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XSLT and XPATH: A Guide to XML Transformations

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XSLT and XPATH: A Guide to XML Transformations


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  • Copyright 2002
  • Dimensions: 7" x 9"
  • Pages: 592
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-13-040446-2
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-13-040446-6

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!

Sample Content

Table of Contents



1. Anatomy of an XSLT Stylesheet.

What Is Markup? What Is XSLT? What Is XPath? XSLT Stylesheet Concepts. Terminology for XSLT. Climbing `Round the Family Tree: Addressing in XSLT.

2. Fundamental Concepts of XSLT Stylesheets.

Boilerplates for XSLT Stylesheets. Embedding Stylesheets in XML Documents. XSLT Stylesheet Terminology. XML Components of XSLT Stylesheets.

3. Advanced Stylesheet Concepts.

Templates: The Building Blocks of Transformations. Built-in Template Rules.

4. XPath Expressions.

XPath Syntax and Terminology. Abbreviations.

5. XPath Functions.

XPath Function Library. The Node-set Core Function Group. String Core Function Group. Boolean Core Function Group. Number Core Function Group.

6. Building New XML Documents with XSLT.

Creating Elements with LREs. The <xsl:element> Instruction Element. Creating Attributes with the <xsl:attribute> Instruction Element. The <xsl:attribute-set> Top-Level Element. The <xsl:text> Instruction Element. Adding Attributes to LREs. Comments and Processing-Instructions. Namespace Aliases.

7. Using Multiple Stylesheets.

Working with External Stylesheets. Template Rule Processing and Priorities.

8. Working with Variables.

Declaring and Binding Variables. Result Tree Fragments. Using Variable References. Comparing <xsl:variable> and <xsl:param>. Comparing <xsl:with-param> to <xsl:param> and <xsl:variable>.

9. Duplication, Iteration, and Conditional XSLT Elements.

The <xsl:copy-of> Instruction Element. The <xsl:copy> Instruction Element. The <xsl:for-each> Instruction Element. The <xsl:sort> Element. The <xsl:if> Instruction Element. The <xsl:choose> Instruction Element. The <xsl:number> Instruction Element.

10. Controlling Output Options.

The <xsl:output> Top-Level Element. The <xsl:strip- space> and <xsl:preserve-space> Top-Level Elements. Generating Error Messages and Logs.

11. XSLT Functions and Related XSLT Elements.

XSLT Function Groups. String XSLT Functions. The Boolean XSLT Function Group.

12. XSLT Processors, Extensions, and Java.

XSLT Processors. Extension Elements and Functions. Namespaces. Java. Commercial XSLT Processors.

13. Xalan, Saxon, and XT.

Xalan. Saxon. XT. Generating Multiple Output Files Using Saxon, Xalan, or XT.

Appendix A: Case Studies.

Lists. MARC Records: The ATLAS Project from ATLA-CERTR at Emory University. The Harvard-Kyoto Classics Project with Vedic Literature.

Appendix B: Grouping Using the Muenchian Method.

Appendix C: Using XSLT for the Artificial Intelligence “N-Queens” Problem.

Architecture. The Stylesheet. Final notes.




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."

—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.


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 <xsl:key>.

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.


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.


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