I faced a challenge of that sort recently in an application I was working on. The issue that I was struggling with was that there are aspects to XSLT2 which are not quite polymorphic. Polymorphism, for those of you who might of slept through that particular aspect of OOP training, is the idea that you can have two distinct objects have a particular method which, when invoked, produce similar but not necessarily identical actions.
The canonical example of this comes with the Shape class, with the method draw(). If I have two child classes called Rect and Circle, each of which inherit the draw() interface from Shape, then I could create instances of these classes:
rect =new Rect(); rect.draw();
circle = new Circle(); circle.draw();
each of these objects will perform a draw operation relevant to its given class (drawing a rectangle or a circle, as appropriate). By creating such a set of conventions (and the notion of a consistent interface gained via inheritance) you can additionally work with a wide range of similar objects through the same interface without having to write special type handlers for each object.
The three pillars of OOP, inheritance, encapsulation, and polymorphism, can exist within XSLT, but only somewhat uneasily. Inheritance, for instance, can be gained by creating two stylesheets, the first containing a dominant set of templates, the second "replacement" templates that effectively replace the first if they have an equal or higher precedence match. The problem with this is that there is no real way of saying "utilize the replacement template, then invoke the original template", the analog to the super() function in languages such as Java, which invokes the parent's method when invoked the same method of a child object.
XSLT 2.0 does provide features to ameliorate this somewhat.The first involves a subtle shift (albeit one that can cause a lot of grief for XSLT 1.0 developers). In XSLT 1.0, imported stylesheets had a higher priority than importing ones. This made it possible to "subclass" templates easily, but provided no clear mechanism for being able to invoke the replaced templates.
However, in XSLT 2.0, the priorities have been switched, which means that the calling stylesheet's templates will have a higher priority than the called stylesheet's templates, unless the priority is explicitly set as an attribute as being different. This has the immediate effect of giving the illusion that imported templates don't work. That's not quite the case, however. Instead, such templates can now be invoked with the <xsl:apply-imports/> element. This causes the processor to only look at templates in the imported stylesheet when applying the rules, and it is this functionality that gives you "super()" like behavior.
For instance, suppose that you have a stylesheet that takes the value of an item, and if it is a number less than 0, renders that number in red (in the file accounting.xsl)
<xsl:when test="number(text()) != NaN">
<xsl:when test="number(text()) ge = 0">
<span style="color:green"><xsl:value-of select="."/></span>
<span style="color:red"><xsl:value-of select="."/></span>
</xsl:when> <xsl:otherwise> <xsl:value-of select="."/> </xsl:otherwise> </xsl:choose></xsl:template>
A second template for "example" in a calling document could handle placing this content into a table cell, using the <xsl:apply-imports> element, as follows:
</xsl:template><xsl:template match="examples"><table> <xsl:apply-templates/></table></xsl:template>
If the source XML document had the form:<examples><example>125</example> <example>-150</example><example>Twelve</example></examples>
Then this will render as:<table><tr><td><span style="color:green">125</span></td></tr><tr><td><span style="color:red">-150</span></td></tr><tr><td>Twelve</td></tr></table>
Significantly, if no import document is specified, then this will act in the manner appropriate for <xs:apply-templates/> for processing child elements and text of the current context. In other words, without the imported stylesheet, this will render as:
<table> <tr><td>125</td></tr> <tr><td>-150</td></tr> <tr><td>Twelve</td></tr></table>
This fairly subtle change will have an enormous impact upon the way that you develop stylesheets, especially in conjunction with a number of the other features that are now in play, including the next bit of subtlety - tunnelling parameters.
Digging Those Tunnels
You have probably noticed that while its possible to talk about applying OOP techniques to XSLT, such concepts do not necessarily translate cleanly in a one to one manner to how XSLT itself works. One instance of this comes from the problems inherent with dealing with globals.
Global variables are bad in the way that cookies and sweets are bad ... one or two, taken sparingly, can improve your code without too many ill effects, but go overboard and you'll be seeing the results show up in bloated code (or at least a bloated waistline).
Normally, in OOP code, you define variables that are appropriate for a given class, and oany methods that are defined within that class have the variables available to them. You can also create public properties which appear like "public" variables that are available from outside the class, but in most languages, these "public" variables are being replaced by getter/setter methods that expose specific properties while at the same time providing a certain degree of insulation on these variables. Additionally, regardless of scope, variables defined in this manner may also be available to any derived class of the base class, through some variation of the friend keyword.
In XSLT, things work a little differently. You can define a global variable or parameter within the <xsl:stylesheet> element of a transformation, in which case the variables are available anywhere within the transformation. However, if you import a global variable from an external template into your transformation, that variable or parameter will be overridden by a variable in the calling document if they have the same name. In some cases, this may be desirable, but in others, the calling template may have defined these variables for handling some internal state within the transformation, at which point you're feeding gibberish into your transformations (and usually very hard to debug gibberish, at that, as the code is syntactically correct).
You could, of course, not use globals in the called routines (a good practice anyway) and instead choose only to define the parameters within the likely entry point of the called stylesheet and then pass them down from template to template. Unfortunately, this solution tends to be rather verbose, especially when dozens of such "internal variables" are needed. Especially if the called templates didn't require the parameters, this particular technique was really only worthwhile if you absolutely needed that data at some point.
In XSLT2, a different approach was taken. A new attribute, the tunnel attribute, is placed on parameters in matched templates (i.e., <xsl:template match="foo") elements, with tunnel = "yes" indicating that the parameter should participate in tunneling, and tunnel = "no" indicating that the parameter is not tunnelled. An apply-templates parameter in turn would require that the tunnel = "yes" attribute be added to the <xsl:with-parameter> element in order for that variable to tunnel.
So what exactly is this tunnelling? In essence, a tunnel indicates that if a template calls another template that does not have the parameter declared (and consequently does not use that parameter), and this template in turn calls a third template that does have tunnelled parameters, then the third (or fourth, etc.) template acts as if it was called with the parameters from the first template. This way, the only templates that receive the parameters are the ones that actually use them, and you are able to keep your code lean in mean in the process.
As an illustration, the following illustrates a "tunnelled" hello,world type transformation:
<xsl:stylesheet xmlns:xsl="http://www.w3.org/1999/XSL/Transform" version="2.0">
<xsl:with-param name="username" select="'Aleria'" tunnel="yes"/>
<xsl:param name="username" tunnel="yes"/>
<h1>Hello, <xsl:value-of select="$username"/></h1>
With the assumed input being:
In this particular case, the parameter "username" is invoked from the root template match for the "foo" template. However, foo has no need of the parameter, so it doesn't need to declare the parameter. The "bar" template, on the other hand, does need to use the parameter, so it creates a parameter declaration, including the critical tunnel = "yes". Without this, the XSLT processor would work on the assumption that the parameter was simply not invoked from the "foo" template, and as a consequence, the $username is assumed to be blank.
This form of parameterization can vastly simplify writing imported stylesheets. Typically such sheets will typically provide a single point of entry for subsequent transformations in the imported sheets(especially if the templates use the mode attribute), and rather than defining global parameters that could possibly be clobbered, the entry point template could define the parameters within its body as being tunnelled, making these parameters available to any member of that set of modal templates.
Thus, in addition to making your code less verbose (and hence easier to both write and maintain) tunnelling can additionally serve to make your imported stylesheets more modular and classlike. In essence, this turns an imported stylesheet into something that has a number of the characteristics of classes within a more formal hierarchical language such as Java or C++, while at the same time retaining the templating architecture that makes XSLT such a powerful language in the first place.