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In this chapter, we will focus on working with XML and XSL in Dreamweaver. XML or Extensible Markup Language was designed to describe data and to focus on what that data is. When we contrast that with HTML, which is designed to display data and to focus on how the data looks, we can begin to see the difficulty in displaying XML on our web pages. Using XHTML helps since it features a focus on element structure instead of presentation. Regardless, XHTML works with a predefined set of tags that describes elements on the page, whereas XML tags are not predefined. Users or systems define their own tags to convey a meaning. While several industries and services have standardized their XML structure, moving information from XML documents and displaying it on the web can be daunting.
Here I have opened a simple XML file and this could help us understand the structure of our XML documents that we are going to transform in this chapter using XSL. Just like an HTML document, there is an opening and a closing tag, but that tag can be anything we want it to be, in this case, simple XML. Inside this we have two items. Note the use of attributes just like HTML tags, XML tags can have attributes and those attributes can be anything you want them to be. Our first item name is First, the second item name is Second. Inside in the Item tag, we have a description and inside the Description tag, we have content. So the markup structure of XML is very similar to XHTML, and can be confusing to those the first time they see it. The thing to remember about XML is this. It stands for Extensible Markup Language, meaning these tags can have any name and any attributes necessary to describe the data that you are working with.
To ease the process of using XML in your web pages, XSL was created to help define the meaning of XML objects. So, XSL can define meaning to XML objects so they can be transformed into XHTML. This transformation can occur either in the client working to be applied as a server-side transformation. In our slide, the XML document passes information into the XSL file. XSL is actually made up of three parts: XSLT, which is language that describes the transformation of the XML file, XPath, which is designed to help us navigate through our XML document files, XSL/FO, objects that are designed to format XML objects. Although XSLT and XPath will always be used, formatting objects are optional. These XSL transformations can be applied either client-side or server-side.
Client-side transformations will occur within the browser, whereas server-side transformations will occur on the server, and Dreamweaver provides methods for creating both client and server-side XSLT pages. In our next movie, we will focus on creating an XML file that we will later transform using XSL.
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