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   Old tired article against XSL-FO is based on untenable premise

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At 2002-07-31 00:29 -0400, Jimmy Cerra wrote:
>BTW, a really good article arguing against use of XSL-FO:
>http://people.opera.com/howcome/1999/foch.html .

Unfortunately this article is brought up once again publicly as an argument 
against XSL-FO ... I personally didn't think then and still don't think now 
that this argument holds water or should ever be seriously considered.  It 
is unfortunate that those who are considering publication technologies are 
presented with this article and get distracted from the success of the 

The entire argument is leveraged on a premise that I don't think is 
tenable: that XSL-FO is going to be used as a storage format for documents 
on the web.  The entire rant against XSL-FO is based on this premise, and 
successfully and correctly argues against it, so it reads as if it is a 
bona-fide argument, which is unfortunate.

For the same reason that we who use XML to maintain our information 
successfully use HTML to present our information on web browsers, we can 
use XSL-FO to paginate our information into a printable form as PDF files 
or paper.

When we store XML on the web and users want to look at the information in a 
web browser, they apply an XSLT stylesheet for HTML and CSS.

How many users are happy with a "print the page" function from their web 

Therefore when we store XML on the web and users want to print it, they can 
apply an XSLT stylesheet for XSL-FO.

Of course if one stores a static XSL-FO instance on the web others will 
have as little use for that instance as a static HTML page ... how can that 
be argued against?

XSL-FO brings vendor independence, platform independence and quality 
printing and pagination semantics to XML.  I never use it as a web storage 
vocabulary, because as many of us have learned, binding our information 
into any final form (e.g. HTML, XSL-FO, etc.) is far too inflexible.  I do 
use it to produce quality paginated output of my XML-authored training 
material that I sell from my web site.  Prentice Hall uses it to take my 
training material to the commercial publishing marketplace.

Commercial implementations are available for high-quality 
professional-looking output, and the stylesheets are interchangeable (thus 
if one vendor goes away the other vendor's tool can be used instead).  Web 
sites can use it to produce on-demand paginated output.

XSL-FO will help us meet the needs of an entire constituency of potential 
web users out there who cannot or don't want to navigate around a web 
page.  They are used to the printed form and they want the printed form and 
not enough companies offering services on the web are delivering the 
printed form.  I have tried to get my 85-y-o father-in-law to use the web 
more often but he cannot navigate a long printed web page, and he cannot 
grok the screen presentation!

What about all those coming web services that are going to be producing 
"pages and pages" of results for their users ... will all those users want 
to see very long HTML pages?  Won't some of your users want printed pages 
with headers, footers, page numbers, page number citations, etc.?  Those 
navigation tools are necessary to get around long presentations of 
information in paginated form, and XSL-FO has the presentation semantics 
for such pagination navigation.

You can produce XSL-FO from your XML at the point in time that information 
is to be rendered in a paginated form, using the stylesheet you need to 
present it in the way that you want.

How is that different from producing HTML from your XML at the point in the 
that information is to be rendered in a browser, using the stylesheet you 
need to present it the way that you want?

The article is old and tired.

I hope my comments are considered useful.

........................ Ken

Upcoming hands-on in-depth 3-days XSLT/XPath and/or 2-days XSL-FO:
-                               North America:  Sep 30-Oct  4,2002
-                               Japan:          Oct  7-Oct 11,2002

G. Ken Holman                 mailto:gkholman@CraneSoftwrights.com
Crane Softwrights Ltd.          http://www.CraneSoftwrights.com/x/
Box 266, Kars, Ontario CANADA K0A-2E0  +1(613)489-0999 (Fax:-0995)
ISBN 0-13-065196-6                       Definitive XSLT and XPath
ISBN 1-894049-08-X   Practical Transformation Using XSLT and XPath
ISBN 1-894049-07-1                Practical Formatting Using XSLFO
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Next public training:           2002-08-05,26,27,09-30,10-03,07,10


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