[xsl] "xsl", xslt and xsl-fo [Was: XSL wish list - page column gap/separator line]

Subject: [xsl] "xsl", xslt and xsl-fo [Was: XSL wish list - page column gap/separator line]
From: Tony Graham <Tony.Graham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 12 Feb 2010 20:25:19 +0000
On Fri, Feb 12 2010 12:35:45 +0000, davep@xxxxxxxxxxxxx wrote:
> On 12/02/10 12:10, Andrew Welch wrote:
>>>> Is there a reason why it can't be referred to as "XSL-FO" whenever you
>>>> mean XSL-FO?

In this case, it's as much a case of old habits dying hard.

In thinking about this today, it seems to me that the XSL (1.1 and 1.0)
Rec is possibly unique in specifying that you *have* to get to the
formatting objects by transforming from some other XML.  Most specs
start by specifying their XML format, and how the XML is created isn't
their concern.  In XSL 1.1, transformation is mentioned in the second
paragraph of the abstract.  Though the SVG 1.1 spec talks about arriving
at SVG as the result of XSLT [3], it's down in section 6.6, and the XSLT
example provided transforms SVG to SVG.

You can arrive at FO markup directly, but probably no-one thinks it's a
good idea.  Using SVG as the file format for a graphics program is
fairly common, but if you said your word processor format was FO markup,
it wouldn't be a big hit.

The idea that you just don't write FO markup ran deep in XSL's DNA.  In
the DTD for testcases for testing XSL [4], it was at least four months
after the DTD was written before it was updated to allow FO files as
input instead of having to provide both an XML file and a XSLT
stylesheet.  (FWIW, I favoured the change.)

Formatting objects are still inextricably linked with transformation,
whether or not a title or URL says XSL or XSL-FO.

>> yeah... in my humble opinion, it just causes confusion.  "XSL" in the
>> wild is nearly always intended to mean "XSLT", anyone who ever wants
>> to refer to XSL-FO always uses the "FO" part....

If operating systems favoured four-character extensions on filenames
instead of three-character extensions, we probably wouldn't even be
having this exchange [1].

>> The announcements titled "XSL 2.0" could easily be called "XSL-FO
>> 2.0", then you don't have to explain the history to anyone about the
>> distinction between "xsl", xslt and xsl-fo.

So that those that *do* know history are condemned to repeat it?

> +1. I wonder if  the WG can do anything?

The official place to give feedback is the W3C public Bugzilla.  See


Tony Graham                         Tony.Graham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Director                                  W3C XSL FO SG Invited Expert
Menteith Consulting Ltd                               XML Guild member
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[1] Try searching for "htm file" and see how often people use "htm" as a
    word, e.g., "How to run a script file from a htm page?" [2].
[2] http://www.msfn.org/board/lofiversion/index.php/t54150.html
[3] http://www.w3.org/TR/2003/REC-SVG11-20030114/styling.html#StylingWithXSL
[4] http://www.w3.org/Style/XSL/TestSuite/tools/testsuite.dtd

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