is something refreshing about climbing up on a soapbox and ranting. It doesn’t
matter what the subject of the rant is, most of us have some primal need to hop
up and down and basically act like Donald Duck. Maybe that is the reason that
flame wars are so popular or it could just be that the frustration level for
working with technology can sometimes be off the chart.

for instance, I’ve been using it for several years and consider myself
somewhat well versed in it as a language. There are, however, still times when
encountering a problem that I feel like yelling at Goofy. In the last year
there have been two of these occurrences where I needed to do something that
was a little bit out of the ordinary.

Code Listing A and Listing B
are available as separate files which are included in the downloaded
zip file

Problem one

first issue dealt with producing SQL from XML using XSLT. The project started
simply enough with a style sheet containing the following output statement:

<xsl:output method=”text” indent=”yes” media-type=”text/sql”/>

that was the high point of the development process; it all went down hill from
there. Oh, sure I produced SQL, but it had one particularly troublesome error,
namely apostrophes embedded in text. Since SQL
uses apostrophes to enclose text strings encountering one in the middle of a
string becomes a real issue. Add to this that an apostrophe is the common
abbreviation for feet and that there are names like O’Connor, O’Connell and
Paddy O’Furniture in use out there, and the size of
the problem grows.

first glance the simplest way to fix this is by replacing each single
apostrophe with two apostrophes, which will inform SQL of the fact that the
string has an embedded apostrophe. Unfortunately, because XSLT uses apostrophes
as delimiters for attributes, the problem grows to the size of Godzilla with
that solution.

shortly after encountering this problem like a bolt of lightning we remember
the “&apos;”
entity and code something like the following:

 <xsl:when test=”contains($string,&apos;)”>

produces an error in the style sheet because the &apos; is interpreted as a single apostrophe. So I gave it another shot
and tried the following:

 <xsl:when test=”contains($string,’&apos;’)”>

pretty much the same result, only now instead of a single apostrophe there are
three. This pretty-much covers the common errors when dealing with apostrophes
in XSLT. There were, however, more errors ranging from the exotic to the
“doesn’t produce an error but doesn’t work either” type. Rather than outlining
each and every one of these, let’s take a look at what works:

<xsl:variable name=”apostrophe”>'</xsl:variable>
 <xsl:when test=”contains($string,$apostrophe)”>

of the way that the XSLT processor works variables are handled differently than
literals, which is something that we can use to our advantage. Using this
knowledge I wrote the following named template that can be used to replace
single apostrophes with two apostrophes in the parameter string, called
interesting enough, string. In
addition, because this template is recursive it is capable of handling multiple
occurrences of single apostrophes as Listing

Listing A — sqlApostrophe

    Template:     sqlApostrophe
    Mode:         n/a
    Parameter(s): string [required].
    Description:  Parses the parameter (string)
single apostrophes (‘)
with two apostrophes (”).
    This prevents issues in the output SQL.
<xsl:template name=”sqlApostrophe”>
 <xsl:param name=”string”/>

 <xsl:variable name=”apostrophe”>'</xsl:variable>

     <xsl:value-of select=

     <xsl:call-template name=”sqlApostrophe”>
       <xsl:with-param name=”string”
     <xsl:value-of select=”$string”


Problem two

second issue that made me hopping mad last year was more of along the lines of
the feature envy. I had thought that I was in remission, unfortunately going
back and forth between SQL and XSLT proved me wrong. You see, there was a
feature in SQL that I believed would really add significant value to my
toolbox, the XSLT equivalent of the SQL IN

you’re not familiar with the IN clause
it works something like a conditional statement that tests to see if a
particular row contains a value that is in a list that is separated by commas. The
result will be either is true, when the value is found, or false, when the
value is not found. This is essentially what the XSLT in template shown in Listing B does.

Listing B — in template

    Template:     in
    Mode:         n/a
    Parameter(s): list [required].
                  Value [required].
    Description:  Determines if value is IN a list of values.
<xsl:template name=”in”>
  <xsl:param name=”list”/>
  <xsl:param name=”value”/>
    <xsl:when test=”$list =
    <xsl:when test=”substring-before($list,’,’) =
    <xsl:when test=”string-length($list) = 0″>false</xsl:when>
      <xsl:call-template name=”in”>
        <xsl:with-param name=”list” select=”substring-after($list,’,’)”/>
        <xsl:with-param name=”value” select=”$value”/>

No hurt feelings

occurrences pointed out to me that getting angry really isn’t an option when
there is a job to do. Unlike Donald, who takes his frustrations out on Goofy,
when I get frustrated I try to get creative and take it out on software like,
in this case, Altova’s XMLSpy. Fortunately, unlike Goofy, its feelings don’t
get hurt.