screen' etc... />
<SomethingElse image='splash_screen' etc... />

The first approach is generally only useful when a machine is generating
the program (export from a 3D modeling tool, in my case).  Or if the Nimble
programmer is name-happy.

The second is just like XML-RPC.  Simple, elegant.

The last approach is particularly powerful, since it allows me to create
graphs  in what would otherwise be just a tree language.

The simple ID and IDREF DTD constructs (along with an #IMPLIED) then allow
validating XML editors to make sure you use defined names.

Doing this without attributes would be a real trick, and not nearly as

So while I agree that sticking to just elements or just attributes can be
elegant in some contexts, neither rule is going to be the most beautiful in
every case.

-Joshua Smith

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