Sebastopol, CA--No matter how flexible and convenient digital information has become, we haven't yet done away with the need to see documents in print. But many XML users, whose focus is on creating high-quality digital source documents, find that formatting the printed output often comes as an afterthought. O'Reilly's latest release, XSL-FO by Dave Pawson (US $34.95), explores one method by which developers and web designers can convert XML to print. Extensible Style Language-Formatting Objects, or XSL-FO, is a set of tools used to describe page printouts of XML (including XHTML) documents. If you need to produce printed material from your XML documents, then XSL-FO can provide the bridge.
One of the few books to go beyond a basic introduction to the technology, "XSL-FO" offers in-depth coverage of XSL-FO's features and strengths. An online version of the book has helped many developers master this technology, but the release of XSL-FO marks the first time this reference has been available in print.
"This book covers the same content found in the published recommendation," says Pawson, who is well known in the XSLT and XSL-FO communities, and maintains the XSLT FAQ. "The focus throughout this book is to help users of XSL-FO. It is not a theoretical discourse on the recommendation, but a complement to the recommendation. I have tried to write something that bridges the gap between implementer and user, with a bias towards the user."
According to Pawson, XSL-FO technology will increase in importance as XML begins to make real inroads into the Web and business. "Business thrives on information, one presentation of which is on paper," he notes. "Since I firmly believe in the viability of XML for both documents and raw business data, I can only think that the presentation of selected information on paper will rise with the use of XML. Information is only useful when it's moving; the abstraction of that information using XML-based tools for management and leisure purposes is essential for ready, automatic access."
The book begins with an overview of the technology and an introduction to the XSL-FO vocabulary. The author explains how to choose among today's implementations, how to describe pages, and talks about what is going on in the processor in terms of layout. In addition to discussing the technology, Pawson also explains the basics of formatting, layout, and readability.
The latter part of the book focuses on smaller pieces: blocks, inline structures, graphics, color and character level formatting, concluding by showing how to integrate these parts into a coherent whole. "XSL-FO" also explores organizational aspects you'll need to consider, such as how to design stylesheets strategically rather than letting them evolve on their own.
"XSL-FO" is more than just a guide to the technology; the book teaches developers how to think about the formatting of their documents, guiding readers through the questions they'll need to ask to ensure that their printed documents meet the same high standards as their computer-generated content. Written for experienced XML developers and web designers, this book contains more useful information on this practical technology than any other book available.
Chapter 6, Inline Elements is available free online
O’Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O’Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying “faint signals” from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.