[NTG-context] Context against XSL

Hans Hagen pragma at wxs.nl
Fri Oct 1 11:25:32 CEST 2004

Taco Hoekwater wrote:

> Hans Hagen <pragma at wxs.nl> wrote:
>>I'm on and off implementing an fo engine (foxet) and run into fuzziness 
>>with regards to the specs (a bad omen is that that there i could not 
>>find a good manual and the ones i have are made up rather poorly, which 
>>indicated that we're not so much dealing with high end typesetting, but 
>>with regular batchprocessing of not too complex documents).
> The longer one has to read in the XSL-FO specification, the more one 
> resents having to do so. If you are lookiing for a road towards creating 
> pdf documents, then ConTeXt is like an actual freeway with perhaps a few 
> potholes and missing roadsigns, where XSL-FO is a set of directions on how 
> to create a jungle road, written down by a civil engineer with terrible
> handwriting mirroring a quite chaotic mind who nonetheless insists on 
> doing everything "the right way"(tm). 

you're right! unfortunately those engineers can ride on the back of the 
horse with xml painted all over it, which makes it good by principle for 
those who pay them; an interesting aspect of this is that while xml 
opens many roads, the tendensy is towards taking one road; there is 
probably some thinking behind this that we suddenly can solve all 
problems for ever and do with one road.

btw, as with much xml related things: much of what is around as 
'standard' is actually just a reversed engineered application interface, 
or worse: serving as an interface to different applications which makes 
it fuzzy; take xsl: there are a lot of dupplicate attributes just to 
serve css; this is strange because the whole idea behind xslt (which is 
mostly ok) is that one can transform, so there is no need for those 
duplicates. The engineer serves to many masters.

apart from the specs, fo lacks a real proper box model: (like css, there 
is no real way to do for instance vertical alignment comparable with 
tex's fill's); it somehow started from the wrong angle;  and then .. how 
about math, chemistry, etc -) a long road ahead

> Various people have been busy trying to build that road according to the 
> specifications, and some of the toll (payfare) roads are in fact reasonably 
> close. I'm speaking with a certain fondness in my voice really, because I 
> am also busy implementing a (commercial) fo engine using ConTeXt.


comparisons between the not-taco engines show big differences (also in 
price) and as soon as extensions start coming into the picture, the 
'acclaimed advantage of fo' disappears. Some peeople pay five digit 
numbers for engines where formulas has to be included as graphic.

I sometimes wonder if it makes sense to cook up an alternative model on 
top of context -)


                                           Hans Hagen | PRAGMA ADE
               Ridderstraat 27 | 8061 GH Hasselt | The Netherlands
      tel: 038 477 53 69 | fax: 038 477 53 74 | www.pragma-ade.com
                                              | www.pragma-pod.nl

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