XML, 2nd Ed., by Erik T. Ray ISBN 0-596-00420-6
and Associates, Inc., go
to the web site
knowledge of HTML and web concepts
eXtensible Markup Language (XML) has rapidly achieved
high acceptance in information technology. Most new
software projects are using XML to one extent or
another. Almost every field, discipline or application
has developed its own XML tag library and the number
is increasing. For developers, there is a need for
a one-stop resource for XML. The scope and coverage
of this book is very extensive and is sufficient
for both beginners and experienced developers who
want an introduction to this area. There have been
numerous good reviews published for this book and
the general opinion is that this is an excellent
book. This review fully agrees with them. But this
review will skip most of the praises and take a more
critical angle in an attempt to help readers understand
what they can get out of the book.
This book is divided into 10 chapters with two appendices.
The topics fall into either the data description
(markup) using XML, or the data presentation out
of an XML document. Chapter 1 gives an overview of
the XML topics and provides a surprisingly large
number of examples to illustrate each topic. This
is one of the rare books that, after reading chapter
1, readers may feel that the topics are so broad
they won't be fully explained later in the book.
It's also a rare uncertainty from chapter 1 that
readers may not clearly understand what tools the
author uses for XML editing and processing. It appears
variously that the author uses everything or may
only be simply using Perl and Internet Explorer.
Chapter 2 describes elements in an XML document.
Chapter 3 gives several examples of XML documents
and a few access methods. Chapter 4 is about XML
document validations using DTD or schemas. Chapters
5 to 9 are about XML presentation. Since there is
a chapter devoted to XSL-FO, it is disappointing
that the book doesn't also discuss PDF transformation.
It is also surprising that no example is given for
the chapter on Internationalization. In view of the
recent advances in the .NET technology and its built-in
XML functionality, it would have been useful if the
book can included a contextual discussion of that
topic. Chapter 10 finalizes the discussion of methods
and tools repeatedly mentioned in earlier chapters
to parse the XML documents.
This books reminds me of a type of short course, often
found at the University level, in which students watch
in awe as the lecturer goes through each topic quickly
and expects a lot of homework to be done afterwards. There
are many questions forming in their minds, yet there is
no time to raise the questions.
It is interesting to read the occasional discussion of
history such as the origin of XSLT and the related W3C
XSL-FO project. It is also nice that all the examples can
be downloaded from the book web site. Chapter 2 Markup
and Core Concepts can be freely downloaded from the same
site. It would have been helpful if the book had organized
its references at the end of each chapter. Citing references
within text can sometimes be hard to locate afterwards.
Although there is an Appendix A for resources, it doesn't
include all the references in the book. For a technical
book like this, it'd be helpful if the author detailed
the requirements for tools such as the Perl packages and
Java libraries. Instead of simply presenting the starting
XML document and the final transformed document, it's generally
more useful and instructive to show the tool and syntax
used when running the transformation program.
Learning XML is an excellent reference and can serve as
an instructor-guided textbook for an introductory XML course.
It also makes a good self-study book for XML enthusiasts.
Letters to the Editor are welcome and occasionally abused in public. Send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org