Epiphyte Book Review up to review index

How this site is maintained

So it came to pass that I became thoroughly sick of the look-and-feel of my review site (which hadn't changed much since 1995), but maintaining all the reviews in flat HTML files made a redesign a colossal pain in the butt. I needed a way to separate the content from the presentation. Fortunately, web technology has advanced a bit since 1995.

I love PHP and mySQL as much as the next geek, but it just doesn't make sense to make the review pages database-driven, since they almost never change unless I'm doing a redesign. Besides, I don't want to be dependent on the architecture of my hosting site. So I want to serve flat HTML pages, but I want to be able to rapidly change the appearance of those HTML pages at whim. I also want to be able to auto-generate the index page from the collection of reviews.

What I wound up doing was converting all the reviews to XML, and writing an XSLT stylesheet to transform them to HTML. I use James Clark's XT to transform the individual pages to HTML, and then I upload the HTML files to the public site. I wrote a Perl script that runs XT on each XML file and builds a list of them as it goes; it then generates another XML file with the list, and uses another XSLT sheet to transform that into the index page. I use CSS for some of the formatting, but on the whole I've tried not to rely on it, because there are still people out there using Netscape 4. (Hi, Mom.)


  • James Clark's XT (and his XP SAX parser), which require the Java runtime
  • ActiveState Perl for Win32
  • Komodo, a visual IDE for Perl and PHP (excellent syntax-checking, and VC++ style bookmarks, which I dearly wish Visual SlickEdit had)
  • CSS
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Sep 2001 / CMS