Re: [xsl] XSL-FO versus PostScript

Subject: Re: [xsl] XSL-FO versus PostScript
From: Jim Melton <jim.melton@xxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 27 Feb 2003 20:43:57 -0700
This will undoubtedly sound like a tautology, but a meaningful answer (one that is highly persuasive for me, at least) is that "XSL FO is XML". If you've ever coded in TeX, or even in LaTeX, you'll have an idea of just how painful it can be. I have done very significant amounts of raw TeX coding and have quite a few gray hairs to show for it. By contrast, writing documents in XML is merely tedious and there are already tools that allow the process to be a bit less painful still. Once I have a document coded in XML, I can "repurpose" the document from hardcopy (e.g., PostScript) to screen (e.g., PDF) to web browser (e.g., HTML) simply by writing additional stylesheets and then (for XSL FO) rendering the result into the final form. The ability to have all of my documents in XML is worth quite a lot. They become searchable (think XQuery), transformable (think XSLT), and (as I just described) repurposable. None of those things are nearly as true for documents written using TeX.

Now, if you have highly specialized publishing needs, then you need to find the tool/system that does the job you need. Not very many business documents have a burning need to print text in a spiral on the page, but clearly some do (e.g., advertisements). XML and XSLT and XSL FO are probably not good candidates for that sort of document. However, that combination is absolutely dynamite for producing the thousands of pages of documentation that go along with complex software systems, airplane construction, nuclear power plant design, and scores of other applications.

Message? Choose the appropriate tool for the job. Raw PostScript is good at some things and bad at others. The same is true of Tex, of LaTeX, of XML, of SQL, of Fortran, of Java, etc. etc. etc. "..very cool..." is certainly one criterion to use, but my boss would much rather pay for useful functionality than the cool factor ;^)

Hope this helps,

At 19:06 2003-02-27 -0800 Thursday, Zack Brown wrote:
On Thu, Feb 27, 2003 at 07:52:46PM +0000, David Carlisle wrote:
> > Wouldn't that be very cool?
> well it would be very familiar at least.
> Anyone using a postscript back end to (la)tex typesetting has been able
> to do all those kind of things for a couple of decades or so.
> I don't think it really fits with the FO model though.
> the point of FO is that it intentionally cuts out lots of device
> specific processing so that it can be a cross platform language
> for specifying the style and layout.

But (and I'm not trying to be antagonistic, just trying to make a decision),
why doesn't this restrict XSL-FO to being just a cute example of an XML
application? If by using TeX, people can get the power of PostScript without
sacrificing XSL-FO's high level formatting features, then why wouldn't TeX
be the proper solution for their problem? Even if XSL-FO is fully device
independent, a TeX/PS solution isn't exactly device specific.

So to sum up the argument so far:

I asked why we should prefer XSL-FO over PostScript, since PostScript is
more powerful. The reply was that PostScript didn't have the high level
document features provided by XSL-FO. So now my reply is, TeX provides
those high-level features, *and* it allows PostScript constructs that
give the full power of PostScript to the user. Is there another reason
to prefer XSL-FO?


> In particular in FO there is no feedback from the typeset constructs to
> the layout engine so you can't ask as you can in PS or TeX, "does this
> fit here" changing that would be a big change to FO.
> David
>  XSL-List info and archive:

Zack Brown

XSL-List info and archive:

======================================================================== Jim Melton --- Editor of ISO/IEC 9075-* (SQL) Phone: +1.801.942.0144 Oracle Corporation Oracle Email: mailto:jim.melton@xxxxxxxxxx 1930 Viscounti Drive Standards email: mailto:jim.melton@xxxxxxx Sandy, UT 84093-1063 Personal email: mailto:jim@xxxxxxxxxxx USA Fax : +1.801.942.3345 ======================================================================== = Facts are facts. However, any opinions expressed are the opinions = = only of myself and may or may not reflect the opinions of anybody = = else with whom I may or may not have discussed the issues at hand. = ========================================================================

XSL-List info and archive:

Current Thread