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L What is the situation of XML and XSL today



The situation concerning XSL is going better. I is divided into two parts. It has a transformation language and an actual style language.

If we think the essence of XSLT (eXtensibe Style Sheet Language Transformation), it is not at all a style sheet language. It is rather a generic transformation language (XTL = eXtensible Transformation Language), which can generate or transform style-related elements and attributes.

It can be used also to elements and attributes, which don't have anything to do with styles. Transformations can in most cases made with other languages, which are used in server applications. As a transformation language XSLT is clear. If it is used in browsers, it makes a browser some kind of server application. In my mind XSLT belong only to server-side applications.

XSLT doesn't define any style-related element behaviors. By using XSLT actual styles are defined with elements, attributes and possible CSS of the final document.

In XSL the real style language is XSL-fo (fo = formatting objects). Unlike in CSS in the final document, the content, structure and presentation are not separated from each others. At that mean it is coming back to the HTML 3.2 resemble way to create styles.

If XSL-fo documents are created directly by hands, it means extremely heavy encoding. The purpose is not however to use it alone but together with XSLT in various XML-transformations: XML > XLST > XSL-fo > PDF/RTF/TEX/DVI or some other document type, which needs inline styles. XSL-fo doesn't fit a style sheet language for XHTML documents.

Even if XSL-fo can be used as a part of different transformations, in my mind transformations could be done with another way. Read my comments from the page Cascading Style Sheets with Transformation[S].

W3C has made recommendations to XSLT and XPath in 1999. There is not however applications, which support them totally - some promising applications is however in the market. Parts of XSL is still open.

W3C recommend to use CSS always when it is possible and XSL, when it must be used. CSS is designed also to WAP devices, but they don't yet support it. XSL could be sensible in situations, when the same document should be use in normal computers and WAP devices. Servers should deliver different versions to normal computers and WAP-devices. But because of deficiency in applications and unfinished specification also this matter is quite questionable.

MS IE 5.x

Even is XSLT should be used only in server-side, if it is used in browser, it should be done according to the specification. The XSL-implementation of MS IE 5.0 base on an out-of-date proposal from the year 1998 XSL-proposal, which worst deficiencies are:

It is quite questionable to do any XLS files for MS IE 5.0, because it support an-standard XSL. XML-support has been brought too unfinished into the market.

When I tested pages, which were made with InDelv, MS IE showed only white background-color. It seems to be a common habit with Microsoft to bring new features very unfinished before existing systems work properly.

When Microsoft brings new features into so-called "official" versions, this cause much problems. Big and heavy applications are not so easy to update. It is not any sense to use one year old specification proposals. This kind of design politics ruins the functionality and credibility of new systems. Experimental level systems like XSL needs also experimental level application, which are regularly updated. It is not any sense to use out of date specification proposals. Read about my groans[S].

MS IE 5.5+ should support existing specifications. Proprietary and standard needs however a conversion utility.

Microsoft: Microsoft XML Parser, MSXML XSLT FAQ.


I downloaded a Canadian InDelv XML-application, which have both a browser and editor. It support latest 1999 proposals, which are quite final. The application has good help files. Those instructions can be found however also from the specification proposals of W3C.

Almost fully implementation of XLink and XPointer. Support formatting objects (fo)

Warning. If you have already installed Java virtual machine, remove the sub-folder /jre from the InDelv folders. Two Java-machines cause the application to crash.

The browser doesn't display properly HTML-documents. It does have following differences or problems to the relation of MS IE 5.0:

  1. Namespace information is oriented towards specifications:
    <xsl:stylesheet xmlns:xsl='http://www.w3.org/XSL/Transform/1.0' xmlns:fo='http://www.w3.org/XSL/Format/1.0' result-ns='fo'>
    MS refer to old working drafts:
    <xsl:stylesheet xmlns:xsl="http://www.w3.org/TR/WD-xsl" xmlns:fo='http://www.w3.org/XSL/Format/1.0' result-ns='fo'>
  2. Text() doesn't work at the same way in InDelv. InDelv doesn't need it. The problem is presumably in MS IE.
  3. MS doesn't work if some fo-object are used even if it doesn't understand them (like fo-objects to the element P). The problem is in MS IE.
  4. InDelv doesn't have proper XSLT-implementation. For example P doesn't work using XSLT:
    <xsl:template match="p">
    <p style="display:block; margin:10pt; width:100%"<
    <xsl:apply-templates />
  5. Fo-XSL doesn't have all necessary properties (some values in XSL proposal are for some reason written differently in fo-XSL than in CSS2 - I can't understand why? This is confusing).


HTML-kit is a freeware code editor, which can build own menus. XSL(T) markup menu. This menu base on an obsolete W3C XSLT proposal from 1998 (the official recommendation is from November 1999). The menu is intended to use only with MS IE 5.0, because it includes much proprietary extensions to the old proposal (those don't work in other browsers). I don't recommend to install it. I try to create a better menu.The half-made menu is available in a zip-file. In order to edit it, it is necessary to install Plugins Generator, which is available in the HTML-Kit pages. Could someone check my menu? I'm working with XPointer extensions to it. I might make also XSL formatting objects menu.

I have done to it a CSS-menu (TM CSS), which can be used in creating XSLT files with CSS support. You can get it as a zip-file from the sites of HTML-Kit (also the source code is available from the pages of it) or from my site zip-file (you must read first README_NOW.txt).

HTML-kit Home Page, HTML-Kit Plugins page.

Other applications

There is also other application and some comments:


Test pages

I made one page several different versions, which should look out quite the same:

W3C: XML Path Language (XPath) Version 1.0, Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) Version 1.0, XSL Transformations (XSLT) Version 1.0.
Other sites: Netscape, Opera Software.

Send me comments with e-mail (add to beginning of the e-mailaddress my name, Tapio Markula, separated with a comma).