XML - the Microsoft Way

By Robbe D. Morris

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Robbe Morris
Robbe & Melisa Morris
As you know, most visitors to our site depend heavily on Microsoft tools for development of our applications.  Thus, when we need to implement XML with our solutions, we tend to use Microsoft parsers.  The book XML - the Microsoft Way not only covers a wide variety of topics concerning XML and XSL, it covers them assuming you are using Microsoft tools.
For that reason alone, you should seriously consider picking up this book.  The author, Peter G. Aitken made sure his book was packed full of code examples with the Microsoft XML Parser as well as the .NET System.XML class.  Along with the code examples, there are numerous object model charts that will serve as a nice reference point.  Why is this important to us as developers?  Besides the obvious, I have found that searching for exact method names and properties has drastically reduced the amount of time I spend using search engines to find specific code samples.  There is no need to reinvent the wheel when someone else has probably already done what we are trying to do.
I got the most out of the sections on XML Data Islands and XSL.  The author's explainations and basic code samples were quite helpful.  You are no doubt going to find more and more instances where XML can play a key role in your client side implementations.  Peter does a great job of showing you exactly how to do this.
Not being familiar with the SAX Parser, I also enjoyed his comparison to the Microsoft parser.  He provides more than adequate examples of how to use both parsers including suggestions on which parser is best for a given situation.  
Here is my normal list of strengths and weaknesses for the books I read:
 
Strengths
1.Explicit focus on Microsoft technologies
Again, being able to quickly identify how we can implement many of the topics in our own projects is invaluable.  
2.Proper segmenting of topics
Unlike so many books out there,  XML - the Microsoft Way does a decent job of dealing with specific topics without confusing the reader with syntax or samples of unrelated topics.  This makes it easy to pick up the book at any time and jump right to the desired topic and get what you need quickly.  The author keeps client side and server side methodologies separate from each other.  Many implementations only use one or the other and Peter wisely doesn't cloud the subject by combining the two.
3.Slightly larger font size
May be a small item but it certainly is easier on the eyes at 10:30 PM.
4.Covers certain syntax examples not found in most XML books
Topics such as XLink,XPointer, Ranges, etc... need solid syntax examples or the reader will simply skip the section and move on trying to find something in the book that relates to them and their projects.  These code examples are items I wasn't aware of and will definitely experiment with on a new project I'm working on that uses Web Workspaces.  Were it not for the syntax examples allowing me to see the benefits of these methodologies, I'd have missed out big time.
 
Weaknesses
The truth is, I just liked the book and would recommend purchasing it if the subject matter pertains to your development needs.  I've listed a few items below that could have made the book better:
1.No real world complete code samples
Personally, I don't find these useful.  I like code samples that are quick and to the point like the ones contained here.  However, some people prefer these.  If real world complete code samples are critical to you, I wouldn't purchase the book.
2.XMLHttp?
This object that comes with the XML Parser is hardly referred to at all.  I found this rather surprising.  I couldn't even locate the object in the index of the book.  The only real discussion of moving XML back and forth between computers using the XML Parser was with the SOAP Toolkit.  SOAP really serves it's purpose when you are communicating across different applications that are out of your control.
However, there are numerous instances where the developer controls both ends of the web service and complicating the process with SOAP makes no sense.  It would have been nice to show an implementation of the XMLHttp object.  From what I've seen in forums, it is a topic well worth discussing.
3.Weak graphical display
Certainly not as good as I've seen and not as bad as others.  Of course, making XML "sexy" isn't a particularly easy task.
 
I've read a few of the Addison-Wesley books and found them to be very insightful.  XML - the Microsoft Way is no different.  Plus, the author has done a great job in striking a balance between beginner level topics and more advanced subjects.  I would recommend this book strongly to both groups of developers.
Be aware though that the web site's search engine doesn't pull up this title if you search by title.  Just click on the book's image above and it will take you to the appropriate page on the site.  Enjoy the book...I know I did.  We'd love to hear your feedback on the book.  Just click on the forums link below and give us your thoughts.


Robbe has been a Microsoft MVP in C# since 2004.  He is also the co-founder of NullSkull.com which provides .NET articles, book reviews, software reviews, and software download and purchase advice.