Re: Formatting Objects considered harmful

Subject: Re: Formatting Objects considered harmful
From: Håkon Wium Lie <howcome@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 27 Apr 1999 23:54:14 +0200 (MET DST)
Stephen Deach wrote:

 > You will note that the definition of *both* FO's *and* XSLT are REQUIRED
 > deliverables for the WG as specified in 2.1 of the XSL WG Charter.

Thank you for publishing the charter of the XSL Working Group. Among
the deliverables are:

 >            (a) a language for flow object tree construction and 

This part has turned into what I call XTL. XTL is actually a much more
general tool than what (a) describes, but I think everyone is happy
that the WG went beyond its charter in this case.

 >            (b) an extensible set of flow object properties/characteristics
 >                and values. 

This part has turned into what I call XFO. XFO is an XML vocabulary
for describing a formatted document. While the group was chartered to
deliver a set of "properties" (as they are called now) and "values",
it has produced a syntax for formatted documets. This is also, IMHO,
going beyond the charter and -- unlike (a) -- I think the result is
prone to abuse.

At the end of the day, the charter is rather uninteresting -- what
matters is the resulting specifications and how they are used. My
point in analyzing it is that "the charter forces us to do it" can't
be read out of the text.

The charter also says:

 >      The working group will take as its starting position the proposal
 >      submitted by Microsoft, INSO, and ArborText on 27 August 1997.

The submission can be found from [1]. That document has the notion of
"HTML/CSS flow objects". One of the examples is:

    <target-element type="emph"/>
    <target-element type="strong"/>
    <SPAN font-weight="bold">


This concept seems very close to Paul's HTML-level formatting objects.
I'd suggest the use of semantic HTML elements (e.g. EM and STRONG) and
the STYLE attribute in the output, but at least these formatting
objects can be media-independent and this addresses my concern about

(Perhaps they're better described as "document objects" rather than
"formatting objects"?)


Håkon Wium Lie   
howcome@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx                      simply a better browser

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