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Transforming XML through XSLT with Asp.Net XML Control

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Name: Mike Chauhan
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Add Date: 10/08/2012
This article makes clear the concept of transforming XML Document through a well-defined XSLT incorporated with Asp.Net XML Control.
Nowadays XML (eXtensible Markup Language), has occupied a huge part of Asp.Net Technology. Although most of the XML functionality in the .NET Framework can be found in System.Xml namespace, we can also find the influence of XML throughout the entire frameworks including System.Data and System.Web and on so many other namespaces too. Yes, XML provides the core structure within which data can be stored and passed throughout the Internet. Though the XML document provides the content needed, but there is no information about how that content should be presented.

Now XSLT comes to center stage. XSLT is a language for transforming the structure of an XML document. With XSLT, we can select the elements we want to present, rearrange them, and either output them as a new XML document or provide additional formatting to create an HTML document, a PDF file or a set of SQL instructions – whatever we want. XSLT is a W3C specification; the current version is 1.0, and version 2.0 is a working draft currently under review. And this article, explains you the concept of transforming an XML Document with two different XSLT formats with the help of Asp.Net XML Control. Asp.Net XML control is a new feature available in Asp.Net 2.0 framework, which helps to easily bind XML document with any XSLT.

Sample Scenario

I have some collections of CDs with me. I fed these CDs information in an XML document. Now I’m going to display it for you in two formats. The first XSLT transforms the XML in a List format. While the second XSLT transforms it in a Tabular format. Let us start by creating an xml file in your visual studio web application and name it as cdlist.xml. Copy and paste the following sample file, if you don’t have one.

XML CDList.xml
The structure of the Xml file looks as below

Create First XSLT File ‘ListFormat.xsl’

Before we go to create the format in the XLS file let me give you some basic idea regarding the XSLT elements. The XSLT stylesheet itself is a valid XML document and must follow the rules of well-formed. It contains special elements that are defined by XSLT, which provide rules for the transformation, and may also contain other types of elements or formatting codes (HTML tags, for example). XSLT-defined elements belong to the XSLT namespace and are distinguished from other elements by the XSLT namespace prefix (typically xsl:). xsl:for-each

This element appears inside a template and it will iterate through a set of nodes. We have to mention the nodes hierarchy as value for the select attributes. The syntax is

When this XSLT element appears in a template, it tells the processor to compute the value of the selected node and copies it into the output document. The item whose value is selected is relative to the current node. The syntax is :

We are going to use these two elements to traverse the xml file, retrieve the value of each node and output those values to the aspx file. Now its time to add a new XSLT file to your application. Right click on your project in the solution explorer, click on Add New Item, choose XSLT File and name it as ListFormat.xsl. The new xsl document will have the following structure.

Since we are going to output the XML in an aspx page, the and tags within the xsl:template section has no effect in the output, so we can remove it. Inside the xsl:template section, insert a h2 element to display some header text. Between the header tags, insert the xsl:value-of tag and set its select’s attributes value to the XmlTitle node. You have to traverse from the parent node to the child node. See below the select attibutes value is “CDList/XmlTitle”. That is the CDList is the parent node and you need the value of XMLTitle. So its very clear.

Next we need to design a Html table to display the data in a list format. Insert a HTML table into the xsl:template section with two rows and six columns. The first row will be the header row for the table. From the section row we will display the data. Before the beginning of the second row’s tr tag we have to insert the xsl:for-each element. This element is response for iterating the whole xml document on the specified node list mentioned in the select attribute. So the value for the select attribute will be “CDList/CD”. At each cell of the row, we have to specify the xsl:value-of select="YourNodeToDisplay" element with the select attributes value should be the node value to want to output in that cell. So the whole ListFormat.xsl will look like below

Create Second XSLT File ‘TableFormat.xsl’
Right click on your project in the solution explorer, click on Add New Item, choose XSLT File and name it as TableFormat.xsl. We are exactly going to do the same things as we did for ListFormat.xsl, but slightly different in the structure of the Html table. See below for the format of the Html table below

Now, we have a XML with data and two XSLT files with two different structures to perform transformation.
Move towards Default.aspx Page
In your Default.aspx page, drag and drop an Asp.Net XML Control from the Toolbox Standard tab. The ID of this control will be Xml1. Specify the DocumentSource property to point the XML file that is CDList.xml. Then specify the TransformSource property to ListFormat.xsl. Run your page in browser, You can see the data in the XML file is getting displayed in the way you defined in the ListFormat.xsl. Now change the TransformSource property to point the second xsl file that is TableFormal.xsl and run the application, you will be surprised on seeing the same data in different structure.

You can even set the DocumentSource and TransformSource property at runtime. Asp.Net XML Control is an excellent stuff offered my Microsoft to render the XML document with any desired structure at runtime. Ease of code and consume less time to build any XML oriented application.

Happy Programming!!!

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