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   Re: Future of Formatting Objects (XSL/FO)

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  • From: Peter Murray-Rust <peter@ursus.demon.co.uk>
  • To: xml-dev@xml.org
  • Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2000 09:29:58 +0100

At 10:17 PM 6/14/00 -0400, you wrote:
>Rick JELLIFFE writes -
>> Knuth made an interesting comment about TeX that there will always be
>> the need to hand-tune some pages. For example, if there is a large
>> anchored graphic that breaks onto the next page, causing large amounts
>> of whitespace on the previous page. Or if a chapter ends with a couple
>> of lines on a recto (odd) page.
>Yes, and let's remember that Knuth says he made a design decision to cover
>only 99% of situations that would come up.  He designed it for his own use
>first, and he felt that it would be quicker and better to hand-tune his
>pages once in a while than to try to write the code and get it working.  He
>was interested in very low-rate, one-of-a-kind production of the highest
>quality possible.
>It seems that we're not sure of the intended use of FOs - high quality, low
>volume, or high volume, lower quality.  Could one system do both well???

I agree with this; and I think it's important to resolve it. The XML V1.0
process had clear goals outlined in 10 sentences. These provided extremely
valuable guidance during the process. They made it clear that XML was not a
rewrite of SGML, but a subset. It emphasised a 80/20 approach (though the
phrase was not explicitly used). There would be some things that XML
couldn't do, even though many people wanted them.

I assumed (by default) that the same was true of FOs. There would be some
sorts of typography that couldn't be tackled this way and that we would
have to use existing or other systems. I suspect that many people would not
expect FOs to support the final typography for traditional printed books.

It will be argued that there are many business processes which require
high-quality page fidelity and that FOs will not have a future unless they
support this. However there are lots of things that XML does not support,
and we are finding ways forward. XML is extensible - I assume that XSL-FO
will be extensible as well.

XML is changing the nature of "documents" and data - bringing them
together. Many of the rules for this are not written - that is exactly what
we are exploring on this list! I can think of technical applications which
will benefit greatly from FOs of 80/20 quality. The great thing about XML
is that it provides a much better definition of the content - and that is
often more important than that it is typeset with total precision.

Anyway, at least we seem agreed that activity in this area is valuable,
even if the challenges are very difficult. 


Peter Murray-Rust. (CML, VHG and XML-DEV)
CMLC and VirtualXML ConCourse: http://www.cmlconsulting.com/
CML http://www.xml-cml.org/
Virtual HyperGlossary http://www.vhg.org.uk/

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