Unless you’re living in a cave, XML is touching your life in ways you’ll never know. But what happens when you actually have to learn it?
Maybe you’re a businessperson who wants to use XML to solve a specific business problem or to connect with your customers or suppliers. Maybe you’re an experienced programmer who’s never built an XML application. Maybe you want to know what your programmers are talking about. Maybe you want to create content once and use it in five different ways.
Regardless of your reason for learning XML, you want to learn it fast. You hate jargon. You want simple explanations that don’t require a doctorate. You’ll love XML All-in-One Desk Reference for Dummies.
Richard Wagner and Richard Mansfield start with one of the clearest explanations we’ve ever seen of how XML works; and of the three-stage lifecycle of an XML document: creation, parsing, and consumption. Next, they walk through describing data with XML: basic XML markup, “well-formed” XML documents, and using namespaces to avoid naming conflicts.
XML documents must next be validated, to make sure they share an agreed-upon structure and consist of valid elements and attributes -- in other words, they’ll work when you use them to exchange data. The authors show how DTDs and XML Schema can be used to validate XML documents, and introduce parsers that can handle these chores.
They compare DTDs and schema to “blueprints” for constructing XML documents, and “contracts” between users of the same structure -- typical of their reliance on English-language metaphors that non-technical readers will understand.
“In order to create a valid house that matches the required specifications, the builder will constantly refer to the blueprint during construction. In the same way, a DTD or XML schema provides a plan that you can refer to in order to understand how to construct an XML document. It tells you what you can include and how to include it.” If a validating parser can successfully parse a document against your blueprint, it’s safe to use that document with your XML application.
Next, Wagner and Mansfield turn to presentation: using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and Extensible Stylesheet Language Formatting Objects (XSL-FO) to prettify your documents for consistent display, whether on the Web or elsewhere. This stuff is crucial if you’re involved with any kind of content management.
In “Book #4,” you learn how to transform other aspects of your document, using XSLT, templates, XPath, and related technologies -- and why you would. Then, it’s on to “the rest of the X-Team”: XLink, XPointer, XForms, and XHTML.
Thus far, you’ve focused on XML from the “inside.” The authors now show you how to work with and process XML documents from external applications from the “outside,” using SAX and DOM; and, finally, introduce the emerging world of web services, and the core technologies that go with those, such as SOAP and UDDI.
From start to finish, the authors get straight to the point -- and consistently present it clearly, with simple real-life metaphors. What more could you ask? Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, Second Edition.