New Era Developer

Get a jump-start on B2B data transfer with this definitive learning resource.

Professional ASP XML from Wrox Press Ltd. is designed for experienced developers wanting a quick start in the world of Extensible Markup Language (XML) and Active Server Pages (ASP).

XML is considered the new mechanism for the transfer of data between heterogeneous systems. Simply put, it's how my business can exchange data with your business without having to develop a joint system. ASP is the Microsoft way of developing scripting web pages for data processing and manipulation.

The layout is different than what you would find in a normal tech book but it works very well. There are 15 chapters that form the basis of the learning portion of the book. In here you'll find out how to use Cascading Style Sheets, the Document Object Model, Scripting and working with data. Each chapter is a solid tutorial that moves quickly, yet thoroughly, through the topic. References to other chapters help keep the focus on the topic at hand, which makes for some easier reading. The code samples in each chapter are not the simple "Hello World" but are practical examples that demonstrate the point.

The first five chapters lay the foundation by covering XML, DTDs, Schemas and the DOM. We're not really connecting things yet, just simply sizing up the parts. Chapters 6, 7, 8 and 9 move into ASP, CSS and XSL where things start to come together. All of this is capped by Chapter 10, the first Case Study, where we see things in a more complete example. If the reader were to quit at this point, the reader could reasonably go back and develop web applications. But we're not done yet.

Almost any application is going to need to process data and XML is a medium for data transfer not storage. Chapters 11 through 13 provide the information walk through ADO and data binding so we can keep building more sophisticated applications. Chapter 14 deals with procedure libraries so that we don't have to reinvent the wheel for each page. We get a peek into the future with Chapter 15 where we look at emerging standards.

We're at the point where a lot of books would quit because they've given the reader all of the required information. However, this book understands that there is a difference between the theoretical world and the real world. We're only about half way through our journey and have seen some solid, but not really in-depth, examples. That is about to change.

Real World XML
The Case Studies section is six examples of "real world" applications that someone might wish to write. You'll find examples of a survey tool, shopping cart, on-line documentation system and workflow application. Each study provides a concise yet detailed analysis of the problem, semi-detailed design and listing of tools used. Basically, an abbreviated form of everything needed for a good system design. We examine the code for each of the projects so that we can see out the pieces fit together. You'll learn as much from the case studies as you will from the first 15 chapters.

The last case study is an example of distributed transactions and looks at Transaction Internet Protocol (TIP). Anyone thinking of transactional database development should look at this study. You may never use the technologies directly but its presentation of the design considerations makes it a must read.

We're still not done yet. The appendices of this book are a fully loaded, quick reference. Need to look at the XML 1.0 specification? Go to Appendix A. Need the Microsoft flavor? Look at B. Next you'll have the IE5 XSL reference, Style Sheet properties, SAX and a whole lot more. You may not read every but page but at least flip through so you'll know what's there.

Hefty, Hefty, Hefty
This is a solid book that will be a valuable tool on any developer's shelf. Looking at the back cover you'll see that it's positioned as an intermediate step with Beginning ASP and Beginning XML as prerequisites. There is such a solid foundation that an experienced developer can skip these other tomes. Be sure you're familiar with web technologies and page design so you'll be able to maximize your benefits. Oh, and make sure you've got a strong arm for holding this thing.

About the Author

Paul G. Brown, MCSD, a developer, speaker, and a frequent contributor to MCPmag.com, lives in New Berlin, Illinois. When not in front of the computer, he can be found chasing Jerry, Wesley, Jordan and Dillon for Mom.

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