The Next Stage in Composition — McIlroy

But still nothing to do with print. I remember clearly at Seybold Seminars in the late ’90s I would ask Web CMS and system vendors if they had any print options. The quizzical look I got back said it clearly: “Why would you want to do that?”

Fortunately some concerned participants in the W3C thought that it might be a good idea to make it possible to create professional-level print from XML-tagged data.

Perhaps the best source of information for the thinking behind XSL-FO comes from a fine article written by Stephen Deach for The Seybold Reports (“What is XSL-FO and When Should I Use It,” Vol. 2, No. 17, December 9, 2002). He points to three problems that the XSL Working Group faced:

1) There was no language to describe the pagination of complex documents on the Web.

2) There was no way to deal with long documents and complex layouts.

3) The typography in CSS had been designed for browsers, not for print.

Data Conversion Laboratory, in its Website glossary, writes: “XSL. . . is a stylesheet language that gives us the ability to specify how data coded with XML will format on-screen (emphasis added). This language was developed based on the ISO companion standard for SGML known as DSSSL. . .”

On-screen? What could they possibly mean “on-screen”? That’s not what XSL is about. Or is it? As Deach describes in the cross-media objectives: “XSL should cover the basic presentation requirements for. . . a wide range of display devices, including reflow or repagination for palmtop devices, and for the accessibility requirements that are now mandated by many governments.”

Therein lays another example of this schizophrenia involving all things XML. Is the prime purpose print, or is it electronic presentation? OK, it’s both. So can one standardized approach really address the cross-media challenge? Or will it meet the same fate as every other product or system that claims to handle cross-media? Failure. Adobe itself in the latest version of InDesign essentially admits that the cross-media dream had not worked out as previously expected. The cross-media feature of In-Design CS is to bundle up all the print text and graphics and ship them over to GoLive, a Web publishing application.

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