Tables for
Volume G
Definition and exchange of crystallographic data
Edited by S. R. Hall and B. McMahon

International Tables for Crystallography (2006). Vol. G, ch. 2.2, pp. 32-33

Section Data-name semantics

S. R. Hall,a* N. Spadaccini,c I. D. Brown,d H. J. Bernstein,e J. D. Westbrookb and B. McMahonf Data-name semantics

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(6) Strictly, data names should be considered as void of semantic content – they are tags for locating associated values, and all information concerning the meaning of that value should be sought in an associated dictionary.

(7) However, it is customary to construct data names as a sequence of components elaborating the classification of the item within the logical structure of its associated dictionary. Hence a data name such as _atom_site_fract_x displays a hierarchical arrangement of components corresponding to membership of nested groupings of data elements. The choice of components readily indicates to a human reader that this data item refers to the fractional x coordinate of an atomic site within a crystal unit cell, but it should be emphasized from a computer-programming viewpoint that this is coincidental; the attributes that constrain the value of this data item (and its relationship to others such as _atom_site_fract_y and _atom_site_fract_z) must be obtained from the dictionary and not otherwise inferred.

(8) Comment: In practice data names described in a DDL2 dictionary are constructed with a period character separating their specific function from the name of the category to which they have been assigned. In the absence of a dictionary file, this convention permits the inference that the data item with name _atom_site.fract_x will appear in the same looped list as other items with names beginning _atom_site., and that all such items belong to the same category.

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