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Windows XML files, part II: Popular applications

In this tip, Ed Tittel follows up with a part two on popular applications for Windows XML files.

As we mentioned in the preceding tip, you can learn a lot about XML in the Windows environment by executing the following command sequence on any modern Windows (2000 or newer) desktop or server PC:

cd c:\
dir *.xml /s >> xmlfiles.txt

For convenience, we assume that C: is the Windows boot drive (if in doubt, try resolving the %SystemDrive% or %SystemRoot% environment variables or simply type set at the command line). In fact, running this command on my current Windows XP desktop machine produces a listing of nearly 500 files across a wide variety of directories—so many of them in fact, that we decided to break this story into two parts, of which this is the second. The first part covered XML files related to Microsoft operating systems, tools or applications. This part deals with other files outside the Microsoft company umbrella.

How can you tell which files are Microsoft specific and which ones aren't? A first clue comes from where any given file resides. Those familiar with Windows file structures will recognize certain directories as being more likely to contain files from Microsoft than other vendors (such as elements in the …\Windows or …\Windows\System32 folders). Items that show up in the …\Documents and Settings\... hierarchy or inside …\Program Files, however, almost certainly belong to applications and that where we'll turn our focus here.

As we browsed through the contents of xmlfiles.txt, we came across numerous items that you'll probably find on your systems, too (at least if you run the same applications that we do). For brevity, we omit the .xml file extension. One hint to help keep your lookup time under control: Stay away from the XML files in the …\Temporary Internet Files\… folders. They're not usually of much interest for Windows spelunking anyway. Also please note that some applications — such as CyberLink PowerDVD — seem to absolutely revel in littering drives with numerous copies of files with the same names.

Table 1-1: A Sampling of non-Microsoft XML Files
Filename Directory sub-string Explanation
EvO0 ...\Documents and Settings\...Cyberlink\… Upgrade exhortation for PowerDVD OEM version
connectiontypes ..\Documents and Settings\...SurfSpeed Menu of connection types for speed measurement
isps ...\Documents and Settings\...SurfSpeed Menu of Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
sites ...\Documents and Settings\...SurfSpeed Menu of pre-defined Web sites to visit
shared ...\Documents and Settings\...Skype Skype account info, recent history, cache data, etc.
config ...\Documents and Settings\...Skype\etittel Skype credentials, policy data, address book, etc.
description …\Program Files\Adobe\Acrobat 7.0… Links to Adobe Tomcat server for photo plug-in
manifest …\Program Files\Adobe\Acrobat 7.0… Photoshop elements plug-in details
en …\Program Files\Cyberlink\...AVsettings… Menu hierarchy for Audio and video playback ctrls
skin1024x768 …\Program Files\Cyberlink DVD Solution\... User interface graphics/layout for video editing
index …\Program Files\Cyberlink DVD Solution\... ist of templates for layout, fonts, buttons, etc.
std_music …\Program Files\Cyberlink DVD Solution\... list of recently played music files
std_button …\Program Files\Cyberlink DVD Solution\... list of recently used buttons
std_* …\Program Files\Cyberlink DVD Solution\... other collections of interface and controls data
rules …\Program Files\iolo\System Mechanic rules for blocking advertisements, URLs, etc.
servers …\Program Files\iolo\System Mechanic rules for blocking domain names
wintweaks …\Program Files\iolo\System Mechanic descriptions of Windows tweaks options/settings
pcmag-db …\Program Files\PC Magazine Utilities\... Entries for PC Mag utilities database

This is the tip of a veritable iceberg, where we picked just the first 18 of a long series of such filenames from our xmlfiles.txt file. Digging into these provides insight into and information about the applications active on your machine and often provides another window into data that you might otherwise have to navigate through multiple menus to access otherwise.

Just as Microsoft has taken the easy-to-read, easy-to-parse and easy-to-store nature of XML to heart, it looks like a great many application vendors have done likewise. All the way from Adobe, whose entries we showed here, to Zone Labs (whose entries we didn't get to), you'll find lots of useful information about applications tucked away in XML files.

About the author

Ed Tittel is a full-time writer and trainer whose interests include XML and development topics along with IT Certification and information security topics. E-mail Ed at etittel@techtarget.com with comments, questions or suggested topics or tools for review.

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