Extensible Stylesheet Language

Definition of Extensible Stylesheet Language

Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) is a family of languages used to transform and render XML documents. It consists of three main parts: XSLT (XSL Transformations), which is responsible for converting XML data into other formats; XPath, a language used for selecting and querying nodes in an XML document; and XSL-FO (XSL Formatting Objects), which is used for formatting XML data for print or other output media. By combining these components, XSL allows developers to manipulate, transform, and display XML data in various formats, such as HTML, PDF, or plain text.


The phonetics for the keyword “Extensible Stylesheet Language” are:Eks-ten-suh-buhl Stahyl-sheet Lang-gwij

Key Takeaways

  1. Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) is a family of languages used to transform and style XML documents, making them suitable for various output formats like HTML, PDF, or another XML format.
  2. XSL consists of three main parts: XSLT is a language for transforming XML documents, XPath is a language for selecting nodes in an XML document, and XSL-FO is a language for formatting and rendering XML documents for print or display purposes.
  3. Using XSL for XML documents provides a clear separation between data content and its presentation, making the management, modification, and processing of the documents more efficient and less error-prone.

Importance of Extensible Stylesheet Language

The technology term Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) is important because it serves as a powerful tool in the transformation and presentation of XML documents.

As a language, it enables web developers and designers to create visually appealing and well-structured web applications by separating the content (XML) and the presentation layer (XSL). This separation enhances the maintainability and reusability of code, streamlines the development process, and promotes a more efficient workflow.

With XSL, users can apply styles, formatting, and transformations to XML data, allowing for dynamically generated web pages tailored to various devices, platforms, and user preferences.

Overall, XSL is a critical component in delivering a flexible, responsive, and visually consistent user experience in the world of web applications.


Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) serves as an essential tool for web developers and designers who strive to present their content in the most appealing and organized manner possible. Its primary purpose is to transform and style XML documents, making them visually engaging and enriched with style properties, such as fonts, colors, and layout elements.

In essence, XSL allows for the representation of structured data from XML documents in a personalized manner. As a result, the users viewing web pages, applications, or even print materials can experience coherent and streamlined visuals that cater to their contextual needs, ultimately facilitating a better understanding of the presented information.

The remarkable aspect of XSL is that it consists of three distinct sublanguages: XSL Transformations (XSLT), XML Path Language (XPath), and XSL Formatting Objects (XSL-FO). While XSLT is responsible for converting XML document structures into other formats, like HTML or even another XML schema, XPath enables the navigation and extraction of specific elements or attributes from XML files. Lastly, XSL-FO focuses on the proper formatting of documents for presentation purposes, allowing developers to create customized and complex layouts.

Together, these sublanguages encompass the power of XSL, enabling the crafting of dynamic and visually captivating web pages to engage and inform users.

Examples of Extensible Stylesheet Language

Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) is a technology used in web development or publishing to transform, style, and manipulate XML documents. It consists of three main components: XSLT, XPath, and XSL-FO. Here are three real-world examples of how this technology is applied:

E-commerce website product listings: XSL is used by large e-commerce websites that receive product information in XML format from various suppliers. With the help of XSLT, XPath, and XSL-FO, developers can transform, sort, and filter thousands of XML products easily and style the formatted information (product name, description, price, etc.) according to the website’s layout and design requirements.

Customizing XML data in Content Management Systems (CMS): Many CMS platforms store and retrieve data in XML format. XSL is used to customize the display of this XML content within the CMS’s templates and layouts. This allows developers to easily design complex page elements, while still maintaining the flexibility to handle different types of content without changing the underlying XML data structure.

Electronic publishing: Publishers often prepare content for digital or print outputs in XML format. To leverage the advantages of XSL, these publishers create custom stylesheets (XSL-FO) for various output formats like PDF, EPUB, and web pages. Once the XSL-FO stylesheets are defined, XSLT and XPath can be used to transform XML content into the desired formats, ensuring consistency and efficiency across different media types.

FAQ: Extensible Stylesheet Language

What is Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL)?

Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) is a language used for transforming and formatting XML documents. It is a family of recommendations consisting of XSLT (XSL Transformations), XPath, and XSL-FO (XSL Formatting Objects). XSL is used to manipulate, transform, and present XML data in a structured and readable format.

What are the main components of XSL?

The main components of XSL are XSLT, XPath, and XSL-FO. XSLT is used for transforming XML documents, while XPath is used for navigating and selecting specific parts of an XML document. XSL-FO focuses on the formatting and styling of the content for different output formats such as PDF or PostScript.

What is the difference between CSS and XSL?

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is a stylesheet language used for styling the appearance of HTML and XML documents, while XSL is specifically designed for XML formatting and transformations. Both languages provide styling capabilities, but XSL offers more powerful features for manipulating and transforming XML data. Also, XSL has a broader scope, as it includes XSLT, XPath, and XSL-FO.

What is XSLT?

XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations) is a language for transforming XML documents from one format to another. It uses XSL stylesheets to define transformation rules, and it is a crucial part of the XSL family of recommendations. Developers use XSLT to convert XML documents into other formats, such as HTML, plain text, or other XML-based formats.

What is XPath?

XPath (XML Path Language) is a language used for selecting and navigating through parts of an XML document. It is a key component of both XSLT and XSL-FO and allows developers to define paths for selecting XML nodes, attributes, and text. XPath enables efficient searching and filtering of XML data, providing a powerful way to extract specific information from XML documents.

What is XSL-FO?

XSL-FO (Extensible Stylesheet Language Formatting Objects) is a part of the XSL family used to specify the layout, formatting, and styling of XML content for various output formats such as print, PDF, or PostScript. XSL-FO describes XML content as a collection of formatting objects like blocks, tables, and lists, and defines the visual presentation of these objects on the target output medium.

Related Technology Terms

  • XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations)
  • XPath (XML Path Language)
  • XML (Extensible Markup Language)
  • XSL-FO (Extensible Stylesheet Language Formatting Objects)
  • XQuery (XML Query Language)

Sources for More Information

Table of Contents