Blaise Pascal once wrote "I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter". Writing a book on XML is quite an undertaking. Writing a quick reference that not only provides expert coverage on XML and its associated technologies but does so concisely, practically, and comprehensively is a super human feat! Amazingly, the authors of "XML In A Nutshell" have accomplished just that and it shows.
One of the authors, Elliotte Rusty Harold, is no stranger to the technology. He is an early adopter who has written two previous XML books (and several good Java books) and created a web site devoted to XML (Cafe con Leche).
This book is divided into 4 parts. The first covers the essentials of XML including XML syntax, DTD and namespaces. The second covers 'Narrative Centric Documents' involving XSLT, CSS, XLinks, XPointers and XPath. The third covers 'Data Centric XML, ' involving DOM and SAX. The final part is a quick reference to all the above. Each part contains tutorials that are concisely written and packed with practical examples. Beginners can use it to jump-start their learning experience and experts can use this as a indispensable ready reference.
XML Schema is mentioned but not covered in this book.
Hats off to O'Reilly Associates for producing a professionally attractive, well-designed and portable book. It is comfortable to read and to hold. Stranded on a island and allowed only one XML book, this is it!
As usual, this O'Reilly book makes a good reference into XML and is chock full of information. HOWEVER, as it seems to have been the case lately, this book was not very well edited, almost as if they pushed it through to get published.
Page 35: ?, *, + are all listed as allowing zero or one element, where they are actually each unique.
Page 133: The authors show linking in an XSL Stylesheet in an XML Document and they list the type of linked in document as "text/xml" which will NOT produce the desired result. They type should actually be "text/xsl". (this can be a quite frustrating error to debug)
Similar examples are scattered throughout, plus their decision to not even discuss XML Schemas leaves me a bit puzzled, but I knew that when I bought the book so I can complain too much.
If you need a good reference to XML, and you can overlook small errors, then go ahead and purchase the book. If the errors bug you then I suggest you wait for the second edition.
Over the years, I have used several books in the nutshell series and I have always found them to be useful. However if you buy any nutshell book and more specifically the "XML in a nutshell" book with the intention of learning XML from scratch, then you will be disappointed. This book is meant to be a pocket reference for those who know XML and don't want a huge book on their desk.
This book scratches the surface of several XML topics like DTDs,XLink,XPointer,DOM,SAX,CSS etc, but doesn't explore any subject in detail. However one glaring omission is XML schema.
If you are a techie trying to learn XML or an experienced professional looking to enhance your understanding of XML and the related technologies, then Professional XML from Wrox press is a much better bet of your money.
Overall the most useful section of this book is the reference section at the end and is well worth the money if what you want is a good reference book.
This book's an authoritative document: covering XML basics like DTD authoring and detailed discussion of attribute types - through to the more esoteric issues of character sets and the tricky XML namespace standards.
At every step, I found it easy to follow. It's not a book for the non-computer literate though; more aimed at people with an existing basis of technical knowledge. A techie web-designer would find it a good start. About a third of the book is filled with references. I don't know why, but my heart usually sinks when I see page-filling content like this - that said, ultimately it's the reference books like this that end up covered with scribbles and post-it notes, so while they might not make good reading, they're very useful.
It touchs on all the necessary bases - XSLT, XPath, XHTML, XLink, XPointers, CSS - I could go on. This book does. Heck of a basis for future reading: after two and a half years in XML, there's stuff in here that I haven't come across before!
The nutshell series really can't be beat. This book on XML is no exception. If you need to learn, from the ground up, any aspect of XML, this book will explain it to you in a clear, concise way.
From 'what is XML?' to doing transforms using XSLT, this book covers all of the bases you will need to know to get up and running in XML. Where most other XML books skim over topics such as namespaces and how to write XML in different character encodings, this nutshell book explains these topics just as thoroughly as the sections on DTD's, XSLT and XPATH. (I particularly found the XPATH reference section to be useful.)
This book is well worth the money for it's clarity and the fact that it doesn't shy away from the nitty-gritty details.