MSXSL in XML: Extensible Markup Language (was Re: pre newbie question)

Elliotte Rusty Harold elharo at
Mon Apr 19 15:48:17 BST 1999

At 2:33 PM +0200 4/19/99, Clark, Bruce  B wrote:
>Hi Group,
>It is humiliating to ask such a basic here, but everything that I have read
>presumes more knowledge than I have got. I am learning  XML  from a book and
>trying to get the dreaded "hello world" into my browser. The book says that
>I must make a XML document (done that), make a style sheet (done that) and
>then convert it to HTML. This is where I am stuck. Why must I do this ? The
>book also says that I must ftp a file down called MSXSL.EXE and it will do
>the required conversion. I have looked for the file at the recommended site
>and it does not exist. I have done a search and can't find it either.
>I obviously have zero knowledge about XML. If anyone can point me in the
>direction of a resource, I would be most grateful. And does anybody know
>where I can get the MSXSL.EXE  from, or is there another alternative ?

I'll take a wild guess that that's my book. I've been puzzling over what
exactly to do about Microsoft's dropping of MSXSL for some time, and I'm
afraid I don't have a perfect answer for anyone. Such is life on the
bleeding edge that is still XSL.

The bottom line is this: the draft XSL specification has changed twice
since XML: Extensible Markup Language was first published, once radically,
once not quite as radically. In any case, the version of XSL described in
my book and partially implemented by MSXSL is no longer recommended.
Furthermore, Microsoft has pulled MSXSL from their Web site, and it is no
longer available. I tried sending the file to a few people, but none of
them seemed able to successfully unzip and install it on their systems.

Something in between the last two drafts of XSL is now supported by
Internet Explorer 5.0.  I'm working with this now, and recommend you do the
same.  There are also a number of other tools for working with XSL including

Koala XSL Engine

None of these do exactly what MSXSL did, but some come close. I've had
relatively good luck with LotusXSL in particular. All four vary in exactly
which parts of which working drafts they support. I have not yet worked
with the other three heavily myself, so I don't have any strong
recommendations.  I'd be curious to hear your opinions of them if you try
them out.

However, you must keep in mind that XSL is still a bleeding edge
technology. Anything you do now will be invalidated in six months (if not
sooner) so you need to be ready for this.  None of the available tools
fully support the current working draft, and even that draft is almost
certain to change.  XSL is slowly beginning to gel, but it will not be
complete until Summer 1999 at the earliest (probably later).

Obviously an update of the book is called for. I am currently working on a
much revised and expanded version which will be published by IDG this
summer as The XML Bible. I have repeatedly asked IDG to allow me to post
chapters from that book on my Web site with updated information as I write
them. So far they have been unresponsive. I have begun posting examples
from that book online at

The examples from Chapter 5 should be particularly helpful with regard to
basic XSL.  I wish I had a better answer for you, but as yet I do not. If
one arises, I will let you know.

| Elliotte Rusty Harold | elharo at | Writer/Programmer |
|        XML: Extensible Markup Language (IDG Books 1998)            |
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