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Subject: Re: DOCBOOK-APPS: About FO (was db2latex)

Jeffrey Franks wrote:

> Sebastian Rahtz wrote:
>>Jeffrey Franks writes:
>> > > summary: immature marketplace.
>> >
>> > I'm a newbie trying to get a lay of the landscape too.
>> >
>> > Is Sgml/Dsssl a better approach to produce PDF with less pain?
>>not really, because there you have have just one processor to
>>choose from, with an inadequate implementation
> XML/XSL and SGML/DSSSL landscape looks pretty bleak for FO and PDF
> from a newbie's viewpoint. I thought this stuff was ready to use
> without pain.

I though I'd throw in my .02, as a recent newbie (6 months) to all of 
this stuff who has finally gotten a system that Works for Me(tm).

> What would you recommend as a course of action on the project I'm
> working on? I'm about 1/3 into a 1000 page book. I'm responsible
> for *BOTH* content and style, and so processing issues are of
> interest to me. I concentrate on one or the other, but in the
> end, the buck stops at my doorstep.

I've tried all of the free, Unix-friendly options.  I read about RenderX 
until I realized their pricing is in the thousands, and not targeted to 
single users at all.  So after ruling that one right out, I ended up 
trying the following:

SGML Stylesheets, Jade, JadeTeX, pdfjadetex
SGML Stylesheets, OpenJade 1.3, JadeTeX, pdfjadetex
XML Stylesheets, FOP with the included Xalan parser
XML Stylesheets, Saxon, FOP
XML Stylesheets, Saxon, PassiveTeX

Of those, SGML->OpenJade->JadeTeX->pdfjadetex is what I've decided on 
for my current projects, for the following reasons:

It almost works well.  The output actually looks like something you'd 
consider printing (I'm working on two 250+ page books for publication).

FOP, regardless of parser, is badly broken in some absolutely vital 
areas for book publication.   The most obvious is the TOC is just ugly 
(justified instead of dot-separated).

I couldn't make PassiveTeX work.  I am, by all accounts, a TeX 
know-nothing.  I've managed to install TeXLive6 recently, and learned my 
way around installing new macro packages, so I'll probably tackle this 
problem again before all is said and printed.

Customizations are easy.  Maybe this is because I've been working with 
DSSSL longer than XML, but I can't figure out XML much at all, but I've 
accomplished quite a bit with DSSSL.

Finally, because I'll also be releasing our books as PDF files, it's 
nice that all of the 'neato' features of PDF are supported by the tool 
chain (whereas they are not with the XML toolchains that I tried). 
Bookmarks, links, etc. all work as expected, making for a nice user 

> I've rendered in HTML without customization just to close the
> loop on my markup (and give me confidence process is doing
> something right). Do I need to do the same with PDF (just
> to make sure that the process works)?

Yes.  HTML is /easy/ to make work.  PDF is a nightmare no matter your 

> Do you ever find you need to "tweak" the original XML markup
> to get an acceptable PDF result? Hopefully, answer is "no" since
> "yes" violates separation between content and style even if style
> is stretched to mean processing environment.

I find that sometimes I'll modify tables manually to make them look 
better on the page.  Other than that, I usually modify the stylesheet. 
But there are some elements of DocBook that I don't use...so I may be 
missing some ugly bits.

Hope this helps.

                      Joe Cooper <joe@swelltech.com>
                  Affordable Web Caching Proxy Appliances

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