What is an XML File?

How to Open, Edit, & Convert XML Files

XML Files
XML Files.

A file with the XML file extension is an Extensible Markup Language file.

XML files are plain text files that don't do anything in and of themselves except describe the transportation, structure, and storage of data.

An RSS feed is one common example of an XML-based file.

How To Open an XML File

Many programs open XML files, including Code Beautify's Online XML Viewer and some web browsers. There are several popular programs that can edit XML files as well.

Some notable free XML editors include Notepad++ and XML Notepad 2007. EditiX and Adobe Dreamweaver are a couple other popular XML editors but they are only free to use if you can manage to get a trial version.

Keep in mind, however, that just because an XML file can easily be opened and viewed, it doesn't mean that it'll do anything. Lots of different types of programs use XML as a way to store their data in a standard way, but actually using an XML file for a specific purpose requires that you know what that particular XML file is storing data for.

For example, the XML format is used for MusicXML files, an XML-based sheet music format. You could certainly open one of those XML files in any text editor to see what sort of data is there, but it's only really useful in a program like Finale NotePad.

Tip: Since XML files are text-based files, any text editor, including the built-in Notepad tool in Windows, will be able to properly display and edit the XML file's contents.

The dedicated XML editors I mentioned in the previous paragraph are better for editing XML files because they understand the file's structure. A standard text editor isn't quite as easy to use for editing XML files.

How To Convert an XML File

The best solution to converting an XML file to another format is to use one of the editors mentioned already.

The program that is creating the XML file is more than likely able to save the same file to a different format.

If you're looking for a quick solution, you can try the online XML To JSON Converter from Code Beautify. That tool lets you convert XML to JSON by pasting the XML code into the website and then downloading the .JSON file to your computer. You can also browse your computer for the XML file or load one from a URL.

Of course an XML to JSON converter is only helpful if that's what you're after. Here are some other free online XML converters that might be more useful for you:

Here are some free converters that convert to XML instead of from XML:

Important: You cannot usually change a file extension (like the XML file extension) to one that your computer recognizes and expect the newly renamed file to be usable. An actual file format conversion using one of the methods described above must take place in most cases. However, since XML is text-based, renaming the extension may be helpful in some situations.

More Information on XML Files

Similar to how HTML files (another markup language file) are formatted with <html> tags, XML files use <?xml> tags.

Microsoft has a sample XML file you can look at to see what I mean.

Since Microsoft Office 2007, Microsoft has been using XML-based formats for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, indicative in their respective file formats: .DOCX, .XLSX, and .PPTX. Microsoft explains the benefits of using these XML-based file types here.

Some other XML-based file types include EDS, XSPF, FDX, SEARCH-MS, CMBL, APPLICATION, and DAE files.

W3Schools has lots of information on XML files if you're looking for a detailed look at how to work with them.