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Keywords: XML, XML applications, XSLT, XPath, HTML, SGML

Title: XML Handbook (5th Edition)

Author: Charles Goldfarb and Paul Prescod

Publisher: Prentice Hall PTR

ISBN: 0130497657

Media: Book and CD

Level: Introductory

Verdict: Bloated, poorly structured and lacking in technical content

Given the importance of structure in XML, and the fact that Charles Goldfarb was one of the fathers of it through his work with SGML, it's a real surprise that this book is so poorly structured. It's a great big sprawl of a book which lacks a coherent structure and ultimately proves to be a disappointment.

With 69 chapters organised into 24 sections, it would seem that just about everything XML ought to be covered. A quick glance at the table of contents would suggest that all is in order, most areas are covered, including XPath, XSL, XSLT, VoiceXML, EDI and a whole lot more. However, the coverage is patchy, with a lot of repetition and material stretched across different sections and chapters rather than handled in depth in one place.

For example there are two different chapters which cover XSL-FO, in two different sections of the book, and one of which is a tutorial chapter that comes in at a mere 7 pages. What was the point?

The book lacks solid technical content, though it majors in case studies, high-level over-views and the like. As a reference for a working developer it's sorely lacking. As a learning tool it's got nothing on Erik Ray's 'Learning XML', or 'Learning XSLT' by Michael Fitzgerald.

The two CDs that come with the book contain lots of documentation, trial programs and a stack of open-source tools. But to be honest it's not enough to justify the cover price. Overall this title proves that for books at least, size isn't everything. Not recommended.

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