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XSLT and XPATH: A Guide to XML Transformations
XSLT and XPATH: A Guide to XML Transformations (Paperback)
by John Robert Gardner, Zarella L. Rendon
Browse: Front Cover | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
(9 customer reviews)    

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Editorial Reviews
Book Description
Preface You've heard of XML; your manager wants you to use it in your applications. Now what? You've used HTML, and you know what a tag is; you know that it is somehow related to XML. You may even know what XML is and what it does. What you may not know is that, while XML identifies and adds structure to the content of a document, it does not tell you anything about how to process that content, or how to do anything useful with it beyond storage. This is good news, because this means your content can be used for many different purposes. There are many things you can use to process content once it is marked up using XML. However, we have chosen to talk about the only standard application that allows you to do many different things with it. With XSLT, you can add style to XML, convert it to other XML, or simply chop it up and regenerate it in a different form. XSLT is the power behind the throne of XML. It assures that every level of every piece of XML data is accessible and reusable across platforms and forward in time. It is not an exaggeration to say that XSLT and its companion XPath are the very glue and mortar that hold together and build the endlessly varying applications of markup data for any industry, academy, or individual. XSLT is the fastest cure for the fear of having obsolescence in a data or information architecture design. XSLT is easy to use. In fact, XSLT itself is XML. XSLT "speaks the language," or the syntax, of XML with a powerful vocabulary of programming-like features that are nonetheless easy to use, learn, and understand. XSLT attempts to be a bridge to nonprogrammers, bringing the easily understood syntax of XML together with a powerful scripting mechanism and simple pathing approach to document navigation. It is our belief-and our approach in writing this book-that both the experienced programmer and the newly trained markup technologist can become more comfortable with the potent set of tools for preserving, augmenting, updating, and delivering XML data-whether it's on the Web or your corporation's intranet or B2B. If you are constantly wishing you had just a little more control over your information, this book will deliver that-and much more. In fact, by the end of the first chapter, you will be able to perform basic conversions from XML documents to HTML that will display in any Web browser. Subsequent chapters build upon and enhance that base of knowledge, matching examples with detailed explanations and providing focus upon commonly misunderstood areas. When you read this book, have your computer handy. Take the time to load up one of the XSLT processors and work along as you read. Learning by doing is always best, especially with XSLT and XPath. Chapter 13 will show you how to install the software included on the CD. Each example in the book is found on the CD in the examples directory, organized by chapter. XSLT is rewarding and creative to use. Be prepared to enjoy this learning experience. You will be surprised by how quickly productive use of this technology increases. Why Should You Use XSLT? Browsers display HTML, not general XML tags. You have to do something with the XML once you have it. Can you print with XML? Can you send XML to the Web? Can you browse XML? Yes, but not alone. XSLT lets you convert XML to HTML, other types of XML or just plain text. With a little creativity, and the proper knowledge of XSLT, you can generate practically any form of output from XML. XSLT provides quick, easy solutions to all XML transformation issues. However, the designers of XSLT did not intend for you to use the specification without additional help. "This book, along with the proper tools, is what is required for XML to succeed with the average business application." align="right"> Sharon Adler, Co-Chair W3C XSL Working Group The latest version of XSLT (for which this book is written) is 1.0. There are many additional features that are being considered by the W3C XSL committee, and version 2.0 promises to add some of these new features, as well as provide support for XML Schema, XML Query, and others. Who Is This Book For? This book is for anyone who works with electronic data and wants to enable XML transformations without a difficult programming language learning curve. If you are comfortable working with SGML, XML, or even HTML, you will benefit greatly from the common markup syntax. Some people may find XSLT difficult because it is not a procedural programming language. Most programming languages have a very structured, concise syntax. The syntax of XSLT is XML and is designed to be human readable and easily understandable. You must have some knowledge of markup before using XSLT. Some people may find XSLT difficult to use because it does not provide solutions to every transformation situation. For example, you cannot use XSLT to convert text to XML. There are situations when additional processing may be required. However, for most of your day-to-day XML transformations, XSLT is the tool of choice. Organization The book is organized to build a base of knowledge that will be added to chapter by chapter. Basic XSLT concepts and a brief overview of XML are covered in Chapter 1. The remainder of the chapters add functionality as required when creating stylesheets. The more complex the problem, the later it is covered. Chapter 1 provides everything you need to know about XML and XSLT in a nutshell. This chapter gives a good overview with minimum syntax, and can be used by people at any level of markup experience as a review or for general information. Chapter 2 covers stylesheet concepts that are crucial to understanding XSLT, as well as general stylesheet terminology. Chapter 3 adds more concepts, a little more explanation and usage, and an in-depth study of templates to the basics covered in Chapters 1 and 2. Chapter 4 defines and explains XPath expressions and patterns. Chapter 5 covers XPath functions, which are crucial to using most of the elements in XSLT. Chapter 6 walks through the creation of new XML elements and attributes using several different methods. Chapter 7 discusses the use of multiple stylesheets by including and importing them, as well as a discussion on template priority. Chapter 8 shows how to work with variables and parameters. Chapter 9 covers anything that is in some way iterative or conditional, as well as the utilities required to copy XML from the input to the output. Chapter 10 details the options for controlling output types, as well as stripping and preserving whitespace, and generating error messages. Chapter 11 covers XSLT functions and their related elements, including importing external XML documents with the document() function, and using keys with . Chapter 12 discusses extensions, processors, and Java, as well as three "commercial" XSLT processors. Chapter 13 describes three "freeware" processors: Xalan, Saxon, and XT, along with installation instructions and extension implementations. There are three appendices that cover a variety of topics and case studies, as well as contributed material. Versions This book is written according to XSL Transformations (XSLT) Version 1.0, XML Path Language (XPath) Version 1.0, and Extensible Markup Language (XML) 1.0. Additional reference material came from Namespaces in XML REC-xml-names-19990114. The version of James Clarks' XT used for the tests in this book is 19991105. The version of Michael Kay's Saxon used is 6.2.2.

From the Back Cover

Gain total control over your information with XSLT and XPath!

  • Master XSLT and XPath—the "keys to the XML kingdom"
  • Build custom XML output solutions that won't become obsolete
  • Learn everything from basic XML-to-HTML conversions to leading edge techniques
  • CD-ROM includes all examples from the book

Mastering XSLT and XPath gives you unprecedented control over your information—and helps you leverage virtually every new XML technology, from XLink to schemas. Discover XSLT's powerful vocabulary of easy, programming-like features, and learn how to build custom solutions that resist obsolescence. By the end of the first chapter, you'll be performing XML-to-HTML conversions for display in any Web browser. Then build on your knowledge through a series of hands-on examples that transform you into an XSLT/XPath expert!

  • XSLT as an XML document instance: leveraging your existing XML skills
  • XSLT stylesheet concepts and constructs: fundamental through advanced level
  • XPath patterns and functions
  • XSLT subroutine functions and variables
  • XSLT processing of multiple nodes: iterative and conditional XSLT elements
  • Controlling output options
  • XSLT extensions, and more

Whether you're an experienced programmer or a novice markup specialist, here's your chance to master XML's most potent tools for organizing, updating, and delivering digital information—any data, anywhere, any time!


Contains leading XSLT processor software plus all XSLT/XPath examples from the book.

See all Editorial Reviews

Product Details
  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall PTR; Bk&CD-Rom edition (July 26, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 0130404462
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 7.0 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 kilograms.
  • Average Customer Review: based on 9 reviews.
  • Sales Rank: #267,005 in Books (See Top Sellers in Books)
    Yesterday: #252,443 in Books
    (Publishers and authors: improve your sales)

Look Inside This Book
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Front Cover | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover

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Customer Reviews
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

Excellent XSLT reference!, April 21, 2005
Reviewer:Joe Reader "guy_from_bellevue" (Bellevue, WA United States) - See all my reviews
I've had this book on my shelf since publication. I had to dig it out last week to do some fairly complex XSLT programming. The book was a huge help and helped me get everything done quite quickly.

I use this book as a reference book, not a how-to. This book is great for things like "what is the function that does 'x' and what are its arguments?" It probably helps that I know XML pretty deeply, so I don't typically look at the examples. Of course, that might be because the docs on the functions in the book are so good that I find I don't need to look at the examples.

XSLT hasn't changed much since this book was published. If you deal with XSLT, and, by extension, XPATH, get this book for reference.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:

Poor Editing, Poor Examples, November 15, 2003
Reviewer:"vanstrange" (Toronto, ON Canada) - See all my reviews
This feels like a book that had it's table of contents laid out, and then the content filled in as quickly as possible. Editing must have lasted about 3 days. With a more thorough editing process, and a bit more thought to the examples (the boulevard examples taumatized me so much, I nearly stopped driving), it may have been a very good book.

In some sections, the same paragraph is repeated verbatim 2 or even 3 times. Often in the chapter overview, and then on the next page in the first chapter section.

Possibly the book appeals to other learning styles better, but I've found it a tough slog. In fairness though, XSLT is a strange and difficult beast- I may be transferring some of my frustration on to the messenger!

However, in general, I find the examples are too repetive, causing them to blur together. And you find myself flipping back as many as 6 pages at times to find the xml code the description is talking about.

And there is a lack of technical illustrations to help with more difficult topics.

I would have appreciate larger examples from different domains to specific goals. The problem with a lot of the examples is the purposelessness of the examples.

XML in a Nutshell, and Michael Kay's XLST reference have provided me much more joy.

My last word of advice- follow the examples live. XSLT and XPath need practice, and lots of it.

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:

Examples are laden with errors, August 10, 2003
Reviewer:Joe (New Have, OH United States) - See all my reviews
I suppose this book might be helpful as a reference, but to someone who is actually trying to figure out what to do with xslt and xpath, this book is a very poor primer. I found that, in addition to offering little explanation as to how xpath and xslt are needed in a larger context (is this supposed to supplant sql??, for example), the examples are so error-prone that I learned more by correcting the errors than I did reading the book. Here is a list of errors you will encounter (from the CD) for the first 3 chapters:

1.1 (string not quoted)
1.2 (only 1 top-level element allowed).
2.1 (invalid character)
2.4 (cannot locate resource)
2.5 (template.xml undeclared namespace)
2.7 (cannot locate resource)
3.2 (output.xml invalid at the top level)
3.3 ditto
3.4 worked -- hey, a working example!
3.5 (output.xml invalid at the top level)
3.6 misplaced period
3.7 invalid at top level
3.8 only 1 top level element allowed
3.9 invalid at the top level...

The rest of the chapter examples are similar to this one.
Without good examples, a programming book is almost worthless.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:

Not too many good examples, but a decent reference, October 24, 2002
Reviewer:William Laird (Boston, MA) - See all my reviews
I would agree this is more of a reference for the seasoned XPath/XSLT programmer. I'm a intermediate java programmer with some decent background in xml. I haven't really been able to get that much from this book in the way of examples. It's very light on examples.

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful:

This book is an excellent XSLT Reference, May 6, 2002
Reviewer:Eric Lawson (Dallas, TX USA) - See all my reviews
In my XSLT work, I feel I refer to this book more often than the other book on my desk (Michael Kay's XSLT Programmers reference). This book exudes a much greater level of technical detail, especially when relating to XPath (a thorough understanding of which is incredibly important to any XSLT developer). The explanation of XPath Axes and Nodetests was extraordinarily helpful (it is a better reference than the standard itself).

The information provided for each XSLT element is quite detailed, and explains in great detail how those elements are used in actual stylesheets.

I suggest anyone interested in doing hardcore XSLT development have this book on your desk. While this is definately not in the league of "XSLT for Dummies", it certianly is an perfect reference for the seasoned developer trying to push XSLT to its limits.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

Welcomed help!, April 29, 2002
Reviewer: A reader
Any book that takes the dense, tedious specs and translates them into layman's English is always worth it and very welcomed. The form of the translation in this case are a number of very clear and focused examples. Sure, one could trail and error and deduce the behavior of the stylesheet, but who has that kind of time? This book will serve you very well if you need a quick jumpstart into XSLT and XPATH. I await a similar volume on XSL:FO.

See all 9 customer reviews...

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