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XSLT Pocket Reference

Evan Lenz
Published by O'Reilly and Associates
176 pages
£ 6.95
Published: 26th August 2005
reviewed by Lindsay Marshall
   in the March 2006 issue (pdf), (html)

I was going to try to be clever and write this review all formatted up as valid XML, and packed with witty in-jokes. As you will have noticed I decided against it, because, let's face it XML just isn't that funny, and XSLT is not funny at all. Quite the reverse in fact. A very serious matter XSLT and which I have always found to be badly served in the documentation department. Writing XSLT is not the easiest of things I have ever done, indeed it is one of my least favourite activities (though it does rank above writing Java programs), but it is made worse by a shortage of easy to understand examples and explanations. Now, don't get all excited and think that I am about to tell you that all your problems are solved and that O'Reilly have come up with the goods yet again (yawn). This book is only OK. It is much better than anything else I've come across and its cheap, but it is still pretty opaque. All right, it's a pocket reference not a tutorial, it's meant to be opaque, but I would have liked it to be a little more accessible.

I'd still send you out to buy it though if you need to use XSLT and aren't already fluent.

The XML reference is altogether much more friendly - some nice clear examples (though the one I used in a class the other day may not actually have been strictly valid XML....) and a solid information about XML Schema which is useful since we do need to be getting away from DTDs. (And stuff about Relax and Schematron too). You could definitely get going with XML from just this book and then proceed to more official standard material once you had the ideas internalised. Let's face it, basic XML is not hard, though people do seem to be trying to make it so (see XSLT). This is still a good little book, and it goes next to the PHP and SQL references on my desk.

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