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Beginning XML [Paperback]

David Hunter , Jeff Rafter , Joe Fawcett , Eric van der Vlist , Danny Ayers , Jon Duckett , Andrew Watt , Linda McKinnon
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

May 21 2007 0470114878 978-0470114872 4
When the first edition of this book was written, XML was a relatively new language but already gaining ground fast and becoming more and more widely used in a vast range of applications. By the time of the second edition, XML had already proven itself to be more than a passing fad, and was in fact being used throughout the industry for an incredibly wide range of uses. With the third edition, it was clear that XML was a mature technology, but more important, it became evident that the XML landscape was dividing into several areas of expertise. Now in this edition, we needed to categorize the increasing number of specifications surrounding XML, which either use XML or provide functionality in addition to the XML core specification.

So what is XML? It's a markup language, used to describe the structure of data in meaningful ways. Anywhere that data is input/output, stored, or transmitted from one place to another, is a potential fit for XML's capabilities. Perhaps the most well-known applications are web-related (especially with the latest developments in handheld web access—for which some of the technology is XML-based). However, there are many other non-web-based applications for which XML is useful—for example, as a replacement for (or to complement) traditional databases, or for the transfer of financial information between businesses. News organizations, along with individuals, have also been using XML to distribute syndicated news stories and blog entries.

This book aims to teach you all you need to know about XML—what it is, how it works, what technologies surround it, and how it can best be used in a variety of situations, from simple data transfer to using XML in your web pages. It answers the fundamental questions:

* What is XML?

* How do you use XML?

* How does it work?

* What can you use it for, anyway?

This book is for people who know that it would be a pretty good idea to learn XML but aren't 100 percent sure why. You've heard the hype but haven't seen enough substance to figure out what XML is and what it can do. You may be using development tools that try to hide the XML behind user interfaces and scripts, but you want to know what is really happening behind the scenes. You may already be somehow involved in web development and probably even know the basics of HTML, although neither of these qualifications is absolutely necessary for this book.

What you don't need is knowledge of markup languages in general. This book assumes that you're new to the concept of markup languages, and we have structured it in a way that should make sense to the beginner and yet quickly bring you to XML expert status.

The word "Beginning" in the title refers to the style of the book, rather than the reader's experience level. There are two types of beginner for whom this book is ideal:

* Programmers who are already familiar with some web programming or data exchange techniques. Programmers in this category will already understand some of the concepts discussed here, but you will learn how you can incorporate XML technologies to enhance those solutions you currently develop.

* Those working in a programming environment but with no substantial knowledge or experience of web development or data exchange applications. In addition to learning how XML technologies can be applied to such applications, you will be introduced to some new concepts to help you understand how such systems work.

The subjects covered in this book are arranged to take you from novice to expert in as logical a manner as we could. This Fourth Edition is structured in sections based on various areas of XML expertise. Unless you are already using XML, you should start by reading the introduction to XML in Part I. From there, you can quickly jump into specific areas of expertise, or, if you prefer, you can read through the book in order. Keep in mind that there is quite a lot of overlap in XML, and that some of the sections make use of techniques described elsewhere in the book.

* The book begins by explaining what exactly XML is and why the industry felt that a language like this was needed.

* After covering the why, the next logical step is the how, so it shows you how to create well-formed XML.

* Once you understand the whys and hows of XML, you'll go on to some more advanced things you can do when creating your XML documents, to make them not only well formed, but valid. (And you'll learn what "valid" really means.)

* After you're comfortable with XML and have seen it in action, the book unleashes the programmer within and looks at an XML-based programming language that you can use to transform XML documents from one format to another.

* Eventually, you will need to store and retrieve XML information from databases. At this point, you will learn not only the state of the art for XML and databases, but also how to query XML information using an SQL-like syntax called XQuery.

* XML wouldn't really be useful unless you could write programs to read the data in XML documents and create new XML documents, so we'll get back to programming and look at a couple of ways that you can do that.

* Understanding how to program and use XML within your own business is one thing, but sending that information to a business partner or publishing it to the Internet is another. You'll learn about technologies that use XML that enable you to send messages across the Internet, publish information, and discover services that provide information.

* Since you have all of this data in XML format, it would be great if you could easily display it to people, and it turns out you can. You'll see an XML version of HTML called XHTML. You'll also look at a technology you may already be using in conjunction with HTML documents called CSS. CSS enables you to add visual styles to your XML documents. In addition, you'll learn how to design stunning graphics and make interactive forms using XML.

* Finally, the book ends with a case study, which should help to give you ideas about how XML can be used in real-life situations, and which could be used in your own applications.

This book builds on the strengths of the earlier editions, and provides new material to reflect the changes in the XML landscape—notably XQuery, RSS and Atom, and AJAX. Updates have been made to reflect the most recent versions of specifications and best practices throughout the book. In addition to the many changes, each chapter has a set of exercise questions to test your understanding of the material. Possible solutions to these questions appear in Appendix A.

Part I: Introduction: The introduction is where most readers should begin. The first three chapters introduce some of the goals of XML as well as the specific rules for constructing XML. Once you have read this part you should be able to read and create your own XML documents.

Chapter 1: What Is XML?: This chapter cover some basic concepts, introducing the fact that XML is a markup language (a bit like HTML) whereby you can define your own elements, tags, and attributes (known as a vocabulary). You'll see that tags have no presentation meaning—they're just a way to describe the structure of the data.

Chapter 2: Well-Formed XML: In addition to explaining what well-formed XML is, we offer a look at the rules that exist (the XML 1.0 and 1.1 Recommendations) for naming and structuring elements—you need to comply with these rules in order to produce well-formed XML.

Chapter 3: XML Namespaces: Because tags can be made up, you need to avoid name conflicts when sharing documents. Namespaces provide a way to uniquely identify a group of tags, using a URI. This chapter explains how to use namespaces.

Part II: Validation: In addition to the well-formedness rules you learn in Part I, you will most likely want to learn how to create and use different XML vocabularies. This Part introduces you to DTDs, XML Schemas, and RELAX NG: three languages that define custom XML vocabularies. It also shows you how to utilize these definitions to validate your XML documents.

Chapter 4: Document Type Definitions: You can specify how an XML document should be structured, and even provide default values, using Document Type Definitions (DTDs). If XML conforms to the associated DTD, it is known as valid XML. This chapter covers the basics of using DTDs.

Chapter 5: XML Schemas: XML Schemas, like DTDs, enable you to define how a document should be structured. In addition to defining document structure, they enable you to specify the individual datatypes of attribute values and element content. They are a more powerful alternative to DTDs.

Chapter 6: RELAX NG: RELAX NG is a third technology used to define the structure of documents. In addition to a new syntax and new features, it takes the best from XML Schemas and DTDs, and is therefore very simple and very powerful. RELAX NG has two syntaxes; both the full syntax and compact syntax are discussed.

Part III: Processing: In addition to defining and creating XML documents, you need to know how to work with documents to extract information and convert it to other formats. In fact, easily extracting information and converting it to other formats is what makes XML so powerful.

Chapter 7: XPath: The XPath language is used to locate sections and data in the XML document, and it’s important in many other XML technologies.

Chapter 8: XSLT: XML can be transformed into other XML documents, HTML, and other formats using XSLT stylesheets, which are introduced in this chapter.

Part IV: Databases: Creating and processing XML documents is good, but eventually you will want to store those documents. This section describes strategies for storing and retrieving XML documents and document fragments from different databases.

Chapter 9: XQuery, the XML Query Language: Very often, you will need to retrieve information from within a database. XQuery, which is built on XPath and XPath2, enables you to do this in an elegant way.

Chapter 10: XML and Databases: XM...


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Product Description

From the Back Cover

The perfect resource for beginning XML programmers, this guidebook clearly shows you what XML is, how to use it, and what technologies surround it. The authors build on the strengths of previous editions while covering the latest changes in the XML landscape such as XQuery, RSS and Atom, and Ajax. The most recent specifications are presented along with best practices to follow when developing XML solutions.

The fourth edition will help you quickly progress from XML basics to more advanced programming techniques. You'll delve into the state of the art for XML and databases, discover how to query XML information, retrieve data, and create new XML documents. In addition, you'll learn how to publish information on the web, design dynamic interactive graphics, and make interactive forms. You'll be able to apply this information to build robust applications in real-world situations.

What you will learn from this book

  • Specific rules to follow for constructing XML
  • How to create and use different XML vocabularies

  • Steps for extracting information and converting it to HTML or other formats

  • Strategies for storing and retrieving XML documents

  • How to manipulate XML using DOM and SAX

  • Tips for improving communication with XML by using Ajax techniques, RSS, and SOAP

  • How to use CSS to add visual styles to your XML documents

Who this book is for

This book is for any programmer interested in learning how to use XML. Some knowledge of web programming or data exchange techniques is helpful but not necessary.

Wrox Beginning guides are crafted to make learning programming languages and technologies easier than you think, providing a structured, tutorial format that will guide you through all the techniques involved.

About the Author

David Hunter is a Senior Technical Consultant for CGI, a full-service IT and business process services partner. Providing technical leadership and guidance for solving his clients' business problems, he is a jack-of-all-trades and master of some. With a career that has included design, development, support, training, writing, and other roles, he has had extensive experience building scalable, reliable, enterprise-class applications. David loves to peek under the hood at any new technology that comes his way, and when one catches his fancy, he really gets his hands dirty. He loves nothing more than sharing these technologies with others.

Jeff Rafter is an independent consultant based in Redlands, California. His focus is one emerging technology and web standards, including XML and validation. he currently works with Baobab Health Partnership with a focus on improving world health.

Joe Fawcett (http://joe.fawcett.name) started programming in the 1970s and worked briefly in IT when leaving full-time education. he then pursued a more checkered career before returning to software development in 1994. In 2003 he was awarded the title of Microsoft Most Valuable Professional in XML for community contributions and technical expertise; he has subsequently been re-awarded every year since. Joe currently works in London and is head of software development for FTC Kaplan Ltd., a leading international provider of accountancy and business training.

Eric van der Vlist is an independent consultant and trainer. His domains of expertise include web development and XML technologies. He is the creator and main editor of XMLfr.org, the main site dedicated to XML technologies in French, the lead author of Professional Web 2.0 Programming, the author of the O'Reilly animal books XML Schema and RELAX NG and a member or the ISO DSDL (http://dsdl.org) working group focused on XML schema languages. he is based in Paris and can be reached at vdv@dyomedea.com , or meet him at one of the many conferences where he presents his projects.

Danny Ayers is a freelance developer and consultant specializing in cutting-edge web technologies. His blog (http://dannyayers.com) tends to feature material relating to the Semantic Web and/or cat photos.

Jon Duckett co-authored Wrox Press' first book on XML in 1998. After 4 years with Wrox in the UK, Jon is now a freelance web developer working with clients in the UK, US and Australia, and has co-authored 10 programming books.

Andrew Watt has been programming for 20 years, including 10 years work with the Web. He has several books in the areas of XML and XSLT to his credit and is well known for his work on XML.com.

Linda McKinnon has more than 10 years of experience as a successful trainer and network engineer, assisting both private and public enterprises in network architecture design, implementation, system administration, and RP procurement. She is a renowned mentor and has published numerous Linux study guide for Wiley Press and Gearhead Press.


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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction for Programmers! May 23 2010
Format:Paperback
I actually really liked the first four chapters of the text. It guided you to "Why learn xml?" over nicely to the first steps to writng code in xml. Yeah, after the first four chapters it got a little dry. But what you see is what you get- A great programmers to programmers guide!!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An XML book to start with Dec 18 2008
By Tom Iancu - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Hello everybody.
Having more than 14 yrs experience in all kind of IT techies, I always had a problem when it came to XML: too big of a confusing terminology and concepts that were difficult to understand. Aside from being a markup language used for structuring data I did not know too much. I plunged into all sort of documentation available on the web, browsed a book or two either form my friends' bookshelves or in a bookshop, but stil questions like "what is the difference between a DTD and a schema" or "should I use URL or URN for a namespace and, in the end, what is a namespace" left unanswered.
Two days ago I had the opportunity to borrow this book from a friend of mine, old-time programmer and IT PM, and I couldn't left it out of my hands.
So, first advice, start with this book if you want to understand basics of XML.
It starts from the scratch, but assuming you have some knowledge about markup, web technologies and, especially, some more insight into HTML and text tagging, but, otherwise, the content is so well written and refined that you will not have any problem in understanding the concepts.
You need a good XML editor. I downloaded XMLSpy trial version from Alltova but I think any good XML editor will do. You will need it to write down and test the collection of examples that the book is filled with.

After you got your XML editor, you may start reading the book, "pencil in hand" to try all the examples provided. By the way, I reached page 183 (out of 1000+) and no typos encountered yet. The code within the examples is very well written, no mistakes up to now.

Since I read only a quarter of the information, I will stick to the chapters I went through wo far.

Introduction and Chapter 1: You will be introduced in the universe of files and information contained in files and a brief - but solid - history of markup is presented, altogether with the rationale behind SGML and other technologies. Then you will be smoothly transported to the world of XML and important questions like "what is XML?", "what does XML offer?", "what is a hierarchy and what is useful for?" etc., will be answered. Then you will be presented the origins of XML standards and, very important, the uses of XML, situations when it is not indicated, advantages and disadvantages. The information is very clear, efficiently structured, no redundancy in phrases and exact, refined wording is used throughout the paragraphs. Do not skip this introductions because here are presented very important concepts that will help you understand future information. The introduction is where most readers should begin. The first three chapters introduce some of the goals of XML as well as the specific rules for constructing XML. Once you have read this part you should be able to read and create your own XML documents. In chapter 1, the authors cover some basic concepts, introducing the fact that XML is a markup language (a bit like HTML) whereby you can define your own elements, tags, and attributes (known as a vocabulary). You'll see that tags have no presentation meaning--they're just a way to describe the structure of the data.

Chapter 2 - Well Formed XML - gives you a very solid understanding of rules of writing XML code, including attributes, elements, comments, XML declarations, illegal characters, etc. In addition to explaining what well-formed XML is, it offers a look at the rules that exist (the XML 1.0
and 1.1 Recommendations) for naming and structuring elements--you need to comply with these rules in order to produce well-formed XML.

Chapter 3 - This chapter was invaluable for me because I have - FINALLY! - understood what a namespace is in XML. Because XML tags can be made up, one needs to avoid name conflicts when sharing documents. Namespaces
provide a way to uniquely identify a group of tags, using a URI. This chapter explains how to use namespaces. Excellent info !

Chapter 4 - Another invaluable chapter, for me, about Document Type Definitions (DTDs). With this chapter, you will be introduced to part II of the book, called "validation". This Part of the book introduces you to DTDs, XML Schemas, and RELAX NG: three languages that define custom XML vocabularies. It will show you how to utilize these definitions to validate your XML documents. Thus, you will understand immediately that DTDs, schemas and compact syntaxes are used for XML validation. In addition to the well-formedness rules you learn in Part I, you will most likely want to learn how to create and use different XML vocabularies. In chapter 4, you will learn how you can specify how an XML document should be structured, and even provide default values, using Document Type Definitions (DTDs). If XML conforms to the associated DTD, it is known as valid XML. This chapter covers the basics of using DTDs.

Chapter 5 - XML Schemas - A very interesting discussion about differences between DTDs and Schemas used for XML validation. This is crucial for you to grasp understanding of coding context when DTDs are more indicated than Schemas and vice-versa. XML Schemas, like DTDs, enable you to define how a document should be structured. In addition to
defining document structure, they enable you to specify the individual datatypes of attribute values and element content (see chapter 2 for these concepts). The most important difference: they are a more powerful alternative to DTDs.

So this is where I reached by now.
However, based on the quality of information I encountered so far, I doubt I will experience any unpleasant surprises regarding the quality of the content in the remainder of the book. However, I would strongly recommend this book for beginners into XML or for those that have difficulties in understanding the concepts related to XML. And don't forget to get and install a good XML editor.

Five stars !

cheers
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Horribly Written, Difficult to Follow Dec 15 2009
By Joe Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book was used as the text book for a college "Introduction to XML" class I just finished. This being my first and only exposure to XML, I have to say it is horribly written. The information is incredibly disjointed and hard to follow. Yes, there are ample examples of code in the book, but not much explanation of why you have to do certain things. Some key terms were used throughout the book without ever giving a clear explanation, or any explanation at all, of what they meant. Maybe it's because there are eight authors and they didn't talk to each other when they were writing it, I don't know. I've taken three college programming classes in the recent past, up to intermediate Java programming, and have never had as much difficulty understanding a text book. I would not recommend this book to anyone, although it's admittedly the only XML book I've read, so I really don't know how it compares to others.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wordy and Badly Written and Organized May 21 2009
By Robert - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've never read a tech book that contained so much useless prose. The authors will often spend pages and pages explaining the simplest concepts, thus making things seem more complicated than need be. Yet they will often gloss over complicated subjects in a few sentences. And it's probably one of the worst organized manuals ever. The authors take the approach, "lets show them how this new concept looks when completely finished, we'll summarize the key concepts (often inserting critical info only found on that page), and then we'll go in-depth later in the chapter (of course omitting the critical info mentioned earlier)." OMG this is frustrating. This makes for a structure where topic A may have some coverage on page 50 -- then more topics -- critical info on topic A -- more topics -- stuff we forgot to include earlier on topic A... you get the picture. I realize a completely linear approach may be impossible, but come on! This book's only redeeming feature is the fact it touches on so many XML concepts.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and Comprehensive Jan. 4 2010
By Klod - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is the best comprehensive introduction to XML (XML, namespaces, schemas, XSL and styles, XML in databases, XML web services, and more). I checked over 10 similar books, but this one surpass the value of any of them. But be aware that this book is an introduction (Well, maybe more than an introduction). It will be necessary other more specific material for advanced concepts (the 10% of other topics that you will need once in a lifetime). I recommend this book as a starter for XML.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Thorough and Useful Resource Nov. 19 2011
By Robert Hieger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book will serve as a very good resource for any budding web developer. Among its strong points are the fact that several important technologies such as XPath, XQuery, XSLT and SAX are covered giving very usable tools to beginners.

Among the weaker points for the book are its presentation. The choice of body text font is so small as to be hard on the eyes of all but the youngest readers. I do not suggest Braille text, but striking a balance at a somewhat larger font for body text is a worthy trade-off, despite the additional pages that would result. It is in my opinion more important to foster learning at a slightly greater expense than to make a book less accessible.
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