|XML in a Nutshell|
|author||Elliotte Rusty Harold & W. Scott Means|
|publisher||O'Reilly & Associates|
|summary||A solid and useful reference for XML developers.|
While one of the original goals of XML was to create a specification simple enough that a computer science student could produce a working parser in a week, a few new developments have complicated things slightly. The sea of W3C-recommended acronyms includes namespaces, XPath, XSL, XPointers, schemas, and dozens of specific XML applications. Adopting the simple rules of well-formed data helps, but the quickly-growing stable of related technologies is enough to make the sturdiest information architect weep. The specifications aren't as easy to read as, say, the latest Terry Pratchett novel, either.
XML in a Nutshell covers just the most important concepts. Cleanly written, it walks through the XML aspects likely to be used in most projects. As it assumes existing familiarity with the subjects, it does not spend much time in tutorial mode. Instead, these are the guts of the subjects, arranged nicely in dissection jars.
The first section covers XML basics. This includes the ubiquitous grove of angle brackets, the semantic intent and implication, a good chapter on DTDs, as well as internationalization concerns. The short discussion of namespaces is the clearest explanation this author has yet encountered.
Part two delves further into the reasons for using XML, exploring documents that use the structure to explain semantic relationships. DocBook and XHTML appear, as extended examples. Further, it explores the assistive technologies of XSL, XPath, XLinks, and XPointers. Again, the discussions of XSL and XPath compare very favorably to longer works, intended as tutorials. A brief examination of CSS and XSL Formatting Objects rounds out the section.
Part three explores the use of XML as a data transport. In this section, programming languages come into play. There's a strong hint of Java in the air, though most of the discussion follows a language-neutral path. Both the DOM and SAX parsing models have a dedicated chapter. They're short, but the essential pieces are described simply and effectively.
The final section makes or breaks the book. Luckily, XML in a Nutshell won't have much chance to gather dust. The two-hundred page reference section includes the most useful information. There's an annotated copy of the XML 1.0 Reference, arranged logically. The XSL reference, in particular, is quite good. DOM and SAX programmers will also enjoy their respective chapters. Finally, it's nice to have a large set of printed character tables handy.
What's to Consider
The parsing examples don't go much beyond DOM or SAX, and there's more than a strong Java flavor. (Of course, the models are very similar in most modern languages.) As well, some of the class interfaces in the SAX reference are hard to read. This is probably due to the complexity of the information instead of any editorial decision. There's also little discussion of actual XML applications. Instead, the book covers the principles behind perhaps 90% of XML usage. Again, this is not a complaint, just a clarification of the intended audience.
The value of XML in a Nutshell should be readily apparent to XML developers. The material is well-organized and concise. It's a quintessential Nutshell book, upholding a tradition of utility and quality. Readers who've already been exposed to the presented material will likely keep this book close at hand.
Table of Contents
- XML Concepts
- Introducing XML
- XML Fundamentals
- Document Type Definitions
- Narrative-Centric Documents
- XML as a Document Format
- XML on the Web
- XSL Transformations
- Cascading Stylesheets (CSS)
- XSL Formatting Objects (XSL-FO)
- Data-Centric Documents
- XML as a Data Format
- Programming Models
- Document Object Model (DOM)
- XML 1.0 Reference
- XPath Reference
- XSLT Reference
- DOM Reference
- SAX Reference
- Character Sets
You can purchase this book at Fatbrain.