version 7.3.1


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What is Saxon?
Technical Support
Historical Note
Conditions of Use
Changes in this release
Using XSL Stylesheets
XSL Elements
XPath 2.0 Expression syntax
XPath 2.0 Functions
XSLT Pattern syntax
Standards Conformance
Saxon Extensions
The SQL Extension
Extensibility mechanisms
Java API Overview
Sample applications

Please note: a copy of the documentation on this site is also included in the download file. On occasions the on-line version may be more up-to-date. The download file also includes full API documentation, which is not present on the web site: see the doc/api directory.

For comprehensive information about using XSLT
see my book
XSLT Programmers Reference
Published by Wrox Press

Release 7.3.1 is a maintenance release, fixing one or two bugs and introducing performance improvements over release 7.3

Release 7.3 was the fourth installment of my experimental implementation of the new XPath 2.0 and XSLT 2.0 specifications. It implements many of the facilities introduced in the drafts of 15 November 2002. It is not recommended for production use, since neither the specifications nor the code are yet stable. The preferred version for production use is Saxon 6.5.2.

Saxon 7.x requires Java JDK 1.4

What is Saxon?

The Saxon package is a collection of tools for processing XML documents. The main components are:

So you can use Saxon by writing XSLT stylesheets, by writing Java applications, or by any combination of the two.

Saxon implements the XSLT 1.0 recommendation, including XPath 1.0, in its entirety. Saxon 7.3 also implements many features defined in the XSLT 2.0 and XPath 2.0 working drafts, in particular:

Saxon does not yet implement all of XSLT 2.0 or XPath 2.0. The most notable omission is support for XML Schema data typing. Most of the important built-in types are supported, but not user-defined types.

In addition, Saxon provides an extensive library of extension elements and extension functions, all implemented in conformance with the XSLT Recommendation to ensure that portable stylesheets can be written. These include the EXSLT extension libraries common, sets, math, and dates-and-times. Many of these extensions were pioneered in Saxon and have since become available in other products.

As a Java class library, Saxon gives you the ability to use the XSLT rule-based approach to document processing, but with the flexibility of the full Java language. You can declare handler classes to match particular patterns in the document, and can process arbitrary sets of nodes selected using XPath expressions. This provides a high-level query capability which you can mix with purely navigational access.

Saxon also provides an API allowing a Java application to execute XPath expressions and process the results. This is modelled on the proposed DOM Level 3 API, but adapted to the requirements of XPath 2.0.

Historical Note

Saxon is essentially a one-man project: I have done almost all the development myself, except for a small number of routines which I "borrowed" from other open source products, and a few add-ons contributed by users.

I originally wrote Saxon to support an internal project in ICL, and ICL continued to sponsor development of Saxon until my departure from the company in January 2001. However, it was never a supported ICL product. My new employers, Software AG, are continuing to sponsor the development of Saxon, but again without making it a corporate product. There is no remaining connection with ICL. As always, the software is available entirely without support or warranty, and with no commitments to any future releases.

The name Saxon was chosen because originally it was a layer on top of SAX. Also, it originally used the Ælfred parser (among others); Ælfred of course was a Saxon king...

I have been asked to point out that the product has no connection with a company called Saxon Software.

Please read the Conditions of Use.

Technical Support

Saxon comes with no warranty and no formal technical support service.

If you have questions, however, you can usually get an answer by raising them on the Saxon discussion list at http://lists.sourceforge.net/lists/listinfo/saxon-help.

Once registered, you can post messages to saxon-help@lists.sourceforge.net.

If you hit something that looks like a bug, please check the known errors on the Saxon project pages at SourceForge. Also check the list archives.

If the query relates to the XSLT/XPath language rather than Saxon itself, it is better to use the XSL-list: check first that the query isn't already covered in the FAQ. Other useful sites for XSLT information are www.xslt.com, www.xmlsoftware.com and www.jenitennison.com.


Existing users please see the file changes.html for details of incompatible changes in this release.

The full Saxon distribution includes source and object code, documentation, and sample applications.

Saxon can be used either from the command line, or from a Java application, using the JAXP 1.1 API defined by the Java Community Process. Object code is issued as a JAR file, saxon7.jar, which you must include on your class path.

Saxon no longer includes a built-in XML parser: by default it uses the XML parser supplied with the Java VM. But you can use it with a different XML parser if you wish. To do this from the command line, specify the required parser using the -x or -y options; from the Java API, set the name of the parser class as an attribute of the TransformerFactory object.

User documentation, covering both the XSLT and Java interfaces, is included in the download in the form of extensive javadoc specifications. Be sure to read the package summaries, which give an overview in the form of a user guide. In addition there is an introductory overview.


The following software must be installed separately, it is not included with the Saxon download.

Saxon has been tested successfully in the past with a wide variety of parsers including Xerces, Lark, SUN Project X, Crimson, Piccolo, Oracle XML, xerces, xml4j, and xp. Use of a SAX2-compliant parser is preferred, as SAX1 does not allow XML comments to be passed to the application. However, Saxon works with either. All the relevant classes must be installed on your Java CLASSPATH.

Saxon doesn't work with the XML parser in Resin, because the Resin parser fails (in numerous ways) to conform to the SAX2 specification. The version tested was 2.1.1.

An interactive debugger for Saxon has been written by Edwin Glaser. It is still at an early stage of development. The software can be downloaded from http://tbug.sourceforge.net. It is issued in tar/gzip format, but it can be unpacked on a Windows machine using WinZIP.

Because Saxon is run from the command line, you might find it useful (under Microsoft Windows) to have a text editor with better command-line support than the standard DOS window. I use Programmer's File Editor (PFE), a free product available from a number of download sites, listed here, and also UltraEdit, shareware available from www.ultraedit.com


An index of all currently-available versions of Saxon is on the home page at SourceForge: see http://saxon.sf.net/

Michael H. Kay
10 December 2002

Personal home page: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/michael.h.kay