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John Workman The Workdog's weblog.... a brain dump, of sorts.

Last year I had written that I was having issues with Visual Studio’s XSLT debugger.  That turned out to be an issue with not having installed the “Professional” edition when I downloaded beta 2.  I have since corrected that problem and have been thoroughly enjoying the new features.  I thought it was time to set the record straight.  Although I’m not doing as much hard-core XSLT development as I had in the past, I’ve been able to make enough use of VS to point out some of the differences (both bad and good) as compared to XSelerator.  I’ve got to give Martin Rowlinson kudos.  He came up with XSelerator and helped us survive for a long time without VS support.  I couldn’t have completed some of the transforms I’ve done without it.   That being said, it’s nice having the support of Microsoft being your tools.  


XSelerator (Pros):

  • XSelerator has a snippet library, which I really like.  It’s great for storing repetitive code.
  • I like the look and feel of XSelerator, although there is less of a learning curve is you are used to VS
  • The price is much better than VS, although you probably already have VS for other languages you work on.


XSelerator (Cons):

  • Schema Support – Xselerator has no concept of schemas
  • XSelerator struggles ad-hoc queries against files with namespaces
  • Hot keys are different than all of my other development tools
  • XSelerator does not debug into msxsl:script
  • XSelerator doesn’t show you attributes when you run xpath against a file, but it does highlight the element so that you can easily see them


Visual Studio (Pros):

  • I already know my way around it (hot keys, etc.)
  • I already had a copy through work.
  • It’s well supported, and well written about (blogs, forums, etc.)
  • Xpath is intuitive, as it is run through the command prompt, like you would expect from VS.
  • Debugging drills into msxsl:script
  • VS includes schema support
  • When running xpath during debugging, VS shows you the attributes of the node you query.


Visual Studio (Cons):

  • VS doesn’t show you the current position in the input file during debugging
  • Lacks a snippet library
  • More expensive if you don’t already own a copy
  • Less intuitive if you are not already familiar with VS.


The bottom line is, I already use VS for all my other development.  Having XSLT support in VS allows me to obtain “One stop shopping”.  I don’t have to switch back and forth.  If I’m training others on XSLT, I can easily tell them how to debug it with VS, without explaining that I use XSelerator, that they have to download the trial copy, deal with the pain in the rear licensing that they have set up, and then they can debug it.  I can stop cussing every time I hit F11 to step into debugging in XSelerator, only to be reminded that it’s F8.  And, most importantly, I can benefit from great add-ons like the XPathmania that I recently wrote about. 



Posted on Tuesday, August 8, 2006 8:35 PM | Back to top

Comments on this post: Visual Studio’s XSLT debugger

# re: Visual Studio’s XSLT debugger
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Thanks. Good timing. I am trying to convince our management to add Data Breakpoints and Source Document visualization into next release of VS.
Left by Sergey on Aug 09, 2006 11:55 AM

# re: Visual Studio’s XSLT debugger
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That would be a great addition. I'll keep my eye out for it. Hopefully we'll see it soon.
Left by John Workman on Aug 09, 2006 7:13 PM

# re: Visual Studio’s XSLT debugger
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VS 2005 has snippets built in for xml/xslt as well as all other supported languages. It also gives you the ability to add your own snippets. A very handy tool. Good article though
Left by DrewG on Aug 28, 2006 9:17 PM

# re: Visual Studio’s XSLT debugger
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Hi, I am trying to switch from XSelerator to VS but I cannot figure out how to pass parameters into the transformation. Can you help?
Left by Chris on Jan 04, 2008 3:18 PM

# re: Visual Studio’s XSLT debugger
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Chris - I haven't found the perfect answer yet, but was able to find this article which has a nice cut and past set of code snippets that you could make work. Ideally you would have a parameters ui that you could enter your parameters. I haven't been lucky enough to find that. Hopefully this article link helps.

Also, you may want to post the question to the microsoft forums.
A lot of great guys monitor these folders. If they aren't able to give you a better solution to this one, they may be able to add it to the Visual Studio's wishlist for future enhancements.
Left by John Workman on Jan 18, 2008 12:06 AM

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