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

Mark Nutter mnutter at
Wed Sep 22 15:58:49 BST 1999

At 11:07 AM 09/21/99 -0700, Jeff Greif wrote:
>For certain kinds of applications, I find the opposite style -- attributes
>only and no PCDATA -- works best...  It was
>extremely convenient to be able to easily denote which attributes needed 
>be present, to provide default values, insist on values from an enumerated
>set (thus avoiding misspellings)...

This is the reason, in a nutshell, why XML needs attributes -- XML (and 
SGML) DTD's don't have any mechanism for specifying default/enumerated 
values for PCDATA content.  But now, suppose we had some kind of standard 
schema mechanism that allowed us to say things like "Content must be a 
date" or "Content must be numeric" or "Default value is 'Left'" and so 
on.  If we could constrain the character data contained within an element 
in the same way(s) we constrain attributes, would we still need attributes?

Disclaimer:  I know various schema proposals are on the table, but I'm not 
familiar with any of them.

Oh well, 0.02 international monetary unit's worth...


Mark Nutter, <mnutter at>
Internet Applications Developer
FORE Systems

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