0.2. Where I'm Coming From
Before we begin, it's only fair that I tell you my biases.
0.2.1. I Believe in Open, Platform-Neutral, Standards-Based Computing
If any part of your business life ties you down to anything closed, proprietary, or platform-specific, I encourage you to make some changes. This book shows you how to take charge of your data and move it from one place to another on your terms, not your software vendor's. XML is shifting the balance of power from software vendors to software users. If your tools force you to work in unnatural ways or refuse to let you have your data when and where you want it, you don't have to take it anymore.
0.2.2. I Assume You're Busy
This book is written for developers who want to learn how to use XSLT to solve problems. Throughout the book, we'll transform XML-tagged data into a variety of useful things. If a particular bit of arcana from the specifications doesn't relate to any practical problem I can think of, it's probably mentioned in the reference section only.
0.2.3. I Don't Care Which Standards-Compliant Tools You Use
Most examples in this book are done with Apache's Xalan XSLT engine, which is free, open source, cross-platform, and standards compliant. I use Xalan for two reasons: I've been using it longer than the others out there, and it has more developers working on it than any other XSLT engine I'm aware of. Unless otherwise stated, all examples in this book also work with Michael Kay's Saxon, Microsoft's XSLT tools, James Clark's XT, and Oracle's XML parser.
My job as an author and a teacher is to show you how to use free, standards-compliant tools to simplify your life. I'm not here to sell you a parser, an XSLT processor, a toaster, or anything else, so please use whatever tools you like. I encourage you to take a look at all of the tools out there and find your own preferences.
0.2.4. XSLT Is a Tool, Not a Religion
An old adage says that to a person with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I don't claim that XSLT is the solution to every business problem you'll encounter. The next chapter discusses reasons why XML and XSLT were created, the design decisions behind XSLT, and tries to identify the kinds of problems XSLT is designed to solve. All chapters in this book illustrate common scenarios in which XSLT is extremely powerful and useful.
That being said, if a particular tool does something better than XSLT does, by all means, use that other tool. XSLT is a powerful addition to your tool box, but that doesn't mean you should throw out all your other tools.
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