W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > April 1997

Re: From CSS to DSSSL

From: Alan Karben <karben@interactive.wsj.com>
Date: Fri, 18 Apr 1997 12:12:29 -0400
Message-Id: <3.0.32.19970418121222.0098c750@pop.dowjones.com>
To: www-style@w3.org
Todd Fahrner:
>| > But seriously, given that CSS is clearly the next wave of client-side
>| > style, couldn't DSSSL be deployed effectively on servers, or at "publish"
>| > time, to generate HTML+CSS? 

At The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition, that's essentially what
we're doing (though not with DSSSL but with engines based on non-standard
transformation languages). 

I'm convinced that authoring documents using SGML (or XML) with tags that
model the *content* of what's being marked-up (i.e., <byline> and
<company-name>), and then transforming at "publish" time, allows you to
take most advantage of HTML + CSS + JavaScript. 

Authoring in SGML lets you naturally derive the HTML 'class' attributes,
and add onMouseOver-type events where appropriate. And when our editors
change their mind about output formats as new
HTML/CSS/JavaScript/VB-Script/JSSS/DynamicHTML features come out, they
speak in the vocabulary of "Let's make our company names do this now..." or
"Let's make links to external web sites have a different color, and make
the target show up in a new browser window...." These requests are then
easily fielded.

Also important to remember: The game has always been to make the content
look as good as possible in the latest browser releases while maintaining a
decent look for past generations back to Netscape 1.2. The resulting Tag
Juggling can get pretty complicated -- and for all practical purposes well
beyond hand-tagging and common HTML authoring tools.

Paul Prescod:
>| DSSSL has been deployed to generate HTML (in Jade -- I have built a
>| whole website this way), and Jade will generate HTML+CSS as soon as CSS
>| is supported in a standard way by major browsers. It is important to
>| remember though, that shipping dumbed-down documents over the web is
>| second best.

There's nothing wrong with shipping content in a formatting language, if
basically all you want you folks to do with the information is
read/link/print. It's only when you want to let them search, reorganize,
reformat, or otherwise reuse the content *they've already downloaded* in
ways you haven't imagined that makes HTML "second best." In other words,
when you can't, or don't want to, make your *servers* do all the work.

Todd Fahrner:
>| > In short, is there a transition path from CSS to DSSSL, or is all lost
>| > already? :^)

The transition is to author now & forever using tags chosen for content,
not presentation. Use any of a host of commercial or freeware
transformation tools [1] to produce great looking HTML/CSS/etc when you
want to reach the Browser 4.0 and below market, and XML/DSSSL/Java output
if/when you want to offer readers features that a formatting language alone
cannot offer.

Paul Prescod:
>| I'm not sure how these questions address that, but yes, there is a
>| transition path from CSS to DSSSL. CSS goes into 4.0 level browsers,
>| for use primarily with HTML ,and DSSSL goes into 5.0 level browsers
>| for use primarily with XML. At one point I thought that there needed
>| to be some relationship between CSS and DSSSL in order to have a
>| migration path from one to the other, but now I ask: "why?" Use CSS
>| when it is convenient (small,simple documents). Use DSSSL when it is
>| convenient (large, complex, structurally marked up documents).

Jon Bosak:
>That's exactly where I ended up on this.  CSS is simple and enables a
>lot of functionality but is inherently incapable of handling the hard
>cases; DSSSL can handle anything but is a bitch to learn.
>Implementation is a wash.  So let's use both.

CSS is great for non-programmers to author in Notepad, and has the momentum
of popular implementations. DSSSL is built cleanly from the ground up to
transform and present SGML, but needs GUI tools before it is fit for
widespread acceptance. 

I've always thought that DSSSL needed a 'standard' baby language, which
would essentially give non-programmers an authoring tool (notepad) until
better tools come on the market. Maybe CSS could be that language; then a
lot of questions would be answered, as long as someone volunteered to write
a CSS-to-DSSSL style sheet converter and promised to keep it current.

Taking this point to an (admittedly unrealistic ;-) extreme, a browser
implementer could just program for DSSSL, and as the CSS syntax gets pulled
along for multicolumn layouts and other fancy stuff, could 'turn on' the
"new" features right away. Kind of analogous to how SoftQuad offers a new
HTML DTD plug-in for it's HoTMetaL engine, which at its core can handle any
tag.

Alan.

[1] For links to info on SGML conversion tools, see:
	http://www.sil.org/sgml  and
	http://www.falch.no/people/pepper/sgmltool/convert.htm


<!-- 
    Alan Karben
    Manager, Multimedia
    The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition

    karben@interactive.wsj.com    phone: 609 520 7361
    http://wsj.com                  fax: 609 520 7137
-->
Received on Friday, 18 April 1997 12:10:47 GMT

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