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Using XSL-FO For Heavily-Designed Documents (e.g., magazines)

From: W. Eliot Kimber <eliot@isogen.com>
Date: Fri, 18 Oct 2002 13:14:35 -0500
Message-ID: <3DB04F8B.8090300@isogen.com>
To: www-xsl-fo@w3.org

Has anyone given any thought to how XSL-FO could be applied to 
heavily-designed documents, such as magazines? At first glance, it would 
appear that XSL-FO is not applicable, but I've been thinking about it 
and I think there might be some ways it could be done but I'm not sure 
how sound my thinking is and I was wondering if anyone else has thought 
about these ideas.

For design, I see the following main challenges:

- Handling "continued" text flows (article continued on page xxx)
- Text wrapping around arbitrarily-placed rectangular areas
- Text wrapping around curved areas
- Fine tuning of text layout--leading, word spacing, block spacing, etc.

That is, all the things that are workaday for QuarkXPress, InDesign, etc.

XSL-FO is already pretty close on wrapping text around rectangular 
areas--you can do a lot with side floats and I think a few careful 
extensions could get you the rest of the way.

For curved areas, there might be some useful synergy with SVG here, but 
I don't know what complexities that might involve, but it seems like it 
can't be that hard (but that's easy for me to say).

For continued stuff, I'm thinking that when using a page layout system 
like Quark, you're already prepared to put text into flows pretty much 
by hand, so it seems reasonable that a multi-pass process that does the 
flowing by creating disconnected blocks in the FO might be acceptable 
but not ideal--it would require feedback from the first pagination pass 
to figure out what content in the first area didn't fit and therefore 
needs to go into the continuation of it.

For fine tuning, I'm thinking that it might be possible to use an 
approach where you capture element-specific characteristic values in a 
separate document that is then applied to the input XML document at FO 
generation time in order to apply local tweaks. This would require an 
interactive editor to capture the tweaks, but that shouldn't be that 
difficult (essentially a beefed-up version of what Epic does with its 
format override PIs today).

Has anyone had any similar thoughts? Am I nuts (on this issue)?

Why do I care? Partly just because it bugs me as an engineer that this 
unsolved problem exists and partly because I have at least one customer 
that really wants to be able to do XML-based production of designed 
magazines and I just don't see any other viable solution--the XML 
import/export features of Quark and InDesign are just not complete 
enougn, in large part because of the inherent and avoidable loss of 
going from XML structures to the minimal internal structures these tools 


W. Eliot Kimber, eliot@isogen.com
Consultant, ISOGEN International

1016 La Posada Dr., Suite 240
Austin, TX  78752 Phone: 512.656.4139
Received on Friday, 18 October 2002 14:14:04 UTC

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