[NTG-context] Re: Context against XSL

Matt Gushee mgushee at havenrock.com
Fri Oct 1 19:18:47 CEST 2004

On Fri, Oct 01, 2004 at 12:53:22PM +0200, Nikolai Weibull wrote:
> * Hans Hagen <pragma at wxs.nl> [Oct 01, 2004 12:40]:
> > 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.
> Heh, serious?  That's incredible.  I'm really beginning to doubt the
> "authoring in XML"-bandwagon's legitimacy.
> 	nikolai

You and most of the XML community (I once claimed to be part of that,
but have lately tried to distance myself, partly for the reasons being
discussed here). The original idea was that XML would be a new and
better way to author *Web documents*. Somewhere along the line it
morphed into a general-purpose, universal data exchange format, in which
capacity it serves reasonably well (though it likely should have been
designed differently, had people foreseen how it would actually be

Meanwhile, a ragged band of diehards continued trying to develop
and promote XML specifically as a web technology and/or a document
technology, but I think very few people have much hope in that area any
more. There was an article on O'Reilly Network's XML.com in July
entitled "XML on the Web has Failed"; that may not settle the question,
but such a statement would have been unthinkable 2 or 3 years ago.

But to get back to the question of XSL: a couple of years ago I was
looking for a way to generate print-ready documents from XML. I tried
the then-latest version of FOP, which was and maybe still is the most
popular open-source XSL-FO processor. I was amazed, after several years
of its development by the Apache project, how many features were
unimplemented, including some that I considered obvious and important
for complex documents (I think, for example, there was no way to do
footnotes). In hindsight, this probably shouldn't have been surprising.
Print documents are complex, and few people are interested in them,
relative to the Web. There probably aren't enough users or interested
programmers to support more than a couple of high-quality products in
this problem space.

Anyway, when I found that FOP wouldn't meet my needs, I started
searching for something else--and found ConTeXt.  Architecturally, it
may not have XSL's Neoclassical tidiness, but it has one huge advantage:
it works.

Matt Gushee                 When a nation follows the Way,
Haven Rock Press            Horses bear manure through
Englewood, Colorado, USA        its fields;   
books at havenrock.com         When a nation ignores the Way,
                            Horses bear soldiers through
                                its streets.
                            --Lao Tzu (Peter Merel, trans.)

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