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The History of the XSL and XSLT Protocols

posted 30 Sept 2010, 02:56 by Mpelembe   [ updated 30 Sept 2010, 02:58 ]

As is the case with many of the standards that are used
today, there is a relatively confusing history that lies
behind the XSL and XSLT standards. While it is true that
many XSL editors also serve as XSLT editors, the reverse is
not always the case, due to the difference between these

Originally, XSL was intended to work as a combination of XML
and XSL commands that could be used to generate a variety of
different types of information. The W3C proposal for XSL
featured these two things as separate parts of the overhead
protocol. By using high level XML descriptions of the page
information and layout, the transformation commands could be
used to transform the XML into whatever output format was
desired, be it a different kind of XML formatting or even an
HTML page output. This provides users with the maximum amount
of flexibility, as they can produce a variety of different
output formats using the same type of commands. This means
that XSL editors can be used to produce a variety of
different outputs, using the same commands and XML data.

However, this was seen by Microsoft as providing more
flexibility than was needed and becoming overly complicated.
Since the majority of users would output HTML documents,
Microsoft saw the inclusion of the XML formatting section of
XSL as being excessively complex. As a result, Microsoft took
the transformation part of the XSL protocol that W3C had
created and used that as its core specification. While this
takes out some of the flexibility that the XSL standard had
introduced, it also provided ease of use for anyone who was
using the protocol for outputting HTML documents.

This decision by Microsoft led to the split between XSL and
XSLT. XSL is the specification that describes the formatting
objects that are to be used. This is also informally known as
the XSLFO or XSL-FO. The transformation part of the
specification became known as XSLT, which is the part used
to transform XML data into various types of objects.
Primarily, this is the type which is used by the most people
today, due to the fact that the formatting objects are not

As a result, XSLT editors can provide a user with the
ability to transform XML documents into various forms,
without the requirement that they use the XSLFO formatting
objects. While this reduces some of the advantage of the
overall protocol, the ease of use is seen by many to be well
worth the reduction.

Some of the early Microsoft XSLT editors were less than
satisfactory when it came to functionality. However, as the
protocol has evolved and implementation of it has advanced,
there have come into existence a variety of different XSL
editors and XSLT editors that provide all the functionality
that could ever be asked of the protocol. For anyone seeking
to learn more in-depth information about these specifications
and their associated editors, the W3C site features a variety
of information concerning the protocol specifications, as
well as the history of the protocol.

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