Extensible Stylesheet Language

What Does Extensible Stylesheet Language Mean?

Extensible style language (XSL) is a style sheet language that is used for transforming and presenting XML documents. XSL is formalized as a specification World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).


The XSL specification is composed of three parts:

  • XML Based Language: This is used for transforming XML documents, which is known as XSL transformation (XSLT)
  • XML Based Language (2): This specifies the visual format of XML document, which is known as XSLformatting objects (XSL-FO).
  • Non-XML Based Language: This addresses specific parts of XML document, known as XML Path Language (XPath).

Techopedia Explains Extensible Stylesheet Language

For example, if an XML page contains a table describing company employees, XML describes this data, while XSL is used by the Web browser to render the data. Data color, fonts and other attributes are stored within the code for XSL, rather than XML.

XSL is critical to organizing data in a presentable, understandable format that can be easily classified (i.e., color in cell headers). XSL contains timing data that can be shown or hidden by developers according to a predetermined schedule. XSL may also contain template-descriptive data that can be reused with more than one XML page.

XSL is often viewed as an extension of the Document Style Semantics and Specification Language (DSSSL) with CSS1 standards.


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Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…