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Subject: RE: [docbook-apps] DB2PDF et al. alternative (long). Was: Show off what you've done with Docbook

Dear Giuseppe,

thanks a lot for this valuable post!

On 2015-09-15 Giuseppe Bonelli wrote:
> My conclusion is that while DB is *very* good and well supported as a
> structuring and archiving format, FOP and friends are not a suitable
> solution for producing professional PDF.
> ...
> I then started using a DB/latex/pdf toolchain, but I usually find this
> solution not flexible enough (having to edit some code just to move a
> figure is not something that scales up that well) and I think that the
> batch pagination paradigm used by tex/fop is not suitable for complex
> books.

It depends ;-) 

In certain cases you can't really avoid orphan/widows or too much space left
on the bottom of the page as the content riddled with keep-with rules
doesn't fit, etc.

I like typography, good looking outputs, but from my experience almost
nobody cares. And there is no ROI to tweak the output to meet all the rules,
especially in software documentation I am experienced with. If automation is
combined with manual steps, it isn't 'single source' any more. The same
steps have to be done with every regenerating, which may become a tedious

And if the content is provided in multiple languages, any manual
interventions are even harder.

> I now routinely use with great satisfaction and efficiency a workflow
> based on transforming via xslt pipelines from docbook to idml (the xml
> format used by Adobe indesign) and then producing typographically
> perfect PDF interactively from the automatically generated indesign
> files.

I've tried something similar in the past, but I found some limitations in
InDesign which discouraged me from moving this forward.
> For going from xml to indesign (idml) all you need is an indesign
> template with the layout and the typography (note that the indesign
> template could be created and maintained by a graphic designer who
> knows absolutely nothing about tags or xml/html/Idml) and a mapping 
> xml configuration file.  Tables, images and math formulae are 
> supported almost out of the box.

My problems were footnotes, used frequently in my publication. I couldn't
find any syntax for them in IDML.

I then investigated various batch-paginating engines. You can find a brief
comparison here:

This finally led me to investigate db -> ConTeXt (luaTeX) -> PDF route
(forking outdated dbcontext), which was tough (lost in macro soup), but I
was really pleased with the result. This was rather text-oriented content
with various styles, but minimum graphics.

For the rest (with advanced styling) I still use XLS-FO, because:
* templates are already customized 
* there is no ROI to switch to another workflow just for the curiosity
* there is risk not all features are available (I do some post-processing
using an intermediate format)


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