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Learning XML: Guide to Creating Self-Describing Data [Paperback]

Erik T. Ray
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 11 2001 0596000464 978-0596000462 1

The arrival of support for XML--the Extensible Markup Language--in browsers and authoring tools has followed a long period of intense hype. Major databases, authoring tools (including Microsoft's Office 2000), and browsers are committed to XML support. Many content creators and programmers for the Web and other media are left wondering, "What can XML and its associated standards really do for me?" Getting the most from XML requires being able to tag and transform XML documents so they can be processed by web browsers, databases, mobile phones, printers, XML processors, voice response systems, and LDAP directories, just to name a few targets.

In Learning XML, the author explains XML and its capabilities succinctly and professionally, with references to real-life projects and other cogent examples. Learning XML shows the purpose of XML markup itself, the CSS and XSL styling languages, and the XLink and XPointer specifications for creating rich link structures.

The basic advantages of XML over HTML are that XML lets a web designer define tags that are meaningful for the particular documents or database output to be used, and that it enforces an unambiguous structure that supports error-checking. XML supports enhanced styling and linking standards (allowing, for instance, simultaneous linking to the same document in multiple languages) and a range of new applications.

For writers producing XML documents, this book demystifies files and the process of creating them with the appropriate structure and format. Designers will learn what parts of XML are most helpful to their team and will get started on creating Document Type Definitions. For programmers, the book makes syntax and structures clear It also discusses the stylesheets needed for viewing documents in the next generation of browsers, databases, and other devices.

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Although Learning XML covers XML with a broad brush, it nevertheless presents the key elements of the technology with enough detail to familiarise the reader with the crucial markup language. This guide is brief enough to tackle in a weekend.

Author Erik T Ray begins with an excellent summary of XML's history as an outgrowth of SGML and HTML. He outlines very clearly the elements of markup, demystifying concepts such as attributes, entities and namespaces with numerous clear examples. To illustrate a real-world XML application, he gives the reader a look at a document written in DocBook--a publicly available XML document type for publishing technical writings--and explains the sections of the document step by step. A simplified version of DocBook is used later in the book to illustrate transformation--a powerful benefit of XML.

The all-important Document Type Definition (DTD) is covered in depth, but the still-unofficial alternative--XML Schema--is only briefly addressed. The author makes liberal use of graphical illustrations, tables and code to demonstrate concepts along the way, keeping the reader engaged and on track. Ray also gets into a deep discussion of programming XML utilities with Perl.

Learning XML is a highly readable introduction to XML for readers with existing knowledge of markup and Web technologies, and it meets its goals very well--to deliver a broad perspective of XML and its potential. --Stephen W Plain


Erik Ray's Learning XML is quite simply the best
general introduction to XML that I have read to date. -- gbdirect.co.uk, Jan 2002

Highly recommended for anyone interested in understanding XML and keeping up with the rapid developments of this important technology. -- James Kalback, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, Oct 2001

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Learning XLS, 2nd Edition Oct. 3 2006
I found this book to be 'OK'. The author does a good job describing the core concepts of XML. Overall, the book does a good job introducing a person to XML and provides a solid base on which to build. It covers the major bases (schemas, CSS, XSLT, etc). The glossary was fairly complete.

Some other O'Reilly books in the 'Learning' series have exercises with solutions in the back which I have found very useful. This book unfortunately did not have exercises with solutions. More examples would also have been appreciated.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Describes XML, doesn't teach you to write XML Jan. 23 2004
By A Customer
I was hoping for more, but this book does a good job describing all of the elements of XML. Not a book on writing XML.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good book, albeit little introductory July 25 2003
This is a good XML book for those that have no previous knowleadge of it. It starts slowly and speed up as you read the chapters.
Unfortunately as with all printed media some references and items discussed have already evolved and replaced.
The DTD/XML Schema is one example.
Still a good book if you want to start from the basic.
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2.0 out of 5 stars not for developers July 4 2003
The first few chapters of this book on the basics of XML are good, but stay away if you're a software developer wanting to learn about XML in depth. Even if you're an XML author, you will find this book lacking in the latter chapters. Almost all the discussion is extremely general and theoretical. Occasionally the author sprinkles in a few fucntional XML snippets, but they are not nearly enough. Furthermore, there are only about a dozen complete examples of functional XML available in the tar/zip file available online at O'Reilly.
The paucity of examples was particularly frustrating in the XSLT chapter. By its very nature, XSLT screams out for illustrative examples showing 'before' and 'after' transformations, but the author provides very few such examples.
Another thing that really irked me was the condescending writing style of the author. Here's an example from Ch. 4 on CSS:
"A CSS stylesheet is a collection of rules... An analogy for this process is painting-by-numbers. In this activity, you purchase a painting kit that comes with paints..."
Really now! This style of writing is not necessary and is frankly offensive. XML inherently is not a beginner's topic; a reader who picks up this book is most likely an IT manager or a developer and does not need to be talked-down upon.
If you're a java developer, I suggest you take a look at "Processing XML with Java" by Harold.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Confusion, when it comes to XSLT June 23 2003
By Francis
I have to say that the first 5 chapters, served as a good introduction to XML. It was much much better than any Dummies book of the subject. Actually I found them to be treating the subject at some depth.
But then came the most important chapters on XSLT & Programming Tools. It was completely confusing not because the subject was a tough one, but because the treatment was bad.
I would have given 1 star had it been not for the first chapters.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Suggested New Title: Anatomy of XML March 1 2003
By page 177 I realized that I was never going to touch a keyboard while reading this book. I can't speak for everyone, but when I pick up a book expecting to learn the topic, I need theory, reference, examples and structured "assignments". This title offers the first three, but I never get to apply what I am learning hands-on in a graduated fashion. When I am finished, I have little more than the ability to recognize the components of XML. Just because you can recognize all the foods in a grocery store, and know the origins of all the spices on your spice rack, doesn't mean you can cook; the same principal applies here. I am fully aware that XML is comprised of many different elements, and many of the XML development environments are very expensive, but many are free and could have been used to teach the concept clearer.
The title also has many errors, so the errata list on the publisher's web site is important. The book does not include any of the source code, so if you want that, you have to download it. Even then, it is not complete and file titles in the book do not always match the provided code file names.
If you are looking for a hands-on book to learn XML, this isn't the title. If you know XML and are looking for a reference, again - not for you. However, if you are interested in it from more of an administrative overview position, then the title is worth the read. It can provide many answers and give a good base of information without the need to actually write any XML on your own.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good overview Dec 27 2002
Learning XML provides a relatively useful overview of the topic, though it doesn't go that much in depth.
I'm giving 4 rather than 5 stars because I found the discussion of entities and notations somewhat confusing.
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3.0 out of 5 stars get this along with another book. Nov. 13 2002
By levl289
This book straddles the fine line between "for developers", and "for executives" - it does the Jack of All Trades things well, it Masters none however.
If you're a developer: get this book, read it, and then after figuring out what XML-based tools you need, get another book that goes into more detail - you're not gonna find that in this book.
If you're an executive: get this book, and read the introductions to each chapter - the code is relatively easy to understand, but certainly unnecessary if you're looking for a definition what what things are in the *ML world
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