XSLT in Context
This chapter is designed to put XSLT in context. It's about the purpose of XSLT and the task it was designed to perform. It's about what kind of language it is, and how it came to be that way; and it's about how XSLT fits in with all the other technologies that you are likely to use in a typical web-based application. I won't be saying much in this chapter about what an XSLT stylesheet actually looks like or how it works: that will come later, in Chapters 2 and 3.
I shall begin by describing the task that XSLT is designed to perform – transformation – and why there is the need to transform XML documents. I'll then present a trivial example of a transformation in order to explain what this means in practice.
The chapter then moves on to discuss the relationship of XSLT to other standards in the growing XML family, to put its function into context and explain how it complements the other standards.
I'll describe what kind of language XSLT is, and delve a little into the history of how it came to be like that. If you're impatient you may want to skip the history and get on with using the language, but sooner or later you will ask "why on earth did they design it like that?" and at that stage I hope you will go back and read about the process by which XSLT came into being.
Finally, I'll have a few things to say about the different ways of using XSLT within the overall architecture of an application, in which there will inevitably be many other technologies and components each playing their own part.