Friday, December 12, 2008

Debugging XSL Transformations in VisualStudio 2005

I've been doing a bit of work lately with XSL transforms. While searching for a good transform debugging tool, I found that I had a decent one already installed - VisualStudio. To demonstrate, I pulled sample xml and xslt from the W3Schools site. (Click on each image to see a larger version.)

With the xsl template loaded in VS, right-click anywhere on the xslt and choose Properties. In the Properties window, set the Input value to point to the sample xml file (cdcatalog.xml in this case.)

At this point you can run the transform to view the output. Choose "XML" > "Debug XSLT" from the menu.

Nothing terribly interesting so far. The real fun doesn't start until you realize you can set breakpoints within the xslt. This is done the same as with other types of code files (by clicking the grey strip on the left or pressing F9.) Now, when you start the debugger, processing stops at the specified line. As expected, hovering the mouse over a variable or expression gives you a tooltip with the value.

Several of the other debug windows are also usable in this mode, such as the Locals and Immediate window.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

I was looking through my "to blog" list recently and I was reminded of something: I have a LOT of items on my list. Two or three times the number of posts I've written thus far. What's worse is some of these items would actually make an entire series of posts. At my current rate of posting (once or twice a month) I'm never going to finish.

Then there are the computer books sitting on my shelf, several of which I've not read much passed the intro. Some may not be worth digging into right now, but a few of them are "must reads." Code Complete for example. Or Head First Design Patterns. I've not finished either of them, and have yet to fully grok what I have read.

The question then is how to tackle these lists? It seems the only way to stay motivated is to come up with a schedule and then stick to it. Read one chapter a week. Write a blog post a week. Or if I work it just right, I could write a blog post on the chapter I just read. But what if I get bored with one subject? Do I switch between books each week, or should I stick to one until I finish? If I want to post on what I'm reading, how much original content is necessary and how much can I quote or link to?

I'm off to ponder these questions (or read web comics, I've not decided which.) What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you have any professional goals to tackle next year? (Or even non-professional goals?) And if so, how do you plan to keep on track?