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DTD vs. XSD: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 3, 2024
DTD (Document Type Definition) defines the structure and legal elements of an XML document using a simpler syntax; XSD (XML Schema Definition) does the same but with richer data types and greater power.

Key Differences

DTD, standing for Document Type Definition, is an older method of defining the structure of an XML document. It uses a relatively simple syntax to specify the elements, attributes, and their relationships within XML. Conversely, XSD, or XML Schema Definition, is a more modern approach. It offers a more comprehensive and powerful means of defining an XML document’s structure, employing a richer set of data types.
When it comes to data type support, DTD is limited. It primarily deals with string data types and doesn't support the wide range of data types like dates or numbers. XSD, on the other hand, supports a broad spectrum of data types, similar to what is found in standard database and programming languages. This makes XSD more versatile and suitable for complex data structures.
In terms of namespace support, DTD lacks this feature. It does not allow the definition of elements and attributes in a namespace, which can lead to conflicts when combining XML documents from different sources. XSD, however, fully supports XML namespaces, enabling the creation of more modular and reusable XML schemas without name conflicts.
Validating XML documents against DTD is straightforward but less strict, offering basic validation capabilities. XSD provides more rigorous validation options, allowing for more precise control over the structure and content of XML documents. This includes setting patterns, specifying minimum and maximum values, and other constraints.
DTD is seen as less user-friendly due to its less intuitive syntax and limited documentation capabilities. XSD is considered more user-friendly, with a syntax closer to XML, making it easier to read and write. XSD also allows for richer documentation within the schema itself, which is beneficial for complex schemas.

Comparison Chart

Syntax and Readability

Simpler, less intuitive syntax
More complex, XML-like syntax, user-friendly

Data Type Support

Limited to basic types
Supports a wide range of data types

Namespace Support

No support for namespaces
Fully supports namespaces

Validation Capabilities

Basic validation options
Advanced validation with strict constraints

Ease of Use

Less user-friendly, minimal documentation
More intuitive with better documentation options

DTD and XSD Definitions


It uses a set of declarations to validate XML.
The DTD checks the accuracy of our XML data entries.


It supports complex data types and structures.
XSD allows us to specify dates and numbers in our XML.


It primarily handles string data types.
Our XML’s textual content is validated against a DTD.


XSD defines the structure and content of XML data.
Our application's configuration is validated using an XSD.


DTD is a simpler, older XML schema language.
Legacy systems often rely on DTD due to its simplicity.


XSD fully supports XML namespaces.
Using XSD, we easily integrated multiple XML schemas.


DTD defines the structure of XML documents.
Our web data uses a DTD to ensure consistent XML formatting.


It provides advanced validation features.
Our data integrity is enforced through XSD constraints.


DTD lacks support for XML namespaces.
We switched from DTD to XSD for namespace compatibility.


XSD is more powerful and flexible than DTD.
For our intricate data model, we prefer XSD over DTD.


A set of rules for marking up a document in SGML.


What types of data can XSD handle?

XSD can handle a wide range of data types, including numbers, dates, and strings.

How does DTD handle data types?

DTD primarily supports basic string data types.

Can DTD support XML namespaces?

No, DTD does not support XML namespaces.

What are the advantages of using XSD?

XSD offers richer data types, better validation, and namespace support.

How do I choose between DTD and XSD?

Choose XSD for complex data structures and modern applications, DTD for simplicity and legacy systems.

What is XSD?

XSD is a schema language used to define and validate XML document structures and content.

Is DTD still widely used?

DTD is used but less commonly than XSD, especially in legacy systems.

How are DTD and XSD written?

DTD uses a simpler syntax, while XSD uses XML-like syntax.

What is DTD?

DTD is a schema language for defining XML document structures.

Is XSD more complex than DTD?

Yes, XSD is more complex but also more powerful and versatile.

What's the primary use of DTD?

Mainly for defining and validating basic structures of XML documents.

Does XSD support namespaces?

Yes, XSD fully supports XML namespaces.

Can XSD validate XML document content?

Yes, XSD can validate both the structure and content of XML documents.

Are there tools to convert DTD to XSD?

Yes, there are tools available for converting DTD schemas to XSD.

Can XSD define patterns for data?

Yes, XSD can define specific patterns and constraints for data.

Is DTD easier to write and understand than XSD?

DTD is simpler, but XSD's XML-like syntax may be more intuitive for those familiar with XML.

Can DTD and XSD be used together?

They are typically not used together as XSD is a more advanced alternative to DTD.

What's the primary use of XSD?

For defining, validating, and documenting complex XML document structures and content.

Does DTD support data type validation?

DTD offers basic validation, but not as extensive as XSD.

Is learning DTD necessary for XML?

Basic knowledge of DTD is useful, but XSD is more relevant for modern applications.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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