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Do 3B2 pagination type features available in XSL:FO

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  • Anjani Maurya
    Hi all, I am a template developer using 3B2 pagination software. I want to know does any xslfo formatter provides such features as avialable in other
    Message 1 of 3 , Feb 1, 2006
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      Hi all,

      I am a template developer using 3B2 pagination software. I want to
      know does any xslfo formatter provides such features as avialable in
      other pagination softwares(i.e quark-express, indesign, 3B2 etc.)

      a). making round corner boxes, drawing rules.
      b). adjusting left, right, top and bottom margins.
      c). auto generating footnotes.
      d). placing figures and table near to their callouts in the running
      text.
      e). frames with unequal column widths.
      f). colour-gradient styles.
      g). recto-verso style variation etc.


      Does XSL:FO fullfil such requirements in electronic typesetting.

      Your guidance will be highly appreciated.

      Regards,
      Anjani Maurya
    • G. Ken Holman
      ... While the software you cite is self-contained, using XSL-FO for styling is the second step of a two-step process of algorithmically preparing your content
      Message 2 of 3 , Feb 2, 2006
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        At 2006-02-02 04:20 +0000, Anjani Maurya wrote:
        >I am a template developer using 3B2 pagination software. I want to
        >know does any xslfo formatter provides such features as avialable in
        >other pagination softwares(i.e quark-express, indesign, 3B2 etc.)

        While the software you cite is self-contained, using XSL-FO for
        styling is the second step of a two-step process of algorithmically
        preparing your content for layout (often with XSLT, though not
        mandatory) and then using XSL-FO for the actual layout constructs.

        Also, some vendors may offer extensions one can use to engage
        features not described by the semantics of XSL-FO layout.

        >a). making round corner boxes,

        Not round-corner boxes, but areas can be bordered.

        >drawing rules.

        Yes for horizontal rules.

        >b). adjusting left, right, top and bottom margins.

        Yes.

        >c). auto generating footnotes.

        Footnote layout is supported in XSL-FO, it is up to your
        transformation step to decide what goes into the footnotes. Since
        there is nothing "automatic" in an arbitrary transformation, I would
        not say "auto generating". But the combination of transformation and
        XSL-FO supports many footnote citation requirements.

        Notably one requirement not met by XSL-FO is a footnote whose
        citation scheme restarts on a page break.

        >d). placing figures and table near to their callouts in the running
        > text.

        Responsibility of the transformation. XSL-FO does include floating
        content to the nearest "top of page", which might be what you are asking.

        >e). frames with unequal column widths.

        Pages can only have equal-sized evenly-spaced columns for flowed
        content. Tables can have arbitrary unequal column widths.

        >f). colour-gradient styles.

        I don't understand your need here ... XSL-FO provides for the
        arbitrary specification of colour that can then be interpreted by the
        vendor's tool.

        >g). recto-verso style variation etc.

        Yes, XSL-FO provides for different header/footer content based on
        page parity, but no, XSL-FO does not provide for "inside/outside"
        formatting of the flow based on page parity.

        I hope this helps. On our web site linked in my trailer below, under
        the "Books & free excerpts" section you can download for free an
        excerpt of the book we sell on XSL-FO that should answer a lot of
        your questions and give you a good overview.

        . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ken




        --
        Upcoming XSLT/XSL-FO hands-on courses: Denver,CO March 13-17,2006
        World-wide on-site corporate, govt. & user group XML/XSL training.
        G. Ken Holman mailto:gkholman@...
        Crane Softwrights Ltd. http://www.CraneSoftwrights.com/f/
        Box 266, Kars, Ontario CANADA K0A-2E0 +1(613)489-0999 (F:-0995)
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      • Eliot Kimber
        ... Drawing horizontal or vertical rules can be done in several ways with FO. All the useful FO implementations also support the use of SVG to draw anything
        Message 3 of 3 , Feb 2, 2006
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          Anjani Maurya wrote:
          > Hi all,
          >
          > I am a template developer using 3B2 pagination software. I want to
          > know does any xslfo formatter provides such features as avialable in
          > other pagination softwares(i.e quark-express, indesign, 3B2 etc.)
          >
          > a). making round corner boxes, drawing rules.

          Drawing horizontal or vertical rules can be done in several ways with
          FO. All the useful FO implementations also support the use of SVG to
          draw anything SVG can draw.

          Antenna House XSL Formatter includes extensions for doing rounded box
          corners. These are not quite as complete as 3B2's but close.

          > b). adjusting left, right, top and bottom margins.

          Not sure what you mean by this. Page margins can be varied on a per-page
          basis by using different page masters, although they cannot be
          arbitrarily changed outside of the definition of a page sequence (that
          is, there's nothing you can put in a flow that would directly affect the
          page margins on a given page).

          > c). auto generating footnotes.

          XSL-FO has a footnote feature (automatic placement) and both XSL
          Formatter and XEP provide extensions for doing column footnotes
          (standard FO only provides full-page footnotes).

          However, neither FO nor the commercial tools provide the full range of
          footnote placement features that 3B2 provides (especially through things
          like footnote control streams and rendition-time macros).

          > d). placing figures and table near to their callouts in the running
          > text.

          FO has some features for this, including top and side floats (but not
          bottom floats unless you use footnotes (and don't have any real
          footnotes on that page)).

          Neither FO nor any implementations provide the equivalent of 3B2's
          anchor control streams, which let you do very sophisticated automated
          placement of floats.

          > e). frames with unequal column widths.

          Not directly. In FO columns must be of equal width.

          However, in FO 1.1 you can simulate this with multiple flows. Also, both
          XEP and XSL Formatter provide extensions that make it possible to
          achieve major/minor type layouts where the minor column only holds
          single-page marginalia items.

          > f). colour-gradient styles.

          You can use any background graphic, including gradients. You can also
          use inline or external SVG to do gradients (assuming your FO
          implementation supports SVG gradients).

          > g). recto-verso style variation etc.

          Yes, you can have different page masters for even and odd pages, and so
          on. FO 1.0 fails to provide inside/outside options for some items, but
          this has been corrected in FO 1.1. Both XEP and XSL Formatter provide
          extensions for inside/outside placement.

          > Does XSL:FO fullfil such requirements in electronic typesetting.

          This is always a difficult question to answer because it is highly
          dependent on the details of the requirements for a particular
          publication or class of publication.

          Because XSL-FO systems tend to be so much less expensive than systems
          built using proprietary composition systems, the better question is
          often "can I reduce my requirements to the set supported by XSL-FO and
          its implementations in order to recognize the savings and benefits of
          using XSL-FO?" If the answer is "yes" then FO is the answer. If the
          answer is "NO" then it's not. Of course that still leaves open the
          question of what XSL-FO can or can't do. This is an easy question to
          answer in the context of specific layout sample, hard to answer generically.

          That all said, FO was always targeted at the requirements of technical
          documentation and not high-end documents like textbooks, magazines, and
          the like.

          In Innodata Isogen's practice as a development of publishing systems and
          provider of composition services, we have found that the FO standard and
          current FO implementations, while quite powerful and clearly appropriate
          for most technical documentation applications, are simply not up to the
          task of rendering more demanding publications such as textbooks and
          magazines, what I tend to refer to as "highly-designed documents".

          Also, all XSL-FO implementations are geared for lights-out, batch
          operation. This means that there is really no opportunity for
          interactive modification of the rendered result the way there is in 3B2,
          Quark, InDesign, or XPP. While you could, in theory, generate XSL-FO
          instances and then tweak them, there are no user interfaces for doing this.

          Also, the abstract XSL-FO processing model explicitly lacks feedback
          from the pagination stage back to the FO generation stage, which means
          that there are no features in XSL-FO for doing what FO calls
          "layout-driven" formatting, that is formatting that depends on knowledge
          of where a given object falls on a page relative to other objects. This
          kind of feedback can be implemented using a two-pass process, but I
          don't know of anyone whose done this in any general way (Ken Holman has
          published some work he's done to do a sort of 1/2 send pass to do index
          generation).

          So if you have requirements that are defined in terms of where something
          falls in the pagination stream or in terms of how much space it takes
          relative to other things, then XSL-FO is probably not going to work, at
          least not without significant additional implementation effort.

          Also, XSL-FO provides few features for automatic copyfitting, which is
          something that tools like 3B2 can do reasonably well. XSL Formatter
          provides some "make it fit" features but they are limited compared to
          3B2's copyfitting features.

          In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that Innodata
          Isogen is currently developing and marketing a new composition offering
          built around what we are calling the "tool-agnostic layout system"
          (TALS), which uses a generic style sheet mechanism to then generate
          renderers that can then generate the input into different composition
          systems, including 3B2 and similar systems.

          The style sheet mechanism is proprietary to Innodata Isogen but strongly
          informed by XSL-FO and intended to be a completely neutral repository of
          all the formatting information for a given schema-to-layout-design
          binding. While the style sheet design is proprietary we are treating it
          as though it were a standard--that is, our business intent is not to
          achieve propietary lock-in of our customers but to provide them with a
          system that has the characteristics of a standard, namely providing a
          neutral data format that protects them from the downstream tools as much
          as possible and lowers the overall cost of developing XML-based
          publishing systems (by reducing engineering costs, enabling practical
          re-use of style specifications, and automating composition with high-end
          composition tools as much as possible (reducing the amount of hand work
          needed to paginate documents).

          Clients of this system own their style definitions and therefore have
          the right to use a different implementation (we see our secret sauce
          being the implementation of the renderer generators, not the style sheet
          language itself). As in the XSL-FO market, we should be competing on
          value, not trying to develop a proprietary monopoly.

          We originally developed this approach in order to serve the needs of our
          own professional services practice--we wanted to eliminate duplication
          and redundancy in the development of format analysis reports and the
          XSLT transforms that come out of them, but quickly realized that there
          was a large opportunity to serve additional needs of publishers. Our
          orignal plan to was to generate FO renderers (that is, renderers that
          generate XSL-FO output, which is the bulk of what we develop in our
          professional services practice). However, we got early interest from
          publishers that were trying to get control over their use of 3B2-based
          composition vendors to compose publications from XML source. We realized
          that if we could better automate the generation of the input into tools
          like 3B2, we could help publishers get more control over their
          composition process, get more consistency in their results, and,
          hopefully, lower the overall cost of publishing a given title, and,
          possibly, reduce the time it takes to produce a publication (by
          significantly reducing the time required to go from manuscript to final
          pages).

          Note that the intent of this system is absolutely *not* to compete with
          existing composition tools, whether XSL-FO-based or proprietary. Rather,
          we are trying to make it easier for clients to use different composition
          tools and lower the cost of getting from XML to published pages, which,
          we hope, will increase the market for composition tools (and, as a side
          effect, encourage vendors of proprietary composition systems to compete
          more on value (which they already do of course, but there is significant
          proprietary lock-in for a tool like 3B2 or InDesign or XPP once you've
          made the investment in skills and tools and data for using it).

          In the context of XSL-FO systems, the only potential downside from our
          system is that we might lower the cost (both in dollars and in risk of
          proprietary lock in) of using high-end compositions systems to the point
          where they become competitive with XSL-FO-based systems where the XSL-FO
          system would otherwise satisfy the composition requirements. It's
          certainly not our intent to develop a technology disruptive to the
          XSL-FO market but it may be an unavoidable consequence. Of course, this
          might also drive the FO development community to work harder at
          extending the FO specification so that it is more applicable to high-end
          composition needs....

          Our initial implementation efforts have been on generating 3B2 input,
          which is why I happen to know pretty much precisely how XSL-FO and its
          implementations relate to the specific features of 3B2.

          Cheers,

          Eliot
          --
          W. Eliot Kimber
          Professional Services
          Innodata Isogen
          9390 Research Blvd, #410
          Austin, TX 78759
          (512) 372-8841

          ekimber@...
          www.innodata-isogen.com
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