Detailed Case Study of Real-World XML Development

Very Microsoft-centric, material is solid, generally useful, pragmatic, effectively presented, XML development.


XML is still emerging, but the adoption rate is phenomenal and the variety of solutions accessible to programmers are growing rapidly. This accelerating pace, the power of XML and the new supporting standards make this combination critical to implementing sophisticated information technology solutions. This book is targeted at developers who are familiar with ASP and HTML, with an interest in developing XML applications. The material is clearly Microsoft-centric, relying on Internet Explorer’s capabilities, IE5 in particular, ASP server-side scripting and SQL Server solutions. Still, the knowledge is not restricted to these approaches and covers enough ground to be useful to developers working on other platforms.

The book is divided into 9 chapters and numerous appendices. Much of the book is presented from the point of view of a case study called Centaur, developed by the author in his own endeavors. The Centaur framework is largely a vacation booking framework for the web, centering on presenting vacation information, allowing user selection and package sales. This is a good sample application and enhances much of the information in the book but may seem artificially constrained in many ways, forcing the exploration into a particular groove rather than opening visas that allow us to see a better cross-section of XML solutions. Despite this shortcoming, however, the information is valuable and some of the real-world implementation insights are worth the tradeoff.

Chapter 1 introduces the Centaur system. Chapter 2 introduces the DOM (Document Object Model) in considerable detail, with good coverage of the differences between DOM Level 1, DOM extensions, SAX (Simple API for XML), and DOM Level 2. Chapter 3 looks at using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to control XML display under IE and Chapter 5 takes a good close look at using XSL (XML Style Language) to control XML presentation. The practical nature of this material is useful, drawing a separation between theory and the implementation that current exists in the IE browser. Chapter 6 presents a few more advanced techniques, which are more server-centric. Chapter 8 returns to the Centaur application infrastructure, and Chapter 9 looks at handling transactions. The appendices cover the XML 1.0 specification, XML schemas and data types, resources and more.

If you’re serious about using XML in the real-world of browsers and web applications, this book is a great investment. It’s pragmatic and focusses on existing technology rather than theoretical foundations. Much of the server side implementation in ASP is applicable to other server technologies and in some cases, the browser processing can also be done on the server side, but the book does not explore these options, focussing instead on a fully Microsoft-centric solution. If this is the platform you are working with, this book is well worth the price. If you have more lofty goals in mind, this book still provides a good value and a strong foundation in realistic XML application development.