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Keywords: XML, DOM, SAX, Java, Perl, VB, C++, PHP

Title: XML Primer Plus

Author: Nicholas Chase

Publisher: SAMS Publishing

ISBN: 0672324229

Media: Book

Level: Introductory XML

Verdict: A good single volume language-independent introduction to XML

This single volume tutorial on XML takes a slightly different approach to the topic in that it aims to deliver value to developers in a range of computer languages. This has a number of advantages and disadvantages, not to mention the fact that producing the book must have been a whole lot harder than sticking to one language …

As suggested by the title, this is principally a starter book and no assumptions are made about prior knowledge of XML. It is assumed however that the reader does have some experience of programming. The book starts from the very basics, discussing the motivations of XML and what problems it attempts to tackle. From there it moves on quickly to discussions of validity, well-formedness, DOM, SAX, XSL-FO and more. The scope is very wide and includes topics such as XML databases, web services, data binding and so on.

Each topic is illustrated with code, with Java leading the way. Java is used first, but then this is normally followed by equivalent code and a discussion of key differences in VB, C++, Perl and PHP. While this is spread is good that it's useful to lots of people, it does add to the bulk of the book and, more significantly, it means wading through material that isn't useful to you if you're only interested in one of the languages. Java developers ought to be aware that alternative APIs, like JDOM for example, are not covered here.

Given the wide scope the coverage of individual topics is generally very good, and as introductions go this is a good one. The writing style is fairly chatty, though the example documents and applications try just a bit too hard to be humorous. Trying to juggle the needs of producing text that is readable and interesting without being overly dry and dull is hard, but personally we find many that jokey examples aren't necessarily the best way to engage the reader.

Overall this is a good introductory volume, the wide coverage is definitely a bonus, though it is likely that it will need to be followed up at some point with more specialist material that is tailored to one area of XML or one particular programming language (such as Processing XML With Java).

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