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« Book Review - Eclipse IDE Pocket Guide by Ed Burnette | Main| Book Review - Word Annoyances by Guy Hart-Davis »

Book Review - XML Pocket Reference (3rd Edition) by Simon St. Laurent and Michael Fitzgerald

Category Book Reviews

The other review book I received yesterday was XML Pocket Reference (3rd Edition) by Simon St. Laurent and Michael Fitzgerald.  Depending on what you're looking for, this may or may not the book for you...

Contents: Introduction; XML Structures; Document Type Definitions; W3C XML Schema; RELAX NG; Schematron; XML Specifications; Index

Admittedly, trying to cover "XML" in a single book is a daunting task.  XML is made up of so many standards and technologies (XPath, XForms, XML Schema, etc.) that you either have to specialize your coverage area or be ready to publish a *really* heavy book.  To their credit, the authors stripped out XSLT into it's own pocket guide.  That act keeps this particular book small enough to fit in your pocket and that's good.  But if you're wanting information on XSLT and think this might be your book, forget it.

Next, the XML Structures and Document Type Definition chapters seemed to be a little confusing.  There was something introduced that I had never heard of before...  something called "Productions" followed by syntax that looked like regular expression language.  Never having seen that term before in my XML reading, I went back to the introduction to see what the authors wanted to convey there.  The only explanation was "As each structure is discussed, applicable productions from the XML 1.0 and 1.1 specs will be listed in the order in which they appear in the specs."  So, I still really don't know what productions are, and I probably have to go to the specs to find that out.  The description of each section in an XML document, like CDATA or declarations, was nice though.

The book starts to become really useful when you get into the XML Schema section.  There they go into each of the elements along with each attribute that can be used with the element.  This is the type of reference information I'd expect to see in a pocket guide.  Something I can turn to quickly as a refresher for what parameters or attributes I can use with an element, or to gain a quick understanding of an element I haven't seen before.  This same structure is followed for the RELAX NG and Schematron schema languages, so the book will be helpful if you live in those worlds also.

Basically, I found the XML Pocket Guide to be a little "hit and miss".  If the title had been "XML Schema Pocket Guide", I'd have felt like the book was pretty on target.  Trying to call it the XML Pocket Guide seems to infer there's a lot more in here than there actually is, and a buyer might get a copy and be highly disappointed in what it doesn't cover.  If you're looking for schema info, you'll love the book.  If that's a secondary reason for you to get the book, you might be disappointed.

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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