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Includes, CSS and XSLT are great technologies and I often use them in conjunction with SiteMesh.

However, as mean of separating content from layout they all have some distinct issues that SiteMesh overcomes.

Includes

Include technology requires the content to be aware and directly tied to the presentation. Furthermore, it often results in a fragmented presentation.

Icon

Will add examples.

CSS

Cascading Style Sheets also requires the content files be tied to the presentation (every content file that needs to be decorated requires a CSS reference).

However, the biggest disadvantage drawback to CSS is that it is a look and feel technology. CSS has no way of externalizing reusable components of a website like the menu, search box or footer.

As such CSS is more of a complementing technology to SiteMesh than a comparison point.

XSLT

XSLT is slow to process, hard to debug and difficult to learn because it requires advanced skills in all areas of development.

In practice the challenges of skill sets, deadlines and budget often result in XSLT not making the cut.

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