Chapter 8. Presentation Part II: XSL-FO

XSL-FO rounds out the trio of standards that make up XSL. The FO stands for Formatting Objects, which are containers of content that preserve structure and associate presentational information. XSLT prepares a document for formatting using XPath to disassemble it and produce an XSL-FO temporary file to drive a formatter.

Under a W3C charter, the XSL Working Group started to design a high-powered formatting language in 1998. XML was still new, but XSL was understood early on to be a factor in making it useful. The group split its efforts on two related technologies, a language for transformations (XSLT) and another for formatting (XSL-FO). XSLT, the first to become a recommendation in 1999, demonstrated itself to be generally useful even outside of publishing applications. XSL followed as a recommendation in 2001.

Cascading Style Sheets, a jewel in the crown of the W3C, had been around for a few years and was a strong influence on the development of XSL. Its simple but numerous property statements make it easy to learn. You will see that quite a few of these properties have been imported into XSL-FO. The CSS box model, elegant and powerful, is the basis for XSL-FO’s area model. Mostly what has been added to XSL-FO are semantics for handling page layout and complex writing systems.

The principal advantages of XSL over CSS are:

  • Print-specific semantics such as page breaking. CSS happens to be moving in this direction too, so this distinction is ...

Get Learning XML, 2nd Edition now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.