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.
Get PHP 5.
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
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
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: xslt [XML-FILE] [XSLT-FILE]