Frequently Asked Questions
XML is being used increasingly as a data format for scientific and technical
Examples of applications now using an XML based data format are:
Chemical Markup Language, MathML and the BioInformatic Sequence ML for genetic
- it is a standard format that allows a developer to define their own markup,
and hence describe their information precisely, yet still allow more
generic applications to browse, search and process that data
- users also can extend the language with internal definitions for their
- the Xpointer and Xlink can provide new ways to equate stations and
bring information together
- it can be used as a data interchange format between applications
- it could provide a clean separation of cave data from the display of
- offers Unicode support for future internationalisation
Isn't this similar to HTO?
Yes. The Hierarchical Tagged Objects specification by Doug
Dotson and other authors was well ahead of its time but only a few cave survey
software writers provided support for it.
The UISIC also has an XML Working Group
The International Union of Speleology's Informatics Commission formed an
XML working group in January 2001 to develop a cave survey XML
(see contacts page).
My own cave survey XML was started in late 1999 and is being developed to support
ideas that I wish to implement in some cave mapping software. I am also a member of
this UISIC group and so although the two cave survey XMLs will differ in some ways
many concepts and ideas developed in one will flow into the other.
How does CaveScript relate to Survex?
Survex, written by some UK cavers, is a
free open-source cave survey tool. What's particularly nice about Survex is
that the data format is ASCII, it's simple to read and understand, has a
powerful heirarchical file system for station naming and it's fast.
I had been using Survex for some years and used the cavern engine to reduce the
survey data for my proof-of-concept program to bend cave walls around survey
legs. When I started to develop CaveScript seriously I needed a data format and
started to create something like the Survex format. However it quickly became
apparent that I needed something more and so started to look around. Thats when
I noticed XML on the horizon.
CaveScript is still just a draft of a new language for cave survey data. Its
goal is to provide a data format to store information about a cave and its map
and CaveScript won't be a data reduction engine. Survex is excellent for that
and so the need to have scripts so that I can convert my XML data to Survex.