YAML syntax was designed to be easily mapped to data types common to most high-level languages: list, associative array, and scalar. Its familiar indented outline and lean appearance make it especially suited for tasks where humans are likely to view or edit data structures, such as configuration files, dumping during debugging, and document headers (e.g. the headers found on most e-mails are very close to YAML). Although well-suited for hierarchical data representation, it also has a compact syntax for relational data as well. Its line and whitespace delimiters make it friendly to ad hoc grep/Python/Perl/Ruby operations. A major part of its accessibility comes from eschewing the use of enclosures like quotation marks, brackets, braces, and open/close-tags which can be hard for the human eye to balance in nested hierarchies.

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