Getting started with Saxon on the .NET platform

  1. Download the software (you will typically start with the open-source version) from SourceForge. It is designed to be used with .NET version 3.5 from Microsoft and has also been used successfully with other versions. It has not been run successfully with the Mono platform, though it has not been thoroughly tested on other platforms, and there may be undocumented restrictions.

  2. The software comes as a .exe installer SaxonHEn-n-n-nNsetup.exe. Double-click it to run the installer. It installs the executable files into a user-selected directory, sets a registry entry to point to this location, and registers the relevant DLLs in the Global Assembly Cache.

  3. As a first-time user, you will probably want to install the sample applications. These are packaged together with a copy of this documentation and Saxon-B source code in the file This can be downloaded from either the SourceForge or Saxonica sites. (It is the same file in both cases). Unzip the contents of this file into the same directory.

  4. Make sure that .NET version 2.0 or higher is installed on your machine. This is available as a free download from Microsoft.

  5. If you are using a commercial edition of Saxon (that is, Saxon-PE or Saxon-EE), you will need to obtain a file containing a licence key.

    1. Apply for a free 30-day license key by going to and clicking on "Evaluation Copy". Be sure to specify that you want a license key for the .NET platform.

    2. The license key file will be sent by email within 24 hours. This file, called saxon-license.lic, should be placed in the directory containing the Saxon .dll files: for example c:/Program Files/Saxonica/SaxonHE9.3N/bin

  6. Saxon doesn't come with a graphical user interface: it's designed to be integrated into other tools and applications. You will therefore start by using it from the operating system command line. On Windows, you may want to install a text editor such as UltraEdit that offers a more friendly command line than the standard DOS console provided by Microsoft.

Note: since Saxon 9.2, license files are compatible between the Java and .NET platforms. License files issued for earlier Saxon releases on .NET (named saxon-license.xml) are no longer recognized.

You can now run one of the sample stylesheets or queries that comes with the saxon-resources download. Assuming you installed into c:\saxon, make this your current directory, and type:

for XSLT (all on one line):

bin\Transform -t -s:samples\data\books.xml -xsl:samples\styles\books.xsl -o:c:\temp.html

for XQuery (all on one line):

bin\Query -t -s:samples\data\books.xml -q:samples\query\books-to-html.xq -o:c:\temp.html

Now open c:\temp.html in your browser to check that it worked.

For more complete details on installing Saxon on the .NET platform, see Installing (.NET)