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   Re: Future of Formatting Objects (XSL/FO)

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  • From: "Sebastian Rahtz" <sebastian.rahtz@computing-services.oxford.ac.uk>
  • To: peter@ursus.demon.co.uk
  • Date: Sun, 11 Jun 2000 13:50:50 +0100 (BST)

Peter Murray-Rust writes:
 > personally welcome CSS design - there may well be flaws, but I don't think
 > they are responsible for the poor implementations. If the implementations
 > are poor it is a cultural thing. Customers don't care enough to insist that
 > the spec id properly implemented and manufacturers don't see this as a
 > selling point (I assume). This simply highlights the very low public
 > understanding of the value and place of style. 

You seem here to give a good argument as to why XSL FO will die - the
customers don't care about it. The poor implementations of CSS have
not provoked public outrage, and neither will the lack of XSL FO.

 > The gold-standard for many of us is TeX. Like many scientists I have used
 > If we want high-quality print I can only think of the following:
 > 	- Develop XSL-FO and one or more FOP-like solutions
 > 	- Use TeX as an intermediate
 > 	- Tear up the current XSL-FO and try again

or just use existing formatters, like TeX, to implement XSL FO. shall
I plug PassiveTeX again? this uses the XSL FO language to drive TeX.

Be careful when you compare FO to TeX. There is an important
difference, in that the formatting in TeX is coupled to the
styling. So in TeX you can implement  a rule like

  "A figure caption is centered if it would fit on one line, otherwise it is
   set ragged right"

It is not clear to me whether one can implement that in XSL FO; I
suspect not. In which case, what do you do? Say that FO is only for
less sophisticated formatting applications, or that we simply have to
forget these design `niceties'?

 >  The third is only acceptable if there are
 > real problems with XSL-FO that can be rectified. I am not a typographer,
 > but I would be surprised if the current WG hadn't learnt a lot from DSSSL,

but you do not answer my fundamental problem -- DSSSL never went
anywhere. DSSSL was put together in an academic way over many years,
and was never fully implememted (or even close, in the areas of
complex page makeup and writing directions, for instance). So how
could the XSL FO designers (who partially overlap with the DSSSL
designers, which is worrying), `learn from DSSSL', since we have so
little experience with DSSSL?

 > 	- fudge, kludge, and botch. This is the most likely future. 
yup, computer science mainstream....

 > 	- "XML Word". Everyone  will be encouraged to use Word as not only the
 > authoring, but also typesetting tool

it keeps millions of people `happy' today. it seems bizarre, but it is

 > 	- "Hit the print button on the browser". High-quality?...

today, no. but why should the browsers not get better?

 > So. I cannot see a responsible alternatively to XSL-FO
DSSSL is an alternative

 > rendering chemistry into reports, etc. This does not need every XSL-FO
 > option implemented. At present I am happy with proof-of-concept

You don't have proof of concept, IMHO. XSL FO renderers have not
tackled proper typography yet. I do not, with all respect, count
printing slides as a serious exercises.

 > *many* high quality implementations. 2-D graphics is also non-trivial - I
 > have spent many years in that area - and I think SVG is a top class
 > spec.

I see a big difference. SVG is an excellent thing, a next-generation
PostScript/PDF, and it can replace those *very* widely used and
understood formats. But there is not a comparable standard which XSL
FO can replace.


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