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Xsl-fo

Similar to that of a cascading style sheet, there has also been a development of what has become known as the Extensible Stylesheet Language. This XSL language is considered to be a transformational language that tells how a browser or application should format the XML documents. Where the cascading style sheets or CSS are for the formatting of HTML documents, the XSL is the same for XML documents. In using the XSL language, you can transform the XML data so that it is output in various popular formats such as that of the standard HTML as well as others like plain text and even PDF.

The Extensible Stylesheet Language can actually be subdivided into 3 unique families of languages depending on what the desired outcome is to be. These subdivisions include the XSLT or Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations which is used in order to transform the XML document into another document type. There is also the Extensible Stylesheet Language Formatting Objects or XSL-FO which is used to format the visual aspects of a particular XML document. Finally you have the Extensible Stylesheet Language Path Language or XPath as it is more commonly known as which allows the use of non-XML type languages in constricts which are out side of the standard XSLT documents as well as for defining links contained within an XML or XML-like document.

It was back in 1997 when the World Wide Web Consortium founded a group whose sole purpose was to develop the CSS and XSL specifications. With Sharon Alder as well as Steve Zilles leading the way, the group began working on both the XSLT as well as XPath. Within 2 years time they had already submitted their draft proposal to the W3C who had recommended it in 1999. The XSL-FO subdivision however, would not become an official recommendation until the end of 2001.

When Microsoft launched their MSXML for the very first time back in March of 1999, since XSL had not been completely finished and submitted before the release, there was an incomplete implementation of the technology. However, by the time Microsoft released MSXML 3.0, the implementation was considered to be complete and since that release, it has been considered to be the de facto XSL library which has been continuously used by the Microsoft Internet Explorer up until the release of IE 6.

Since the XSL is a formatting language for the XML documents and those that are XML like such as SVG, there is not a sufficient amount of formatting which one can do in comparison to that of the Cascading Style Sheets for HTML which is more commonly seen. This lack of a need for formatting has not necessarily meant that the XSL is worthless because that is far from the truth. However it does mean that one can expect the updates to come far and few in between. Within time though, since the XML document is starting to grow in popularity at an enormous rate, one can expect that the time between updates will become shorter in the next few years.

Original Authors: Nick
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 04/03/2009


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