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WebReference.com - Chapter 7 of XML for ASP.NET Developers, from Sams Publishing (4/13)

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XML for ASP.NET Developers

The XSLT Language

Now that you've seen the transformation process and have been introduced to what an XSLT document looks like, let's break the different parts used in the document into individual pieces. First up: the XSLT document root element.

The XSLT Document Root Element

Looking back at Listing 7.2, you'll notice that the document follows all the rules specified in the XML specification described in Chapter 2, "XML for ASP.NET Basics." The case of each opening tag matches the case of the closing tag, all attributes are quoted, all tags are closed, and so on. XSLT documents are, in fact, well-formed XML documents. As a result, the first line of each document should contain the XML declaration. Although this line is optional, it's essential that you get into the practice of using it, especially because new versions of the XML specification will certainly be coming in the future.

Following the XML declaration, one of two elements specific to the XSLT language can be used for the document's root node. These elements are the following:

Although you can use either element as the root of an XSLT document, the samples that follow throughout this chapter use the xsl:stylesheet element. You can certainly substitute the xsl:transform element instead if you feel more comfortable using it.

Two different items must also be included for an XSLT document to follow the guidelines found in the XSLT specification. These are a local namespace declaration as well as an attribute named version. The inclusion of the xsl:stylesheet element, the namespace declaration, and the version attribute are shown next:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<xsl:stylesheet xmlns:xsl="http://www.w3.org/1999/XSL/Transform"
  version="1.0"
>
<!-- The bulk of the XSLT document goes here -->
</xsl:stylesheet>

The namespace URI (http://www.w3.org/1999/XSL/Transform) must be listed exactly as shown, and the version attribute must have a value of 1.0 for the document to be conformant with the November 1999 XSLT specification. As different versions of the specification are released, this version number can be changed, depending on what features the XSLT document uses. Failure to list these parts correctly will result in an error being returned by the XSLT processor.


Note

XSLT version 1.1 was in Working Draft at the time this section was written. XSLT style sheets that use new features found in this version will need to let the XSLT processor know by changing the version attribute to 1.1.


XSLT Elements

If you've had the opportunity to work with HTML in the past, you're already aware of how elements are used to perform specific tasks. For example, the <table> element can be used along with the <tr> and <td> elements to construct a table for display in a browser. The <img> element can be used when an image needs to be displayed, and the <form> element can be used as a container for different form elements such as text boxes and radio buttons. Each of these elements have a specific purpose and when appropriate, can contain supporting child elements.

The XSLT version 1.0 specification lists several elements that can be used to transform XML documents. These elements can be used in a variety of ways, including determining the output format, performing if/then type logic, looping, and writing out data within a node contained in the XML document to the result tree structure. An XSLT element is distinguished from other elements that may be within an XSLT document by its association with a namespace that defines a URI of http://www.w3.org/1999/XSL/Transform. Declaring this namespace on the XSLT root element (xsl:stylesheet or xsl:transform) was shown in the previous section.

Table 7.1 contains a listing of all potential elements in version 1.0 of the XSLT specification. Notice that each element is prefixed by the xsl namespace.

Table 7.1 XSLT Elements

XSLT Element

Description

xsl:apply-imports

Used in conjunction with imported style sheets to override templates within the source style sheet. Calls to xsl:apply-imports cause an imported template with lower precedence to be invoked instead of the source style sheet template with higher precedence.

xsl:apply-templates

When xsl:apply-templates is used, the XSLT processor finds the appropriate template to apply, based on the type and context of each selected node.

xsl:attribute

Creates an attribute node that is attached to an element that appears in the output structure.

xsl:attribute-set

Used when a commonly defined set of attributes will be applied to different elements in the style sheet. This is similar to named styles in CSS.

xsl:call-template

Used when processing is directed to a specific template. The template is identified by name.

xsl:choose

Used along with the xsl:otherwise and xsl:when elements to provide conditional testing. Similar to using a switch statement in C# or Select Case statement in VB.NET.

xsl:comment

Writes a comment to the output structure.

xsl:copy

Copies the current node from the source document to the result tree. The current node's children are not copied.

xsl:copy-of

Used to copy a result-tree fragment or node-set into the result tree. This performs a "deep copy," meaning that all descendants of the current node are copied to the result tree.

xsl:decimal-format

Declares a decimal-format that is used when converting numbers into strings with the format-number() function.

xsl:element

Creates an element with the specified name in the output structure.

xsl:fallback

Provides an alternative (or fallback) template when specific functionality is not supported by the XSLT processor being used for the transformation. This element provides greater flexibility during transformations as new XSLT versions come out in the future.

xsl:for-each

Iterates over nodes in a selected node-set and applies a template repeatedly.

xsl:if

Used to wrap a template body that will be used only when the if statement test returns a true value.

xsl:import

Allows an external XSLT style sheet to be imported into the current style sheet. The XSLT processor will give a lower precedence to imported templates as compared to templates in the original XSLT style sheet.

xsl:include

Allows for the inclusion of another XSLT style sheet into the current style sheet. The XSLT processor gives the same precedence to the included templates as templates in the original XSLT style sheet.

xsl:key

Declares a named key and is used in conjunction with the key() function in XPath expressions.

xsl:message

Used to output a text message and optionally terminate style sheet execution.

xsl:namespace-alias

Used to map a prefix associated with a given namespace to another prefix. This can be useful when a style sheet generates another style sheet.

xsl:number

Used to format a number before adding it to the result tree or to provide a sequential number to the current node.

xsl:otherwise

Used with the xsl:choose and xsl:when elements to perform conditional testing. Similar to using default in a switch statement.

xsl:output

Specifies options for use in serializing the result tree.

xsl:param

Used to declare a parameter with a local or global scope. Local parameters are scoped to the template in which they are declared.

xsl:preserve-space

Preserves whitespace in a document. Works in conjunction with the xsl:strip-space element.

xsl:processing-instruction

Writes a processing instruction to the result tree.

xsl:sort

Used with xsl:for-each or xsl:apply-templates to specify sort criteria for selected node lists.

xsl:strip-space

Causes whitespace to be stripped from a document. Works in conjunction with the xsl:preserve-space element.

xsl:stylesheet

This element must be the outermost element in an XSLT document and must contain a namespace associated with the XSLT specification and a version attribute.

xsl:template

Defines a reusable template for producing output for nodes that match a particular pattern.

xsl:text

Writes out the specified text to the result tree.

xsl:transform

Used in the same manner as the xsl:stylesheet element.

xsl:value-of

Writes out the value of the selected node to the result tree.

xsl:variable

Used to declare and assign variable values that can be either local or global in scope.

xsl:when

Used as a child element of xsl:choose to perform multiple conditional testing. Similar to using case in a switch or Select statement.

xsl:with-param

Used in passing a parameter to a template that is called via xsl:call-template.


Although not every element listed in Table 7.1 is discussed in this section, you will be exposed to the more common elements and see how they can be used to transform XML into formats such as HTML, WML, and even EDI.


Note

The HTML generated by an XSLT document must conform to the rules outlined in the XML specification. All elements must be closed, including <img>, <input>, and all the other elements that normally do not need to be closed in HTML. Attributes used on elements must be quoted, a beginning and ending element tag's case must match, and so on. Keep in mind that the XSLT processor knows how to work only with well-formed XML and knows nothing about the tags used in HTML, WML, and so on. As a result, everything within the XSLT document must follow the XML rules.



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© Copyright Pearson Education and Created: April 22, 2002
Revised: April 22, 2002

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