XML: Visual QuickStart Guide 2nd edition

Author: Kevin Howard Goldberg
Publisher: Peachpit Press, 2008
ISBN: 978-0321559678
Aimed at: Those coming new and unprepared to XML
Rating: 4
Pros: Clear, painstaking explanations and clear examples
Cons: A very slow approach for a programmer
Reviewed by: Ian Elliot


This is a strange book that will suit the right reader perfectly and leave others completely puzzled as to what it's all about. XML is, and has been for a while, an important way of coding up data and naturally all sorts of people want to know more about it. However it's a technology that doesn't make a great deal of sense in isolation - you have to want to use it in one form or another. This book begins by explaining the basics of XML using simple examples and explaining what each line means in great detail. This it does surprisingly well and it would suit a non-programmer or a complete beginner but if you have seen this sort of thing before a more straightforward approach would be to simply say "this is how it works" and then move on to a few examples.

The point is that basic XML isn't rocket science and if you have already encountered HTML you can follow what is going on quite quickly. So far so good, but the next topic is XSLT, followed by XSL-FO and Xpath. These are described in the same "example carefully described" format and the same problem arises only now more so. If you are a programmer then there are quicker ways of discovering the same fairly simple ideas and if you are not a programmer it's not at all clear how useful these ideas are anyway. A non-programmer might be able to transform some raw XML data into an HTML presentation, but what about all of the infrastructure need to get the data in the first place?

The book then moves on to schema, both DTD and pure XML Schema, and then onto namespaces - topics that are usually covered before XSL and similar technologies. Again the approach is overly wordy if you are a programmer and probably irrelevant if you are not. From this point we move on to consider the newer XML technologies such as XSLT 2.0 and so on. These have problems to do with their current lack of universal support but at least it might be a look into the future. The final part of the book deals with uses of XML - Ajax, RSS, Soap and the way that applications are using XML as a document format. All reasonably interesting but covered at a level that really isn't going to be of much use. Reading this section of the book you can only come way with an awareness that these technologies exist and not any clear idea of how XML fits into them - it's even debatable that XML isn't a core component of the Ajax idea given the alternatives that are available for data exchange - plain text, JSON, HTML and JavaScript to name just a few.

So at the end of the day you have a very well written book on XML that introduces a range of technologies that can be best used by programmers in style that best suits a non-programmer. It is true that a non-programmer might well find an XSLT approach interesting and exciting, but unless they are prepared to acquire a lot more skill than this book imparts they aren't going to get very far. As a taster of XML for the technologically curious this is recommend. As stated at the start of the review if you are the right reader you will like this book.


Last Updated ( Friday, 12 June 2009 )