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 1.1 from Microsoft and has also been used successfully with .NET version 2.0. It has not been tested with the Mono platform.

  2. The software comes as a zip file. Unzip it into a suitable directory, for example c:\saxon.

  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 1.1 is installed on your machine. This is available as a free download from Microsoft. See

  5. If you are using Saxon-SA, the commercial schema-aware version of Saxon, 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.xml, should be placed in the directory containing the Saxon .dll files: for example c:\saxon\bin

    3. Create an environment variable named SAXON_HOME whose value is set to the name of this directory. You can do this within any command script used to run Saxon (set SAXON_HOME=c:\saxon\bin), or you can set the environment variable permanently using Control Panel / System / Advanced / Environment Variables. (It can be either a user variable or a system variable).

  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.

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 samples\data\books.xml 
     samples\styles\books.xsl >c:\temp.html

for XQuery (all on one line):

bin\Query -t -s 
     samples\data\books.xml samples\query\books-to-html.xq >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)