A Three-way Merge for XML Documents

Tancred Lindholm

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Abstract:

Three-way merging is a technique that may be employed for reintegrating changes to a document in cases where multiple independently modified copies have been made. While tools for three-way merge of ASCII text files exist in the form of the ubiquitous diff and patch tools these are of limited applicability to XML documents. We present a method for three-way merging of XML which is targeted at merging XML formats that model human-authored documents as ordered trees (e.g. rich text formats structured text drawings etc.). To this end we investigate a number of use cases on XML merging (collaborative editing propagating changes across document variants) from which we derive a set of high-level merge rules. Our merge is based on these rules. We propose that our merge is easy to both understand and implement yet sufficiently expressive to handle several important cases of merging on document structure that are beyond the capabilities of traditional text-based tools. In order to justify these claims we applied our merging method to the merging tasks contained in the use cases. The overall performance of the merge was found to be satisfactory. The key contributions of this work are: a set of merge rules derived from use cases on XML merging a compact and versatile XML merge in accordance with these rules and a classification of conflicts in the context of that merge.

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