Book Review: Talking XSLT: Page 2

Posted October 3, 2000

David Fisco

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Kay writes: "The designers of XSLT took care to ensure that, in spite of the power of XSLT as a full transformation language, it would still be possible to use it in [a] simple way, bringing it within the reach of nonprogrammers with HTML authoring skills." Kay's assertion may be quite accurate, but most HTML authors will find XSLT Programmer's Reference beyond their grasp. Many serious programmers who have come to expect a tutorial-driven approach to new languages may be equally frustrated trying to learn XSLT from a reference work. (Although it could be done using Kay's book, it would be somewhat like trying to learn English from reading the Oxford American Dictionary. Eventually you'd get it, but there's clearly a better way.)

So what is the uninitiated, XSLT-curious developer to do? For starters, check out the tutorial section at the end of this review. If you can wait until December, Addison Wesley Longman Inc. will be publishing an XSLT book by Khun Yee Fung. A spokesperson for Addison Wesley claims that Fung's book will be more tutorial-driven than Kay's and that the company is committed to including the latest XSLT information, should anything change with the W3C standards. Although a new edition of XSLT Programmer's Reference currently is not planned, the publisher is following the progress of XSLT and if an update or additional title is required one will be printed, according to a spokeswoman for Wrox Press Inc.

Once initiated, serious programmers should obtain a copy of XSLT Programmer's Reference. My other recommendation is to read all of chapters eight (design patterns) and nine (worked examples). They will help propel you into constructing real enterprise solutions using XSLT. Then keep the book handy for looking up everything from elements to functions. //

David Fisco is an Internet media consultant and developer. He can be reached at

Additional Resources:


Sams Teach Yourself XML in 21 Days by Simon North (ISBN 1575213966)
All of the Sams Teach Yourself in 21 Days books are good introductions--gentle on the beginner, but not too superficial.

XML in Record Time by Natanya Pitts (ISBN 078213406).
This is a somewhat lighter introduction to XML, but with enough information to get up and running.

XML Black Book by Natanya Pitts (ISBN 157610284X).
These Black Books are in-depth treatments, though not impossible for the beginner. Very complete, many advanced tips.

XML: A Primer by Simon St. Laurent (ISBN 155828592X).
This is a beginner's text from a popular Web development author.


A basic introduction to XSLT

MSXML SDK beta release in July 2000
from Microsoft Corp. contains introductory information about XSLT

Practical Transformation Using XSLT and XPATH
from Crane Softwright. The preview is available for free; the full tutorial requires purchase. The material is in outline form.

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