Recently in XSL-FO Category

foActive <X>Styler

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And going on with Word as XSL-FO editor theme - take a look at a brand new tool called foActive <X>Styler:

foActive <X>Styler is a plug-in for Microsoft Word 2003 Professional which allows a user to design and test dynamic document templates right from within the Word authoring environment.

<X>Styler is used to create XSL templates for server-based transformation for high-volume dynamic document print applications such as direct mail, correspondence, invoicing, statements, contracts, and legal forms.
And more:
Writing XSL templates that generate XSL FO output can be a difficult task, one suited for an engineer and not a marketing person. What the industry needed was an easy-to-use tool for designing templates to convert XML to XSL FO using XSL. There are applications that have recently emerged to do just this, however these are standalone applications designed from the ground-up for just this purpose. As such, they can be unnecessarily complex and require specific custom training to master. They expose all the functionality and complexities of XSL to the end-user.

And so foActive designed <X>Styler, merging the most common desktop application in use -- Microsoft Word -- with the difficult to master XSL design. We coupled the whole system to the industry's best XSL FO engine -- RenderX -- to deliver a complete solution for a wide variety of XSL design tasks.
That's what I was talking about all the way.

The price is set at $199, beta program is open. Sounds really cool.

jCatalog Software AG has releaed XSLfast 3.0 - XSL-FO WYSIWYG editor. What's new in version 3.0. In general XSL-FO doesn't meant to be authored, the idea is that XSL-FO is generated using XSLT. Unfortunately that requires knowledge of XSL-FO twisted vocabulary and, well, XSLT. I always knew WYSIWYG editor could save XSL-FO and XSLfast might be that one. If only the price wasn't freaking 890,00 EUR per license. And that probably doesn't include XSL-FO formatter itself!

Btw, after years and years Apache FOP Team's finally discussing 1.0 release...

Altsoft N.V. has announced a relase of the Xml2PDF formatting engine version 2.3, now supporting WordML. Altsoft Xml2PDF is a .NET based formatting engine for converting various XML-based formats to PDF. It supports XSL-FO, SVG, XHTML, WordML and XML+XSLT as an input and generates PDF as an output. The prices are from $49 for the Workstation version to $1599 for the API version. Free evaluation versions are available.

Microsoft Word as XSL-FO visual editor?

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That's interesting - MSDN has published "Transforming Word Documents into the XSL-FO Format" article by Alexei Gagarinov (RenderX) and Mark Iverson (Microsoft). The article introduces WordprocessingML and XSL-FO vocabularies and shows how to transform Word documents to into XSL-FO using developed by RenderX Word2FO.xsl stylesheet. That stylesheet is available in the article's download and supports rich enough but currently a bit limited subset of WordprocessingML/XSL-FO features, btw it does support images.

That's quite unusual for Microsoft to even mention XSL-FO, usually they just ignore it.

Another interesting tidbit. As Kevin Brown of RenderX told me in a private mail (I think I can quote him):

The style sheets and extra tools are available for download through this link. We will be creating a new website section for them and for suggestions for improving them. This coupled with the Microsoft XSL tool we have been using makes a decent environment for using Word as an XSL Designer for XSL FO applications.
Hmm, good move, I like it. XSL-FO desperately needs visual designer. Antenna House is developing something called "XSL Report Designer", to be released really soon, but who need it if you can use old good Word? And also Antenna sells WordMLToFO Stylesheet for just $980. That's not a price that can make a technology really popular, we need a cheap (preferably free) Word to XSL-FO conversion, that's gonna boost XSL-FO as a technology.

You can try a trial of some PDF to Word software to see if taking your documents and converting PDF to Word will make things more easily formatted than before the PDF conversion helped you to do a convert PDF to Word operation.

Hmmm, debugging XSL-FO... That might be great idea actually. Here is interesting innovation from Altsoft N.V. (maker of the Xml2PDF formatting engine for .NET) - XSL-FO debugger. And it's even free!

XEP 4.0 released

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RenderX has released new major version of their famous XSL-FO Formatter - XEP 4.0, "with many more features and performance improvements".

The engine supports the XSL Formatting Objects (XSL FO) Recommendation and the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) Recommendation for uniform, powerful, industry standard representation of source documents. XEP renders multi-media content in Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF) and Adobe Postscript, the de-facto standards for digital typography. It conforms to Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) Version 1.0, a W3C recommendation. It also supports a subset of the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 1.1 Specification. XEP outputs formatted documents in Adobe's PDF version 1.3 (with optional support for features from new versions) and PostScript level 2 or 3 formats.

Antenna House released first lite version of their famous XSL Formatter (XSL-FO to PDF). It's much more cheaper than full version (only $300 for Windows version), but has a bit annoying (at least for me) limitations:

Total page number of the formatted pages are limited to 300. The watermark that shows the limited version is displayed on the back ground and the URL of our Website is displayed at the bottom of the pages which exceed 300.
Arabic, Hebrew and Thai are not supported. The formatted result is not correct.
The auto layout of the table is not supported. table-layout="auto" is invalid.
Anyway, free evaluation version, support for .NET - not bad.

RenderX has announced the first release (somehow it's v3.0 :) of XEP.NET - XSL-FO formatter for .NET.

XEP.NET is a Visual J#.NET port of RenderX XEP, an XSL formatter for Java; its functionality and XSL FO support level are identical to the Java version. The XEP.NET core is wrapped in an API that exposes standard .NET interfaces for XML processing. This public API forms a .NET class library component that can be used from any .NET programming language: C#, VB.NET, or J#.NET. Additionally, the software includes a class library for MSXML integration that allows use of MSXML SAX parser and transformation APIs in addition to .NET system interfaces.
Prices from $299.95 (client edition) to $4999.95(server edition), free trial (11 pages only), free academic edition. Now this is really interesting:
All editions include XEP.NET Assistant - a graphical shell to make formatting more convenient, and command-line tools for launching the formatter and the validator.
Lack of visual XSL-FO designers is one of main XSL-FO weaknesses. I'm glad to see such XSL-FO legend as RenderX is trying to fix it.

RenderX, a company behind famous XEP XSL-FO formatter plans to release a .NET version. Great news! XEP is the best production quality Java XSL-FO formatter I've ever seen. It's not unexpensive, but it covers XSL-FO a way better than free Apache FOP (I have to add "unfortunately", being one of FOP committers).

XEP.NET is an XSL-FO formatter component for .NET, capable of producing PDF and PostScript from XSL-FO data. The product is based on a proven Java core, and is fully identical in functionality to the latest Java version. The software is 100% manageable .NET code: no native libraries are used. It exposes standard .NET interfaces for XML processing (XmlReader and XmlWriter). Additionally, classes for smooth MSXML integration are included, with source code.

The package also includes a command-line utility and a simple GUI tool to run XSL-FO formatting.

Windows 2000/XP;
.NET Framework 1.1 or higher;
Visual J# Redistributable 1.1 or higher.
Seeing J# in prerequisites I can assume they have ported Java code into J# actually. Why not?

Meanwhile RenderX is looking for beta testers.

XSL 1.1 first WD

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First working draft of XSL 1.1 has been published.

Version 1.1 updates the XSL 1.0 Recommendation for change marks, indexes, multiple flows, and bookmarks, and extends support for graphics scaling, markers, and page numbers.

For those unfamiliar, that's XSL-FO spec, XML vocabulary for expression formatting semantics for high-quality paginated presentation. I've been XSL-FO zealot back in 2001-2002, working with it very closely implementing XSL-FO output channel (pdf, tiff, fax, printer) for the system I was working on that time, contemplating on this IMO the biggest W3C Recommendation ever (400+ pages), evangelizing XSL-FO by helping people on many mail lists and working on Apache FOP project (hey, I'm still That was great experience. XSL-FO is a successor of DSSSL and has plenty of extremely interesting people from document-centric publishing world around it, yeah that was great. Nowadays that's even impossible to dig out Joe English's DSSSL song out of the NET, anyway here is another dsssl song by Tony Graham (just to make you feel that spirit):

By Tony Graham (to the tune of "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" by Andrew Lloyd-Webber)

This won't be easy,
you'll think it's strange.
When I try to explain how I print -
that I use an ISO standard
after all that I've done.

You won't believe me.
All you will see is the good output,
although it's dressed up to the nines -
it started with S-G-M-L

I had to let it happen.
I had to change.
Couldn't stay being proprietary.
Stuck with one vendor,
No choice of software.
So I choose freedom.
Running around, trying everything new.
But nothing impressed me at all.
I never expected it too.

Don't cry for me, I use DSSSL.
The truth is it is quite good:
Style sheet language,
Flow object tree,
A choice of backends. You should try it.

New FOP Logo?

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<?foreteller-mode on?>
This is new Apache FOP logo:
Proposed FOP logo by Tobias Muller
<?foreteller-mode off?>
Will see if I can predict anything, voting is still on ;)