Re: [xsl] FO Processor choice

Subject: Re: [xsl] FO Processor choice
From: Eliot Kimber <ekimber@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 03 Feb 2004 08:40:34 -0600
Andrew Welch wrote:

Has anyone started out with FOP and then had to 'upgrade' to a
commercial processor for any reason?

If you need to process documents in "difficult" langauges such as Arabic, Hebrew, and Thai, then FOP is not an option as it doesn't provide either right-to-left writing mode or Thai glyph shaping (in fact, only XSL Formatter provides Thai glyph shapping, so if you have a Thai requirement, XSL Formatter is your only choice at the moment). I don't believe it does Arabic glyph shaping either, although it might.

In my experience so far using XSL-FO for publishing of localized documents it appears that Thai composition is the hardest problem and I think Antenna House have more than earned their license charge for the considerable effort they've put into implementing Thai composition. For commercial enterprises that must provide documents in most of the world's national languages the license cost for XSL Formatter or XEP is a tiny fraction of the total cost of producing documents and is a tremendous value in terms of process simplification, standardization, and quality assurance. As far as I know, support for Thai is the only major difference between XSL Formatter and XEP with respect to support for non-Western languages, although XSL Formatter does implement some extensions for Japanese typographic conventions not provided for in XSL FO 1.0.

But if you don't have this type of internationalization/localization requirement, then FOP may well be able to meet your requirements. And if you are not a for-profit enterprise then of course the value equation may be quite different.

When compared with other common and powerful tools used in document production tool chains, such as Enfocus' PitStop Server, the license fees for XSL Formatter and XEP are quite reasonable. And when compared to older legacy SGML-supporting composition systems, which tended to start 100K dollars US back in the day, quite a bargain.

The hidden cost of FOP is the cost of maintenance, bugs, and nonconformance. I know that the FOP team is working hard to correct these issues and I hope that they succeed, because the FO user community needs a solid, open-source implementation. Such an implementation will not significantly erode the market for commercial FO implementations because those implementations will always be able to provide additional value that is worth paying for.


W. Eliot Kimber
Professional Services
Innodata Isogen
9030 Research Blvd, #410
Austin, TX 78758
(512) 372-8122


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