XSL is a language used to create a style sheet used for sending data over the World Wide Web, using the Extensible Markup Language (XML).

It is formally called "Extensible Style Language" and its process consists of two main features: the first one is to construct a result tree from the XML source, and the second one is to interpret the result tree to produce formatted results suitable for a presentation.

XSL uses XPath and XSLT for pattern selection and tree construction. Through this, it provides a high degree of control over how portions of the source content are presented, and what properties are associated with those content portions, even where mixed namespaces are involved. Also, it provides a comprehensive model and a vocabulary for writing stylesheets using XML syntax.


  • XSL simplifies the merging of XML data into a presentation
  • It's more convenient to traverse an XML document (by using XPath), rather than the traditional way (by using scripting language)
  • XSL is resilient to changes in documents because it's template based
  • It is very easy to change the output format without touching the code behind
  • XSL can be used as a validation language


  • Performance suffers penalties because processing is memory intensive
  • Complicated business rules are difficult to implement
  • It requires recursions for changing the value of variables
  • If the developer works with numerous templates it may be very difficult to figure out which templates are applied
  • If small changes are not carefully made, they can have large repercussions, causing the execution to be very slow


  • XSLT
  • XPath
  • FO

Development tools

  • XMLSpy
  • StyleVision
  • MapForce


  • XSL 1.0
  • XSL 2.0


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