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on May 31, 2000
1. This is really a reference, not a tutorial. It does include a "no nonsense tutorial" which will guide you through the basic XSLT topics, but if you have no XML experience, start with one of the more basic Wrox offerings. (David Hunter's Beginning XML -- which I hear will be excellent -- is going to be released by Wrox early in June.)
2. If you are unclear on the purposes of XSLT, understand that it is a programming language for converting data, performing scripting tasks, etc. on the way to a pure HTML or XML layout. I only mention this because some developers seem to be operating under the mistaken belief that XSLT is an appropriate subject for graphic designers, perhaps because XSLT contains the word "style." Do NOT get this book for your design staff.
3. Not a major hurdle for most of us, but some implementations, such as Xalan, are not covered.
That aside, this is a fantastic book. Everything I can think of in the XSL arena is covered, including extending XSL. The author, Michael Kay, who was such a force on the Professional XML team, once again proves to be an excellent writer. The browser specific details are just what I needed to solve many of my real-world production problems. And I continue to be amazed at the speed with which Wrox gets these comprehensive volumes to press.
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on March 6, 2015
It's rare that a technical reference book is clearly written, comprehensive, and painstakingly accurate and precise, but Michael Kay has managed to pull it off with this book. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that he was developing his own XML processing library at the time that the XSLT language was being formalized, or perhaps it's just because he's an extremely smart guy. I've read or skimmed virtually every book on XSLT written in the English language, and find myself always coming back to Kay for the definitive (and definitively clear) explanation of how things work. There are some caveats. XSLT is a hard language to wrap your brain around, particularly if you're coming from a traditional imperative programming background. For example, XSLT is designed to be side-effect free, so the values of variables are immutable once defined. Similarly, XPATH takes some time to understand. You will not be able to sit down and read this book like a Harry Potter novel. The first time I tried reading it, I found it nearly impenetrable; but again, this is not Michael Kay's fault, but rather a function of the cognitive complexity of the language for traditional programmers. Nevertheless, every time I work with XSLT I find myself coming back to this book for reference and deeper understanding. A question pops up, and the answer is right there, clearly spelled out: I just didn't get it on first (or second reading). Highly recommended. I'm writing this review long after the 4th edition has come out. Kay is now chair of the XSLT standards committee, and the 4th edition of the book covers XSLT/XPATH v. 2.0. If you're just starting out, I recommend starting with this book first, as XSLT/XPATH 2.0 just added additional features and complexity to the language. The 4th edition is of course also a 5-star achievement, but you might find it a bit easier to start out with the details of the 1.0 specification. Kay includes features from the abandoned XSLT 1.1 spec, but these are noted and easily ignored.
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on August 25, 2000
First things first, this is one of the only books out there on XSL/XSLT. You've got to give a book praise when it is one of the few available in the field. This is not a beginner's book, but for intermediate XML/XSL programmers.
I have the XML Bible but like most books on XML, they only treat XSLT/XSLF with a chapter or two. I was getting sick of formatting my XML using the most basic XSL commands available and that's what these XML books were offering. Solution: book on XSL! I wanted to learn how to make my formatted XML more dynamic, more functionable in the browser.
The book does start on a slightly XSL beginner's note. It goes over XSLT's background (probably cases for XSL over CSS) and the structure of an XSL stylesheet. From here, it goes in to a nice, 200-page XSL element reference with more transforming element tags than you can shake a stick at. After a chapter on Expressions, my two favorite chapters on Patterns & Functions show the real power of XSL. The book concludes with a chapter on Design Patterns (probably help you organize your XSL code more functionally), Worked Examples (not enough books have these contained within!), and XML/XSL-related products.
Make sure you have some XML background first! Maybe that goes without saying, but I'll still offer Wrox's Professional XML as a primer. Please keep in mind that this XSLT book is an 800-page reference with a tiny tutorial section on XSL. If you are relatively new to XSL and want the basics, you are better off getting your info on the web [...] and when you've got those XSL offerings down, then go to this reference!
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on June 29, 2000
This is a truly outstanding book. Of the very many computer books I have read, this is one of the top 5.
As other reviews have correctly stated, this is neither a tutorial nor an introductory text. But if you have been working with XML/XSL for even a little while, the dearth of complete and accurate documentation becomes onerous. I have spent untold hours experimenting with variations of syntax to get the desired results, never really understanding what I was doing. After reading this book, so many of the mysteries and black magic incantations I had built developed now become clear.
This is a deeply detailed reference book, and it is very much written from the perspective of an author of an XSLT parser. You get innumerable details about all sorts of arcana. But once you get beyond some very simple stylesheets, I have found that you often need this kind of detail to help you understand exactly what is going on.
The heavy slogging thru the material is greatly aided by Mr. Kay's refreshing writing style. He completely avoids the fluff, illiteracy, or arrogance so common in technical writing. His language is precise, yet easy to read. Most commendable are his examples. Rather than the trivial, artificial or non-sensical example we often see, each example here (and there are LOTS of them) is well-crafted, well-explained, and relevant to a real-world task.
Another astounding fact is the relative sparseness of typos and errors. As an author myself, I know that computer publishers rush to print with all sorts of egregious errors that are very disruptive. Although I did encounter a very few errors in this book, Mr. Kay and Wrox are to be commended highly for a very professional first edition.
A monumental writing job, excellently done. This belongs on the bookshelf of anyone who is seriously involved in XSL work.
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on July 22, 2015
Very simple book. Dont be fooled by the volume of the book. As it says its only a reference and it has simple examples for each described item. It does not show complex examples so if you are stuck with some XSLT issue its better to look online for the answer.
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on June 14, 2001
This is a great book, as the other reviewers have noted. One thing that is particularly impressive is the fact that this book has great online support (as of June, 2001 anyway).
Just go to the website ... (mentioned in the book) and follow the links to join the newsgroup. You can follow the current discussion on XSLT issues and post your own questions, related to the book or not (quote page numbers and everything, if you like). Michael Kay himself answers many of the posts.
I've never seen an author so interested in following up with his readers and the issues they have with his book and the topic in general. I'm impressed!
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on May 25, 2001
I have the first edition of this book and I have to say that this book teaches XSLT wonderfully. You can do so much with XSLT it's unbelievable. This book is a tutorial and a reference. Everything you need. No other book comes close. This book has helped me to shine at my office.
XSLT is not just for web developers. I'm a hardcore Java and C++ programmer. I almost always can find a way to fit XML and XSLT into what I am trying to do.
Get this book and be the XSLT guru in your office!!! Then get a big fat raise at the end of the year!!! I did!!!
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on November 7, 2000
The problem I have with this book is that, in my opinion, he wastes a lot of space with long explanations that I didn't even read. The first few chapters were full of explanations of nothing. There was no code accompanying the explanations. Personally I want to see code that I can use. XSLT history isn't interesting to me. He also assumes that the reader doesn't have any XML background. So defining DOM, DTD, and the concept of tree data structures were a waste to me. This book should be called Beginning XSLT or something. I just wanted to see some XSL syntax and example implementations. Otherwise it's a pretty good book once he got down to code.
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on March 3, 2003
I bought the O'Reilly book titled XSLT, and boy it made no sense to me. I bought this one, and I *got* it. Kay is one of the world's foremost experts in XSLT (obviously), but he's a crackerjack technical writer too. I can't praise the book enough. It's simply a joy to read and use; I use it as my reference now that I am a proficient/expert XSLT programmer myself, and I have to say that I don't have many books that are good enough to introduce you to a subject and then keep around. I don't think I'll ever outgrow this one.
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on December 13, 2003
This is a great book on XSLT from the author of the popular Saxon XSLT engine. This was the first book I read on XSLT, it gave me a very thorough understanding of the subject and even though I have bought other books to cover some of the whole (in particular the XSLT cookbook), I keep turning back to this book as a reference. The coverage of XPath, which is critical for writing good XSLT, is concise and excellent.
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