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XSL Languages


It started with XSL and ended up with XSLT, XPath, and XSL-FO.


It Started with XSL

XSL stands for EXtensible Stylesheet Language.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) started to develop XSL because there was a need for an XML-based Stylesheet Language.


CSS = Style Sheets for HTML

HTML uses predefined tags, and the meaning of each tag is well understood.

The <table> tag in HTML defines a table - and a browser knows how to display it.

Adding styles to HTML elements are simple. Telling a browser to display an element in a special font or color, is easy with CSS. 


XSL = Style Sheets for XML

XML does not use predefined tags (we can use any tag-names we like), and therefore the meaning of each tag is not well understood.

A <table> tag could mean an HTML table, a piece of furniture, or something else - and a browser does not know how to display it.

XSL describes how the XML document should be displayed!


XSL - More Than a Style Sheet Language

XSL consists of three parts:

  • XSLT - a language for transforming XML documents
  • XPath - a language for navigating in XML documents
  • XSL-FO - a language for formatting XML documents

This Tutorial is About XSLT

The rest of this tutorial is about XSLT - the language for transforming XML documents.

To learn more about XPath and XSL-FO, visit our XPath Tutorial and our XSL-FO Tutorial.



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