Related Standards: XSLT, XML Schema, and Other Flora and Fauna in Java

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7 Related Standards: XSLT, XML Schema, and Other Flora and Fauna
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In which XML is magically transformed, and the XPath to righteousness is revealed! The development of XML has spawned a shadow industry of XML-based languages, each developed and promoted by its own industry group or consortium Many of these standards seem to conflict with each other or with products that are already widely in use Untangling it to find the right standard to apply to a particular problem can be, well, problematic In this chapter, I discuss some of the standards that I've found particularly useful in designing and building applications with XML and SQL You'll discover how to transform your XML with XSLT and why XML Schema is fast becoming a replacement for XML DTDs I'll also cover some approaches to querying XML documents and touch on the XPath, an important standard for referring to parts of XML documents As a rule of thumb, anything produced under the auspices of the W3C is going to be a relevant and utilized standard Of course, the W3C devotes resources only to efforts that it considers "general" enough So, for instance, the W3C has devoted quite a lot of effort to developing and promoting XML, but it doesn't get involved in efforts such as producing an XML vocabulary specific to news articles or other knowledge domains The W3C develops the standards (such as XML) that enable these more domain-specific languages An abundance of these domain-specific languages is available, covering fields from chemical formulas to legal contracts Information on them can be found in the sites listed at the end of 5 The standards discussed in this chapter are important tools that you should be familiar with when building any XML application
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XSLT: XML Transformers!
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Once you're in XML land, 80 percent of what your applications will do involves converting one type of XML to another For instance, your domain-specific language (our movie review XML format) will have to be converted into many different XHTML (XML-compliant HTML) variants for different versions of Web sites (which you might need if you were supporting many types of browsers on many types of devices), including Wireless Markup Language (WML, another XML
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derivative) for delivery to WAP phones In addition, the domain-specific language may be packaged for syndication with the Information Content Exchange (ICE) language (again, XML-derived) or converted into another data exchange language and so forth and so on One immensely useful and exciting standard developed by the W3C is the Extensible Style Language or XSL and its derivative language, XSLT or XSL Transformation XML processors based on the XSLT grammar can be used to convert (transform) between different XML-based languages quickly and easily
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At times you may be tempted to use regular expressions to transform bits of XML into other bits of XML Regular expressions are essentially markup language for describing strings that enable you to search for and replace them in documents For instance, the regular expression /foo/ searches for the string "foo" wherever it occurs in whatever is being searched It's especially tempting to make use of regular expressions in scripting languages such as Perl, which makes it almost impossible not to use them Although the XML community generally turns up its nose at regular expressions, I have found it useful to make use of regular expressions for transformation of XML in limited cases Regular expressions have the advantage of being fast; you don't need a parser, a tree, an object model, or anything like that When you use regular expressions to convert XML, you're not guaranteed to get valid XML on the output side, which can cause problems that you might not even discover until months after a system is operational A good rule of thumb for the use of regular expressions is to ask yourself, "Will anything ever parse or otherwise attempt to treat the output of what I'm converting as an XML document " If so, I strongly recommend that you not use regular expressions and use the more heavyweight but reliable XSLT engines Learn from my mistakes! The bother you think you're saving yourself now by using regular expressions will revisit you tenfold when you find that half the XML in your database is corrupt, unparsable garbage Hey, don't say I didn't warn you If, however, you're converting bits of XML into bits of some other data-exchange language (such as EDI or a messaging system like MQ Series), regular expressions might be your ticket XSLT can do this kind of conversion, but regular expressions may be faster
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and more efficient Transformation has always been a huge part of dealing with SGML and XML-based languages at the server side This process usually consists of building a rule-based transformation script that acts within an XML parser to execute the transition I remember writing this sort of script within a Perlbased parser back in 1995; there's nothing amazingly new about transformations of this kind There's an important difference with XSL Transformations: XSLT can be described as XML Transformation via example You feed a source XML file and an XSLT template into an XSLT processor, and the processor does the work of figuring out how to build the transform (The XSLT template shows the XSLT processor how you want your result document to appear)
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