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XHTML+CSS single-source (multi-channel)

From: David Pratten <d1@jibekjoly.net>
Date: Mon, 19 Sep 2005 08:27:44 +0600
To: <www-style@w3.org>
Message-ID: <E1EHBNr-0002I7-UM@maggie.w3.org>

As Alessandros wrote in 1998 (
http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-style/1998Jun/0043 )

> let me say that HTML+CSSn could be a quick and effective way to make
>technical documents that can be published both on paper and on CD-ROM, that
>is an affordable and maneagable way to make single-source documentation.

It has been 7 years since this appeal via www-style and in looking at his
requests, major strides forward have been taken.  However, work appears to
remain.

I am writing to request the CSS Committee to consider the need to include
target (channel) specific markup in CSS files.

Today there is clear support for media-specific markup (@media screen,
@media print) however I have not found in current CSS features the ability
to support multiple different types of screen output or printed output
(targets or channels).

For example, here in Kazakhstan, at "Intimak" NGO we publish the same health
information as a webpage and as 2-fold double-sided A4 brochure format and
also A2 poster format.  Can XHTML+CSS used used to support this and to
format multiple printed outputs from one XHTML+ one CSS file?

As Allessandros commented then, it is still true that the single-source
world seems to be dominated by FOA, XSLT, and XSL-FO and by proprietary
solutions.

I believe that there is a large class of problems for which light-weight
XHTML+CSS single-source would be simpler and more effective.

Single-source XHTML+CSS is a reality and in use for publishing health
information in Kazakhstan.   We use "Xstory", a (Windows) GPL licensed GUI
that provides WYSIWG story editing and arbitary webpage and pdf generation
from ONE XHTML file and ONE CSS file WITHOUT changing the source story.

For examples of XStory in use, download and more information see:
https://www.jibekjoly.net/theshed/index.php?title=XStory  This URL
illustrates the creation of a webpage, brochure and poster from one XHTML
with one CSS file!

How is this done?

Xstory extends CSS with a new @rule:

@XstoryTarget {

}

The @rule, contains the CSS specific to one target (channel).  This @rule is
logically at a higher level of priority than @media rules, as some targets
(e.g. webpages) have both screen and print forms.  Other targets (e.g. pdf)
have only a (usually implicit) print form.  Xstory takes advantage of the
fact that conforming user agents must ignore unrecognised @rule contents.
XStory "hides" the target document generator and file extension information
in CSS comments.

Where to go from here?

My preference (of course) would be to use standard CSS and ask that the CSS
committee consider the best way to properly name, specify and integrate this
feature into CSSn.

It appears that XHTML+CSS is not getting its share of attention as a simple
single-source document format. This new @rule and support in user agents
could greatly increase the be use of XHTML+CSS for single-source publishing.

Alessandros' dream is still before us.

All the best

David
Received on Monday, 19 September 2005 02:28:00 GMT

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