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Definitive XSL-FO

Definitive XSL-FO

4.0 1
by G. Ken Holman
In Definitive XSL-FO, one of the world’s leading XML experts shows how XSL-FO revolutionizes the publishing of graphic-arts quality print and electronic documents. The book offers concise, authoritative guidance for using every formatting object in the W3C® XSL-FO recommendation. Coverage includes objectives, semantics, vocabulary, key concepts,


In Definitive XSL-FO, one of the world’s leading XML experts shows how XSL-FO revolutionizes the publishing of graphic-arts quality print and electronic documents. The book offers concise, authoritative guidance for using every formatting object in the W3C® XSL-FO recommendation. Coverage includes objectives, semantics, vocabulary, key concepts, practical techniques, examples, and much more.

Product Details

Prentice Hall
Publication date:
Charles F. Goldfarb Definitive XML Series
Product dimensions:
6.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

We often take the printed form of information for granted.

Yet how many of us are satisfied with the printing functionality of a web browser? How often have you found the paginated result of printing a lengthy web document as easy to navigate as the electronic original?

Navigating a paginated document is very different from navigating a web page, and browser-based navigation mechanisms, understandably, will not work on printed output. How would we follow a printed hyperlink when the visible clickable content hides the underlying hyperlink target address?

When we produce a paginated presentation of our

Layout and typesetting controls give us the power to express our information on pages in a visually pleasing and perhaps meaningful way using a set of familiar typesetting conventions. Vendors of printing and publishing software have offered proprietary solutions implementing their choices of controls and aspects of layout using their semantics for paginated production. We may have been reluctant to use these proprietary tools for fear of locking ourselves into a technology not supported, or not supported well, by any other application.

Layout standards

Many aspects of layout are, in fact, adopted in the Web community; they are applicable for electronic displays and described in Recommendations such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). This Recommendation defines presentation semantics in areas such as font, margin, and color properties. Paginating marked up information is also not something new. The Document Style Semantics and Specification Language (DSSSL), the international standard on which XSL-FO is based, was used originally with SGML documents and therefore works unchanged with

Accepting that HTML and CSS are suitable and sufficient for browser-oriented rendering of information, the W3C set out to define a collection of pagination semantics for print-oriented rendering. Along with paper results, these pagination semantics are equally suitable for an electronic display of fixed-size folios of information, e.g. in page-turner browsers or Portable Document Format (PDF) readers.

The Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL), also known colloquially in our community as the Extensible Stylesheet Language Formatting Objects (XSL-FO), combines the heritage of CSS and DSSSL in a well-thoughtout and robust specification of formatting semantics for paginating information.

The Recommendation itself is a rigorous, lengthy, and involved technical specification of the processes and operations performed by a formatting engine to effect paginated results consistent with other formatting engines acting on the same inputs. Well-written for its intended purpose and useful as a reference, the document remains out of reach for many people who just want to write XSL-FO stylesheets and print their marked-up information.

About this book

Definitive XSL-FO is written for the beginning XSL-FO stylesheet writer, not the XSL-FO engine implementer.

Background and overview information sets the stage for the stylesheet writer to comprehend why this

It covers all the formatting objects of XSL-FO and summarizes their properties. This book assumes no prior knowledge of XSL-FO.

Simple things can be done simply in XSL-FO. The objective of this book is to help you get started producing high-quality layouts quickly. For esoteric requirements, the complete text of the XSL 1.0 Recommendation in all of its agonizing (but necessary) detail is required, so it is referenced section by section from the body of this book. Thus the reader with special requirements can delve into the nuance and finely-grained functionality not needed by most users.

Note that neither the Recommendation itself nor this book attempt to teach facets of typography and attractive or appropriate layout style, but only the formatting semantics, the implementation of those semantics, and the nuances of control available to the stylesheet writer and implemented by a stylesheet formatting tool. XSL-FO is a very powerful language with which we can possibly create very ugly or very beautiful pages from our

Typographical and navigation conventions

This book adopts a number of typographical conventions to assist in the navigation of the content.

  • Section references to the Recommendation are in italics and parentheses, e.g.: (6.10.2).
  • At times, Recommendation section references are paired with a page number from this book, e.g.: (7.18.1; 368).
  • Construct references are typeset as follows: Formatting objects and properties are in monospaced font (e.g.: basic-link, baseline-shift); Data types are in monospaced slanted font face (e.g.: angle); URL references are in monospaced font (e.g.: http://www.w3.org/TR/2001/REC-xsl-20011015/xslspec.html).

Meet the Author

G. KEN HOLMAN is Chief Technology Officer for Crane Softwrights Ltd. and Canadian chair of the ISO SGML standards group. Ken is an invited expert to the W3C®, a member of the W3C Working Group that developed XML, and founder of the OASIS Technical Committees for XML and XSLT conformance. His many books on XML technologies include Definitive XSLT and XPath.

About the Series Editor

CHARLES F. GOLDFARB is the father of XML technology. He invented SGML, the Standard Generalized Markup Language on which both XML and HTML are based. You can find him on the Web at www.xmlbooks.com.

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Definitive XSL-FO 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You have undoubtedly heard much of XML, but that deals with the storage and transmission of data, and not with its presentation in a human readable form. And you have dealt with HTML. But that is strictly for Web pages, and deals best only with the presentation of data. While for the printed page, you may have worked with TeX or Postscript/PDF. But is there a way to go from data in XML to its display on the web or on a page? And is this possible using a consistent syntax for both cases? More ambitiously, can we handle any human language, where the order of reading a page will vary? At the broadest level, this is where XSL-FO fits in. It is an intermediary language that does this translation. This book, by an expert in the field, actually emphasises the many variants of a printed page that cause a lot of the language's complexity. Not too surprising. Printing incorporates conventions accrued over the centuries, from many different cultures. Devising a language rich enough to merge all of the possible variations is not simple. (A bottoms-up problem, if you will.) Plus, printing onto pages is much trickier than printed onto a browser. In the latter, you can have an infinitely long page, and you can hyperlink to anywhere. Real pages have finite length, and hence you get grubby little details like widows and orphans and footnotes that have to be handled carefully. So be warned. The subject is far harder than HTML. This book is well suited for someone who has some prior experience in printed typography. Experience with TeX, troff or some of the Adobe page layout packages will be highly useful. It is all a little ironic. XSL-FO is a computer language. But if we all read solely from computer displays, then much of the rationale for it would vanish. However, that day is the day of the paperless office. And until we gain those sunlit uplands, there is a need for XSL-FO and for an authoritative book to describe it, like this one.