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XML in a Nutshell : A Desktop Quick Reference (Nutshell Handbook)
by W. Scott Means, Elliotte Rusty Harold

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Edition: Paperback

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Editorial Reviews
Continuing in the tradition of the Nutshell series, XML in a Nutshell provides a dense tutorial on its subject, as well as a useful day-to-day reference. While the reader isn't expected to have prior expertise in XML, this book is most effective as an add-on to a more introductory tutorial because of its relatively fast pace.

The authors set out to systematically--and rapidly--cover the basics of XML first, namely the history of the markup language and the various languages and technologies that compose the standard. In this first section, they discuss the basics of XML markup, Document Type Definitions (DTDs), namespaces, and Unicode. From there, the authors move into "narrative-centric documents" in a section that appropriately focuses on the application of XML to books, articles, Web pages and other readable content.

This book definitely presupposes in the reader an aptitude for picking up concepts quickly and for rapidly building cumulative knowledge. Code examples are used--only to illustrate the particular point in question--but not in excess. The book gets into "data-centric" XML, exploring the difference between the object-driven Document Object Model (DOM) and the event-driven Simple API for XML (SAX). However, these areas are a little underpowered and offer a bit less detail about this key area than the reader will expect.

At the core of any Nutshell book is the reference section, and the installment found inside this text is no exception. Here, the XML 1.0 standard, XPath, XSLT, DOM, SAX, and character sets are covered. Some material that is covered earlier in the book--such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)--is not re-articulated, however. XML in a Nutshell is not the only book on XML you should have, but it is definitely one that no XML coder should be without. --Stephen W. Plain

Topics covered:

  • XML history
  • Document Type Definitions (DTDs)
  • Namespaces
  • Internationalization
  • XML-based data formats
  • XSL
  • XPath
  • XLink
  • XPointer
  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
  • XSL-FO
  • Document Object Model (DOM)
  • Simple API for XML (SAX)

Book Description
XML, the Extensible Markup Language, is a W3C endorsed standard for document markup. Because of its ability to deliver portable data, XML is positioned to be a key web application technology.

Given the complexity and incredible potential of this powerful markup language, it is clear that every serious developer using XML for data or text formatting and transformation will need a comprehensive, easy-to- access desktop reference in order to take advantage of XML's full potential. XML in a Nutshell will assist developers in formatting files and data structures correctly for use in XML documents.

XML defines a basic syntax used to mark up data with simple, human-readable tags, and provides a standard format for computer documents. This format is flexible enough to be customized for transforming data between applications as diverse as web sites, electronic data inter-change, voice mail systems, and wireless devices, to name a few.

Developers can either write their own programs that interact with, massage, and manipulate the data in XML documents, or they can use off-the-shelf software like web browsers and text editors to work with XML documents. Either choice gives them access to a wide range of free libraries in a variety of languages that can read and write XML.

The XML specification defines the exact syntax this markup must follow: how elements are delimited by tags, what a tag looks like, what names are acceptable for elements, where attributes are placed, and so forth. XML doesn't have a fixed set of tags and elements that are supposed to work for everybody in all areas of interest for all time. It allows developers and writers to define the elements they need as they need them.

Although XML is quite flexible in the elements it allows to be defined, it is quite strict in many other respects. XML in a Nutshell covers the fundamental rules that all XML documents and authors must adhere to, detailing the grammar that specifies where tags may be placed, what they must look like, which element names are legal, how attributes attach to elements, and much more.

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Product Details
  • Paperback: 498 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly; 1 edition (January 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 0596000588
  • Average Customer Review: based on 36 reviews.
  • Sales Rank: #105,618 in Books
    (Publishers and authors: improve your sales)
  • Other Editions: Hardcover | All Editions

      Look Inside This Book
      Browse Sample Pages:
      Front Cover | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover

      Citations (learn more)
      3 books that cite this book:
      • Internet GIS: Distributed Geographic Information Services for the Internet and Wireless Network by Zhong-Ren Peng on page 375
      • The Book of SAX: The Simple API for XML by Michael A. Bodie in Back Cover
      • Schaum's Easy Outline of XML by Ed Tittel in Back Matter

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      Spotlight Reviews
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      37 of 41 people found the following review helpful:

      Good reference, but where was the editor?, February 24, 2001
      Reviewer: Maurice Reeves "Libertarian" (Perkasie, PA) - See all my reviews
      (REAL NAME)   
      As usual, this O'Reilly book makes a good reference into XML and is chock full of information. HOWEVER, as it seems to have been the case lately, this book was not very well edited, almost as if they pushed it through to get published.


      Page 35: ?, *, + are all listed as allowing zero or one element, where they are actually each unique.

      Page 133: The authors show linking in an XSL Stylesheet in an XML Document and they list the type of linked in document as "text/xml" which will NOT produce the desired result. They type should actually be "text/xsl". (this can be a quite frustrating error to debug)

      Similar examples are scattered throughout, plus their decision to not even discuss XML Schemas leaves me a bit puzzled, but I knew that when I bought the book so I can complain too much.

      If you need a good reference to XML, and you can overlook small errors, then go ahead and purchase the book. If the errors bug you then I suggest you wait for the second edition.

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      36 of 38 people found the following review helpful:

      Stranded on an island & allowed one XML book, this is it!, February 4, 2001
      Reviewer: Sojourner "JL" (San Diego, CA USA) - See all my reviews
      Blaise Pascal once wrote "I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter". Writing a book on XML is quite an undertaking. Writing a quick reference that not only provides expert coverage on XML and its associated technologies but does so concisely, practically, and comprehensively is a super human feat! Amazingly, the authors of "XML In A Nutshell" have accomplished just that and it shows.

      One of the authors, Elliotte Rusty Harold, is no stranger to the technology. He is an early adopter who has written two previous XML books (and several good Java books) and created a web site devoted to XML (Cafe con Leche).

      This book is divided into 4 parts. The first covers the essentials of XML including XML syntax, DTD and namespaces. The second covers 'Narrative Centric Documents' involving XSLT, CSS, XLinks, XPointers and XPath. The third covers 'Data Centric XML, ' involving DOM and SAX. The final part is a quick reference to all the above. Each part contains tutorials that are concisely written and packed with practical examples. Beginners can use it to jump-start their learning experience and experts can use this as a indispensable ready reference.

      XML Schema is mentioned but not covered in this book.

      Hats off to O'Reilly Associates for producing a professionally attractive, well-designed and portable book. It is comfortable to read and to hold. Stranded on a island and allowed only one XML book, this is it!

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      Customer Reviews
      Average Customer Review:
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      1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

      XML in a Nutshell, June 7, 2005
      Reviewer: njbulitka (Ottawa, ON CANADA) - See all my reviews
      This is a well-written reference on XML 1.1. Slightly over half the book is tutorial in nature, while the remainder of the book is reference material (on XML, Schemas, XPath, XSLT, DOM, SAX, and character sets). The explanations were clear and the reference portion quite complete. I recommend this book as a good reference on XML.

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      3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

      Specialized reference book for XML with JAVA, June 24, 2004
      Reviewer: C. A. Sines "coreman76" (Columbus, Ohio United States) - See all my reviews
      (REAL NAME)   
      This books starts out with a quick explanation and walkthrough or XML 1.0 specification that is pretty good. It is lacking a XML Schema (XSD) section as well covers very briefly the XSLT (XML Stylesheets) anyone wishing to anything with sytlesheets after reading this book will be disappointed. XPath coverage is pretty good as well as SAX, & DTD. XLink, XPointer, are talking about but nothing in depth. All example code is in JAVA. Anyone wanting specialized knowledge of ASP.NET / .NET / MS SQL usage of XML should look elsewhere (this is somewhat understandable due to the publish date.)

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      1 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

      Great book, March 27, 2004
      Reviewer: A reader
      This is the only XML book I have - I skimmed through several and this one was far and away the best. You will have to know what you are trying to do and sort of figure out which parts of the book to pay attention to as there is so much there. I spent some time with DTDs only to realize they were unnecessary for what I was doing. But the book allowed me to build an application from scratch.

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      1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

      Much more than good value for money, May 3, 2003
      Reviewer: Foti Massimo (Savosa Switzerland) - See all my reviews
      (REAL NAME)   
      The authors managed to compress an amazing amount of information in a very small amount of space, without affecting readability. Including coverage of XML, DTD, Namespaces, XSL, Xpath, Xlinks, DOM and much more, including Schemas (missing from previous edition). As a bonus we get reference for XML, Schemas, Xpath, XSLT, DOM and SAX. Much more than good value for money, it's a real bargain. Just not recommended to absolute newbies

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