You will see several terms used repeatedly within the toronto.ca/open pages. This glossary explains these terms. You might also want to read information on our tools and help page.
A machine readable file is pretty well just what you might think: a file that a computer program (software tools) can read and use. The PDF (Portable Document Format) is rampant on the Internet (including the City of Toronto website) but it isn't helpful to users of raw data. The open data community really needs files in formats where a human does not have to intervene and scrape or repackage the content. Examples of machine readable formats include JSON, XML, CSV, Shapefiles.
MPAC is the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation and is an independent, not-for-profit corporation funded by all Ontario municipalities. MPAC assesses and classifies all properties in Ontario according to the Assessment Act and regulations established by the Ontario Government. The City of Toronto uses MPAC data in our work but is unable to release to open data the data managed by MPAC. Users wanting to source property assessment and similar data must go to MPAC for this data.
A "PDF" is a short form for Portable Document Format. The format provides the exact same look and feel as a printed document such as an annual report, poster, brochure or flyer. People can print off the files and then read them on paper. Reading a PDF on screen has limitations especially if not properly formatted with links to sections and made accessible to screen readers. So, while the PDF is useful in many ways, the format is really vorboten in the open data arena! Users will have to convert the information in the PDF into machine readable files. That means extra work and extra effort and that takes time away from analysis and creating outcomes.
The Shapefile (sometimes branded as Esri Shapefile) or simply a shapefile is a popular geospatial vector data format for geographic information systems software.
A text file (sometimes spelled "textfile": an old alternate name is "flatfile") is a kind of computer file that is structured as a sequence of lines.
Web services are typically called APIs ("application programming interfaces"). This involves using Hypertext Transfer Protocol where one machine (housing the data) sends information to another machine (requesting the data). Think of it as communication machine-to-machine making queries of a data base and having files transferred from one to the other constantly.
XML (Extensible Markup Language) is a set of rules for encoding documents in machine-readable form. It is defined in the XML 1.0 Specification.