Endorsed By: Commerce One, Compaq, Microsoft, SAPMarkets, and Sun Microsystems

1.  What is XML?

9.  What versions of xCBL exist?

2.  What is xCBL?

10.  Are xCBL versions forwards and backwards compatible?

3.  Why was xCBL developed?

11.  Are mappings for xCBL to other standards available?

4.  Why is Commerce One making xCBL available?

12.  Where can I ask questions about xCBL?

5.  Who is the target audience?

13.  What tools are available for use with xCBL?

6.  How does xCBL relate to other commerce specifications?

14.  When I open up the schema file for Order, I get an error and cannot see the underlying structure. Why is this?

7.  How does xCBL relate to UBL?

15.  The xCBL 3.5 jar file that is installed with the XPC contains some document names that are not identified in the xCBL.org documentation section. How do I obtain more information about these documents?

8.  What is in the future for xCBL?

16.  Why is xCBL available in so many formats?


1. What is XML?

XML is a simplified meta-language that has emerged as the standard for self-describing data exchange in Internet applications. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) developed it from SGML. In October 2000, the XML Core Working Group released the Extensible Markup Language (XML) 1.0 Second Edition as a recommendation. XML has since come a long way towards being the lingua franca of the Internet. But, by itself, XML is only a data format. xCBL was created to provide much of what is needed beyond XML.

2. What is xCBL?

The Common Business Library, or xCBL, is a set of XML building blocks and a document framework that allows the creation of robust, reusable, XML documents for e-commerce. These elemental building blocks were defined based on extensive research and collaboration by Commerce One and the leading XML industry initiatives. xCBL can help accelerate any trading partner's XML efforts by providing these building blocks and a document framework. Additionally, xCBL consists of several business documents have been created using the XML building blocks. Consistent with this purpose, xCBL is available free of charge in prominent XML repositories.

3. Why was xCBL developed?

xCBL was created to provide the schema document framework that is needed for robust XML exchange. Although XML provides a self-describing document, there needs to be stronger data typing and validation for electronic commerce transactions. Furthermore, there is a proliferation of industry specific tags and elements that would potentially balkanize the industry. xCBL is an amalgamation of the leading XML industry initiatives and most common cross-industry XML elements. For example, fundamental elements such as measurements, date, time, country codes, and currencies have been captured as components in xCBL in a structurally and semantically rigorous way.

4. Why is Commerce One making xCBL available?

Commerce One helped develop the base level elements and document framework for xCBL to accelerate the adoption of XML-based e-commerce. Commerce One is committed to distributing xCBL under the supervision of prominent XML repositories such as XML.ORG, BizTalk.org, and others.

5. Who is the target audience?

Any company that is presently conducting or plans to conduct electronic commerce can use xCBL to accelerate their XML-based e-commerce efforts. Starting with version 3.0, xCBL  provides a smooth migration path from EDI-based commerce because of its origins in EDI semantics. Companies that have bypassed EDI, for cost or other reasons, can use xCBL to exchange XML-based e-commerce documents via browser-based web forms. Because it's a non-proprietary standard, customers and smaller vendors will be attracted to xCBL and more willing to participate in xCBL-based marketplaces.

6. How does xCBL relate to other commerce specifications?

xCBL is not a single standard; rather it is a collection of common business elements that underlie all EDI and Internet commerce protocols. xCBL has been developed and modeled after EDI semantics such as X12 and EDIFACT to preserve and extend the EDI investments of the trading partners. Its reusable components speed the implementation of standards and facilitate their interoperation by providing a common semantic framework.

7. How does xCBL relate to UBL? 

Commerce One is  using its many years of experience to help XML business document development efforts within the UBL initiative being led by OASIS (). xCBL 3.0 served as the starting point for the development of a standard UBL library. Any future versions of xCBL will evolve to be completely open and UBL compliant and, since the genesis of UBL is xCBL, mapping between the versions of the two should be reasonably straightforward.

8. What is in the future for xCBL? 

The newest version of xCBL, xCBL 4.0, is the first release of xCBL using XSDL schema language as the canonical form. This will be the standard for any future releases, additions, or updates of xCBL.  xCBL 4.0  represents an initial alignment with the OASIS Universal Business Language (UBL) initiative. Some of the UBL recommendations have been adopted in the design of xCBL 4.0. As UBL continues to evolve and mature, additional recommendations and standards will be adopted by xCBL.

9. What versions of xCBL exist?

There have been five versions of xCBL: xCBL 2.0, 2.2, 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0.

  • xCBL 2.0 was the first version of xCBL to be used in commercial applications. While much more limited in scope than latter versions, it covered several procurement scenarios in  B2B e-commerce applications. It was made available in SOX format, XDR format, and DTD format, along with sample documents and documentation.

  • xCBL 2.2 is an unreleased version of xCBL. It was basically the full set of xCBL 2.0, plus some additions and changes required for MRO. It is not a public part of the xCBL standard. 

  • xCBL 3.0 represented a fundamental change in scope and design goals for xCBL by providing support for direct goods scenarios, ERP integrations, and standards such as RosettaNet and OBI, along with many flavors of industry-standard X12 and UN/EDIFACT EDI. xCBL version 3.0 is different than the preceding versions in one major respect: instead of being a single, extensible set of documents for doing Order Management, it has become a wide-ranging set of messages intended to provide interoperability across a broader range of direct goods and procurement scenarios, and to act as a central language for managing different syntaxes, as well as a simple set of messages for doing e-commerce. It is provided in SOX Schema format, XSDL, XDR Schema format, and XML DTD format to support all types of applications. 

  • xCBL 3.5 contains all of the documents found in xCBL 3.0 as well as 9 new xCBL documents. Some of the xCBL 3.0 documents have been modified in response to new requirements and correction of bugs. The only modifications allowed to xCBL 3.0 documents were the additions of new optional elements and additions to code lists; to maintain interoperability between the two versions. An xCBL 3.0 instance of a document is also a valid instance in xCBL 3.5. New documents for xCBL 3.5 are in the areas of: Sourcing, Message Management, Order Management and Material Management. It is provided in SOX Schema format, XSDL, XDR Schema format, and XML DTD format to support all types of applications. 

  • xCBL 4.0, the newest version of xCBL, is the first release of xCBL using XSDL schema language as the canonical form. This will be the standard for future releases of xCBL. Previously, all xCBL releases were based on SOX schema. xCBL 4.0 also represents an initial alignment with the OASIS Universal Business Language (UBL) initiative. Some of the UBL recommendations have been adopted in the design of xCBL 4.0. With a few exceptions, business documents that existed in xCBL 3.5 have been carried over to xCBL 4.0. New documents have also been added to xCBL 4.0 to support integration of applications with backend ERP systems.

10. Are xCBL versions forwards and backwards compatible?

In general yes, key data exist and is transferable between the different version of a document. Starting with xCBL 3.0 a significant number of new data elements where added over what existed in earlier versions.  As a result, translating a fully populated xCBL 3.0, 3.5 or 4.0 document to an xCBL 2.0 document will result in a substantial loss of data. However, the core / key data should be translated without loss. Forward translation from xCBL 2.0 to xCBL 3.0 and later versions  generally will not result in a loss of data during the translation. Also, appropriate defaults are being defined for mandatory elements in xCBL 3.0 and beyond that do not have a corresponding elements xCBL 2.0.

The differences between xCBL 3.0 and 3.5 are minimal and going from 3.0 to a 3.5 document results in no loss of data.  Going from a fully populated 3.5 to a 3.0 document will result in some loss due to new elements added in 3.5 documents..

The differences  between xCBL 4.0 and 3.0 or 3.5 are minimal.  Only new elements that were added to 4.0 will not be translatable with 3.0 or 3.5.

11. Are mappings for xCBL to other standards available?

Mappings from xCBL to ANSI X12 and UN/EDIFACT are available for certain documents in the xCBL library. The xCBL3.0 mappings to X12 & EDIFACT can be found at xCBL3.0 Documentation. The mappings for xCBL3.5 to X12 can be found at xCBL3.5 Documentation. No mappings are presently available between xCBL 4.0 and X12 & EDIFACT.

12. Where can I ask questions about xCBL?

Any questions about xCBL should be directed to the xCBL Users Group.

13. What tools are available for use with xCBL?

This depends on what you need to do and also on which version of xCBL you are using. For recent versions, Commerce One provide a developers area where you can download DocSOAPXDK, which is a free and open-source toolkit designed for use in creating web services solutions, and particularly document based SOAP solutions, making it ideal for use with xCBL's extensive library of business documents.

Also, all versions of xCBL released since W3C XML Schema became a recomendation are available in this format, which has very strong and wide tools support from a wide variety of vendors. Previous versions of xCBL may not be so widely supported as they were written only in SOX, XDR (which were early schema languages, created by Commerce One and Microsoft respectively, before the official W3C Schema language was available) or DTD which was the original (and very limited when compared with schema) method used to describe the structure of XML documents. For this reason we are still making available the old XML Developer Kit (XDK) which contains a validating SOX and DTD parser and other tools for use with the SOX schemas. But we recommend that if possible you use the W3C XML Schema (XSDL) versions of xCBL with the latest tools, such as DocSOAPXDK, as these use the standards that are being widely adopted and will allow you a much greater level of interoperability.

14. When I open up the schema file for Order, I get an error and cannot see the underlying structure. Why is this?

xCBL schemas are often made up of more than one file, due to the modular nature of the library and the way in which it was designed. This means that it is not often obvious which file to use or reference when working with the schemas. All xCBL versions or namespaces have a root schema. And this is the one that should always be used or referenced. For instance in xCBL 3.5 there is only one namepace and the root schema for that is xCBL35.sox or xCBL35.xsd depending upon the schema language you are using. These root schema files reference all of the other files that are required for that namespace to function properly. Once this is referenced you will be able to use the documents in that namespace. Opening the Order.sox or Order.xsd schema file on its own will not allow for references made to other schema files as this is only possible through the root schema (However some older XSDL tools still have problems with resolving these references so if you are using the XSDL version and experiencing these problems, you will need to use the "single-root" versions of the documents, which are self contained files for each business document. Click here for more details).

The situation is similar with xCBL 4.0, but in that case there are multiple namespaces so you will need to open the root schema file for the namespace xcontaining the document you wish to reference, in this case, Order is in the Order Management namespace, so you would need to use ordermanagemant.xsd

15. The xCBL 3.5 jar file that is installed with the XPC contains some document names that are not identified in the xCBL.org documentation section. How do I obtain more information about these documents?

In addition to the 9 new general-purpose documents in xCBL3.5, this release also contains several new documents that are more application-specific, tailored to particular ERP system interfaces. These documents were designed by a member of the xCBL user community. These documents are included in the xCBL 3.5 namespace for efficiency in managing the xCBL 3.5 release. These documents may, at some point, become part of xCBL but until then are subject to change at any time. Please visit xCBL3.5 Application Specific Documents for more information about the Application Specific documents.

16. Why is xCBL available in so many formats?

The xCBL component libraries are originally designed and written in SOX (Schema for Object-Oriented XML, click here for more information) and this is the canonical form of xCBL. They are then converted, using XSLT transformations, into several other XML formats; this is done to allow for use by as many systems and tools as possible.
The XSDL (XML Schema Definition Language) schemas are the most recent addition to xCBL.org. This is the XML Schema language designed by the W3C (Click here for more information on XSDL). It became a recommendation in May 2001. Support for this standard is rapidly becoming widespread and it is expected to become the language for creating XML document definitions, we currently supply two XSDL formats, modularised and grouped into single-file-per-root (this is due to the fact that some XML tools still don't support include tags fully, click here for more details).
There are still many systems which don't support SOX or XSDL, however, so we also provide both XDR and XML DTD:
XDR (XML-Data Reduced, see the spec. or Microsoft's website for more information) schema format was designed by Microsoft, together with other external XML academics and is used in many of their products. It is supported by MSXML, the Microsoft XML parser, and is currently the only schema language supported by BizTalk Server, for which specific xCBL schemas are provided (see the XDR page for details).
DTD's are also provided. This is the oldest and still most widely used XML document definition format. It is supported by almost every XML tool available and therefore is still considered a worthwhile form to publish xCBL in, despite the fact it is much less sophisticated than any of the above schema languages.



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