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Dead Simple Command Line XSLT Processor with PHP 5


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Update: A few people have pointed out that OS X now has, by default, a command line XSLT processor. PHP is my hammer, the world is my nail.

Seven or so years ago, learning XSLT outside of an organization that used it regularly was a daunting proposition. Beyond the huge difference between “linear” programming and template based programming, the language itself was still shaking out. You also had to find a way to get an XSLT processor running on your machine, which at the time meant a bunch of different interdependent packages you’d have to compile by hand.

Template programming is still a big giant pain in the ass and I don’t know if XSLT ever shook itself out, but it’s now easy to get an XSLT processor up and running, thanks to PHP 5

One of the big changes in PHP 4 vs. PHP 5 was the inclusion, by default, of an XSLT processor, no external libraries needed. Since PHP can be run as both an Apache module and a stand along interpreter, this means you can easily whip up a script that creates a “command line” XSLT processor, perfect for running through all those examples and learning what the language can do.

The following instructions are OS X specific, but if you’re not using OS X you must enjoy tinkering with your computer, and can figure out what to modify.

Step 1

Get PHP 5.

Step 2

Download the script to your computer, saving it as a text file. I recommend creating a “bin” folder in your home directory. If you’ve installed PHP 5 to a different location you’ll need to change the first line of the file


Step 3

Add the location of your newly downloaded script to your system PATH. Your system PATH is a list of directories that are searched whenever you type in a command. Assuming you followed my advice in Step 2 and are using OSX, add the following line to the ‘.bash_profile’ file in your home directory

export PATH=$PATH:~/bin

That’s it. Just type ‘xslt’ (or whatever you named the text file) at the command prompt for usage.

your-mac-g4:~ heyzeus$ xslt
ERROR: no input XML file specified.  Usage: 
Originally published April 23, 2006