XML 2008 liveblog: Exploring the New Features of XSLT 2.0


Priscilla Walmsley, Datypic.

“I feel like crying every time I have to go back to 1.0.” Normally this is a full-day course. Familiarity with XSLT 1.0 assumed here. Venn diagram… Much of what people think of as “XQuery” is actually XPath 2.0.

XPath differences: root node -> “document node”. Namespace nodes, axis are deprecated. More atomic types, based on XML Schema. Node-set -> sequence. Path steps can be expressions, like product/(if (desc) then desc else name). Last step can return an atomic value, like sum(//item/(@price * @qty)).

Comparison operators apply to strings, dates, times. (Backwards compatibility note: comparing strings now is done by Unicode code point, not by conversion to number() as in XPath 1.0). Arithmetic possible on dates, durations. Missing value returns empty sequence rather than NaN.

(a,b) to concat sequences. New operators: idiv, union, intersect, except (latter 3 for nodes only)

<xsl:for-each select="1 to $count"> is handy. Operators << and >> test ‘precedes’ and ‘follows’ based on document order. Operator ‘is’ tests node identity.

Statement if/then/else is a more compact xsl:choose. Simplified FLWOR (only one for, no let or where).

Useful functions: ends-with(), string-join(), current-date(), distinct-values(), deep-equal().

From XPath to XSLT: <xsl:for-each-group> with current-group() and current-grouping-key(). Useful for turning a flat document (like HTML with h1, h2, etc. into nested structure. group-starting-with=”html:h1″, etc. The instruction <xsl:function> allows defining a new function. Major benefits in reuse, clarity, and handling recursion. Custom functions can be called from more places, like @select, @group-by, @match, but have the same expressive power of a named template.

Regular expressions: some XPath functions matches(), tokenize(), replace() (including subexpressions). <xsl:analyze-string> splits a string into matching and non-matching parts, handled separately in <xsl:matching-substring> and <xsl:non-matching-substring> child elements and regex-group().

I/O: Instruction <xsl:result-document> allows multiple output files. unparsed-text() allows input of non-XML documents (particularly in conjunction with regex).

Do I have to pay attention to types? “Usually, no.” BUT schemas can help catch errors, improve performance, and open new avenues of processing (like matching a template based on a schema-type).

Odds and ends: tunneling parameters (don’t have to repeat all the params for named templates), multiple modes, @select in more places, @separator attribute on xsl:attribute and xsl:value-of.

Brief Q&A: No test suite available. Probably better for new users to jump straight into 2.0. But going back to 1.0 is still painful. -m

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