I am taking a semester long college course on XML. This week we covered Document Type Definitions. I wrote up a DTD for my XML file. Now I was tasked with validating the XML file against it. The browsers did not seem to provide any help. The teacher said we should grab a free copy o XML Spy and get to work.

I tried for a while. All I could find was a 30-day evaluation copy of XML Spy. It seems they used to offer a free scaled down version of the software. I can't find it any more. It was called XML Spy Home Edition 2006, or something of the sort. Altova really wants me to buy a copy of their software.

The problem is that XML Spy costs either $1000 or $500, depending on whether you opt for the enterprise or professional version. I need something more like a lite version. Better yet, I could go for an educational version. No such thing seems to exist. So I checked out the free alternatives. A student has to eat. And you can't eat if you spend a grand on XML validation software.

First up we have XML Copy Editor. This program is released free of charge under the GNU IGPL license. When you first bring up the program, it looks to have a very minimal interface. It almost feels like something you might role out yourself. Next I tried XMLPad. The thing wanted to reboot my computer on install. That was strange. I decided not too, but then the program displayed weird error messages. It has a better user interface than XML Copy Editor.

I have to say that XML Spy seems to have the most intuitive messages when something goes wrong with validation. I also like that it automatically detects when the file you have open gets changed on the disk. You get prompted to reload the file. Not ready to shell out 500 clams for the thing. I don't even know if it is worth having my company buy a copy for me.

Maybe the hard core thing would be to develop a version for myself. That will take a massive amount of time and effort. However the benefit would be that I would be close to an XML expert when I was done.