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XML and CSS: Displaying Information on the Web

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(Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the February/March 2000 issue of AS/400 NetJava Expert.)

 

Extensible Markup Language (XML) is a markup language used to describe other markup languages. XML allows custom tags to be defined for a document for the purpose of describing the document’s data and structure in a meaningful schema. The XML tags do not say how the data is to be presented but instead say what the data is. Because the goal of XML is to keep the content separate from the formatting, information exchange between databases and different applications is possible.

 

In order for an XML document to be displayed on the Web, it must be formatted with a supported style sheet language. The Extensible Style Language (XSL), although still a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) working draft, can be used to display an XML document in an XML-capable Web browser. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) can be used also. CSS, initially designed for use with an HTML document, were recommended by the W3C for use with an XML document in June 1999.

 

Cascading Style Sheets are a simple styling language that allow a style to be attached to the elements or tags within a Web document. They consist of a collection of rules that determine how the text and graphics, the data, will be displayed on the Web page by the browser. CSS function like the style sheets found in most desktop publishing programs.

 

I will show you how to use CSS to format an XML document as shown in Figure
1. This example uses a personnel file containing three records. This personnel file is stored using XML markup. In order to display this file in the browser, as would be typical on a company intranet, it is formatted with CSS. A working example can be found at www.wwwsights.com/articles/css_xml/personnel.xml. Remember, you need an XML- capable browser such as Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 to view this example.

 

 

Writing the Style Sheet

 

 

An XML document contains user-defined tags. These tags or elements are the selectors to which a style sheet is applied in a separate CSS document. Figure 1 shows how the XML

 


 

document personnel.xml is displayed in Internet Explorer 5.0 when formatted with the CSS document personnel.css.

 

Figure 2 (page 86) contains the code for this XML document. The style sheet processing instruction associates the style sheets in personnel.css, as shown in Figure 2, Section A. The document element personnel (Figure 2, Section B) contains all of the elements in the document. Figure 3 (page 87) contains the code for the CSS document, personnel.css. The font-family property is set to Arial and the font size is set to 12 points for the element personnel (Figure 3, Section A). All of the children of the element personnel will inherit this style unless specified otherwise.

 

The next element in the XML document is title (Figure 2, Section C). It has several styles applied to it (Figure 3, Section B). You can see how the words Associates Inc. are displayed at the top of Figure 1.

 

The element employee is used three times in the XML document (Figure 2, Section
D). Several styles are applied to this element (Figure 3, Section C). Notice in Figure 3, Section D, that the elements employee, name, position, salary, address, phone, and email are grouped so that the same style display: block is applied to them all. Setting the display property to block inserts a line break after each element so that the information is displayed vertically.

 

The name element (Figure 2, Section E) contains four child elements: last_name, first_name, middle_name, and gender. These elements will be displayed inline, or horizontally, which is the default. They will inherit their styles from their parent, . They will also inherit styles from employee and personnel (Figure 3) as styles are passed down the hierarchy. The last_name element (Figure 3, Section E) has an additional style applied to it, as does the gender element (Figure 3, Section F).

 

The address element (Figure 2, Section H) also contains four child elements: street, city, state, and zipcode. They will inherit their styles from their parent,

. They will also inherit styles from employee and personnel (Figure 3) as styles are passed down the hierarchy.

 

 

The position and salary elements (Figure 2, Sections F and G) are assigned unique styles (Figure 3, Sections G and H). They will also inherit styles from employee and personnel (Figure 3).

 

 

CSS: HTML vs. XML

The Style Sheet Must Be in a Separate Document

 

 

CSS rules are applied to an XML document in the same way as they are to an HTML document, with a few exceptions. In the HTML document, a style sheet rule can be applied in any of these three ways:

 

• Linked to a separate file with a .css extension (an external style sheet)

 

• Written in the same file in the HEAD section inside the STYLE tags (an embedded style sheet)

 

• Written in the same file inside the HTML tag (an inline style sheet)

 

In an XML document, the style sheets cannot be in the same file. They must be defined in a separate document.

 

 

The Style Sheet Is Linked by an XML Processing Instruction

 

 

The style sheet document is associated with the XML document by including processing instructions with a target of xml-stylesheet in the XML document’s prolog. The href and type attributes are required in the processing instruction.

 


 

In an XML document, the code would be written as follows:

 

 

The HTML equivalent would be the following:

 

 

Also, as in HTML, you can add a title attribute and have multiple alternative styles. But, unlike with HTML, you cannot use capitals for any XML syntax. Remember, an XML document conforms to certain rules and, in XML, all tags and attributes are lowercase.

 

In an XML document, the code would be written as follows:

 

The HTML equivalent would be as follows:

 

 

title=”regular” href=”regular.css”

 

type=”text/css”>

 

title=”detail” href=”detail.css”

 

type=”text/css”>

 

 

The CSS Display Property Must Be Set

 

 

In HTML, the tags often carry some formatting information. For example, a

tag indicates that there is a line inserted before and after the content. XML document markup contains no styling information. The tags are purely semantic. Therefore, the most important information for an XML style sheet to contain is the display property. The display property can be set to either inline or block. An inline display means that the elements are displayed one after another, horizontally across the document, similar to a tag in HTML. A block display means that there is a line break before and after the element, similar to a

tag in HTML. All XML elements will be displayed inline by default unless specified otherwise.

 

 

 

The Style Sheet Is Applied to an XML Element Selector

 

 

The CSS style rules are applied to a selector. In an HTML document, a selector can be an element, a pseudo-element, a class, or an ID. In an XML document, a selector is limited to the XML element or tag.

 

 

The Selector Must Be Lowercase

 

 

CSS is case-insensitive. In the HTML document, the syntax for the selector in the style sheet declaration can be either lowercase or uppercase. In XML, lowercase and uppercase letters are not interchangeable. In XML, personnel is not the same as PERSONNEL, so the style sheet selector for the XML element personnel must be lowercase.

 

 

CSS or XSL?

 

 

CSS is easy to use and easy to learn. CSS, however, is only a formatting language that attaches style properties to the elements of a source document. CSS lacks transformation facilities such as the ordering and sorting of data.

 


 

XSL consists of two parts: transformation and formatting. XSL is meant to be used for tasks such as sorting parts of a document, generating reports, and reordering data. XSL looks very different from CSS, but, when it is used for formatting, it will use the CSS property names and values. Knowledge of CSS is valuable for using XSL.

 

“Use CSS when you can, use XSL when you must,” says the W3C (www.w3.org/Style/CSS-vs-XSL). Depending on the situation, CSS may be the appropriate choice.

 

 

XML_and_CSS-_Displaying_Information_on_the_Web04-00.png 400x473

 

 

Figure 1: The XML document personnel.xml is formatted with the CSS document personnel.css and displayed in Internet Explorer 5.0.

 

Associates Inc.

 

 

 

Colley
Andrew
Adam
M

Engineer
$90,000

 

 

123 Dogwood Street
San Diego
CA
92120

(619)-456-8989

 

 

 

Sandes
Kevin
Patrick
M
Consultant
$92,000

 

 

 

2900 Main Street Apt E-3
San Diego
CA
92111

(858)-695-4399

 

 

 

York
Leticia
Marie
F

Systems Analyst
$95,000

 

 

 

89 Bark Rd
San Diego
CA
92109

(619)-272-7231

 

A

 

C

 

E

 

B

 

D F

 

G

 

H

 

Figure 2: The XML document personnel.xml contains user-defined tags that describe the meaning and structure of the data.

 

A

 

C

 

D

 

F

 

G

 

H

 

personnel {display:block; font-family:arial; font-size:12pt;}
title {display:block; text-align:center; font-size:22pt; font-weight:bold; color:navy;
margin-bottom:25px}
employee {border:2px solid black; width:400px; line-height:1.25; margin-bottom:25px}
employee, name, position, salary, address, phone, email {display:block}
last_name {font-weight:bold}

 

gender {background-color:#CCCCCC}
salary {font-weight:bold; color:red}
position {width:150px; font-weight:bold; background-color:aqua}

 


 

B

 

E

 

Figure 3: The style sheets are applied to the XML elements in the document personnel.css.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.

     

     

  • Fight Cyber Threats with IBM i Encryption

    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

     

     

     

  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.

     

  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.

     

     

  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.

     

     

  • Node Webinar Series Pt. 1: The World of Node.js on IBM i

    SB Profound WC GenericHave you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.
    Part 1 will teach you what Node.js is, why it's a great option for IBM i shops, and how to take advantage of the ecosystem surrounding Node.
    In addition to background information, our Director of Product Development Scott Klement will demonstrate applications that take advantage of the Node Package Manager (npm).
    Watch Now.

  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.