Book Review: "Practical XML for the Web" (2/2) - exploring XML | WebReference

Book Review: "Practical XML for the Web" (2/2) - exploring XML

Book Review: "Practical XML for the Web"

Practical Decisions

In a nutshell, you have to make practical business decisions before addressing technical issues -- which users to leave out, or what effort to put in to serve a specific minority. I have to concede that these business decisions are beyond the scope of any technical XML book, despite the moniker "practical." We at WebReference, of course, encourage cross-browser development wherever possible.

Chapters 4 to 7 cover client-side XML technology, such as the use of CSS for displaying XML, XSLT for transforming XML into HTML or text, and scipting of XML content through the DOM. Differences between Explorer 6 and Netscape 6 are carefully listed, and a small library xDOM is introduced to mask the differences in DOM manipulation. All chapters are packed with relevant and working examples, as well as pointers to resources on the Web for software packages and reference material. Comparing the different approaches is briefly done at the beginning of each chapter. Personally I would have preferred a conclusive chapter that lists possibilities and limitations of each technology, after the reader has successfully mastered all of the content presented so far.

The introduction to server-side XML starts off with a quick discussion of server technologies such as ASP, PHP and JSP and their respective support for XML. A simple application for managing CDs illustrates basic techniques for all three server-side scripting languages. The book concludes with three more complex, real-world case studies: Using ASP for an XML- and XSLT-Driven Site, Displaying XML Data in Flash Using JSP, and Displaying XML from a MySQL Database Using PHP & XSLT. All source code and installation instructions can be found on the glasshaus Web site.


"Practical XML for the Web" is a well-written and structured approach to the pieces that make up the puzzle of XML for the Web. Rather than bloating the book with theoretical specifications that can be easily obtained elsewhere, the chapter's authors give solid and brief overviews of the respective topic with pointers to more in-depth information. Many examples, including source code and installation instructions from the publisher's Web site, make it easily possible to see the provided code in action, and modify the demonstrated techniques for one's own purposes. The xDOM library neatly hides the differences in DOM scripting and could become the standard library for dealing with this problem. The authors promise to keep the library up-to-date with new browser versions as they appear, let's take their word for it.

After working through the techniques presented in this book the reader will have acquired a solid toolbox of XML techniques that can be used in one's own Web projects. More guidance as to which technology is best used when would have been appreciated, something that we are admittedly all finding out the hard way as we go along, but any lessons learned would have been appreciated. All in all this book is highly recommended and should not be missing from the shelf of any developer writing applications for the Web with XML.

Produced by Michael Claßen

Created: Feb 03, 2003
Revised: Feb 03, 2003