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,
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,
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.
By Dave Pawson
ISBN 0-596-00355-2, 263 pages, $34.95 (US), $54.95 (CAN)