Machine-readable data is data (or metadata) in a format that can be
easily processed by a computer.
There are two types: human-readable data that is marked up so that it
can also be read by machines (e.g. microformats, RDFa, HTML) or data
file formats intended principally for processing by machines (RDF,
However, Extensible Markup Language (XML) is designed to be both
human- and machine-readable, and Extensible Stylesheet Language
Transformation (XSLT) is used to improve presentation of the data for
human readability. For example,
XSLT can be used to automatically
XML in PDF.
Machine-readable data can be automatically
transformed for human-readability but, generally speaking, the reverse
is not true.
Machine readable is not synonymous with digitally accessible. A
digitally accessible document may be online, making it easier for
humans to access via computers, but its content is much harder to
extract, transform and process via computer programming logic if it is
not in machine-readable format.
For purposes of implementation of the Government Performance and
Results Act (GPRA) Modernization Act, the Office of Management and
Budget (OMB) defines "machine readable" as follows: "Format in a
standard computer language (not English text) that can be read
automatically by a web browser or computer system. (e.g.; xml).
Traditional word processing documents and portable document format
(PDF) files are easily read by humans but typically are difficult for
machines to interpret. Other formats such as extensible markup
language (XML), (JSON), or spreadsheets with header columns that can
be exported as comma separated values (CSV) are machine readable
HTML is a structural markup language, discreetly labeling
parts of the document, computers are able to gather document
components to assemble Tables of Content, outlines, literature search
bibliographies, etc. It is possible to make traditional word
processing documents and other formats machine readable but the
documents must include enhanced structural elements."
^ "A Primer on Machine Readability for Online Documents and Data".
Data.gov. 2012-09-24. Retrieved 2015-02-27.
^ OMB Circular A-11, Part 6 Archived 2013-12-07 at the Wayback
Machine., Preparation and Submission of Strategic Plans, Annual
Performance Plans, and Annual Program Performance Reports
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