How to Open, Edit, & Convert XML Files
This article describes what XML files are and where they’re used, which programs can open one, and how to convert one to another text-based format like JSON, PDF, or CSV.
What Is an XML File?
An XML file is an Extensible Markup Language file. They 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.
Some XML files are instead Cinelerra Video Project files used with the Cinelerra video editing program. The file holds project-related settings like a list of past edits made to the project as well as paths to where the media files are located.
How to Open an XML File
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. Microsoft’s popular Visual Studio Code editor handles XML files like a champ.
Just because an XML file can easily be opened and viewed 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 really only useful in a program like Finale NotePad.
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 mentioned above 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.
However, if you want to go that route, see our Best Free Text Editors list for some of our favorites.
Cinelerra Video Project files that use the XML file extension can be opened with the Cinelerra software for Linux. The program used to be split into two, called Heroine Virtual and Community Version, but they’re now combined into one.
If you still can’t open your file, make sure you’re not confusing it with a file that just has a similar file extension name, like an XMP, XMF, or ML file.
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’s creating the XML file is more than likely able to save the same file to a different format.
For example, a simple text editor, which can open a text document like XML, can usually save the file to another text-based format like TXT. However, you gain nothing from this switch other than just changing the file extension.
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:
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 might be helpful in some situations.
More Information on XML Files
XML files are formatted with tags, similar to other markup language files like HTML files. You can see an XML sample file on Microsoft’s website.
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 offers a detailed explanation of the benefits of using these XML-based file types.
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.