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Re: Formatting Objects considered harmful

Subject: Re: Formatting Objects considered harmful
From: Stephen Deach <sdeach@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1999 10:12:42 -0700

You seem to have forgotten that http://www.w3.org/TR/NOTE-XSL-970910
describes 'flow objects' in the following paragraph:
  "XSL enables formatting information to be associated with elements in the
source document to produce formatted output. The formatted output is
created by formatting a tree of flow objects. A flow object has a class,
which represents a kind of formatting task. A flow object also has a set of
named characteristics, which further specify the formatting. A core set of
flow object classes is outlined later in this document."

http://www.w3.org/TR/NOTE-XSL-970910 also give various recommendations
regarding the possible core set of flow objects based on DSSSL, DSSSL-O and
HTML/CSS. While clearly stating:
  "This is a working document. It is not meant to represent a completed
proposal for XSL. Details of the flow objects and their characteristics
need to be specified in detail; for now refer to the DSSSL standard and the
HTML and CSS specifications."

One should note that the term "characteristics" has been replaced with
"properties" in the charter in deference to W3C terminology (vs DSSSL
terminology). One should also note that the charter's phrasing "define a
style specification language that covers at least the formatting
functionality of both CSS and DSSSL" was used to allow flexibility in the
definition of a set of FOs that were not explicitly only/all those of DSSSL
nor only/all those of HTML nor a full compendium of both.

It seems clear, on reading http://www.w3.org/TR/NOTE-XSL-970910 in its
ENTIRETY, that it specifies the intent to define the flow objects, not just
a list of properties/values. It is also clear that they are intended to be
formatting (presentation) objects.

--SDeach (Speaking for himself)

At 23:54 1999-04-27 +0200, you wrote:
>Stephen Deach wrote:
> > You will note that the definition of *both* FO's *and* XSLT are REQUIRED
> > deliverables for the WG as specified in 2.1 of the XSL WG Charter.
>Thank you for publishing the charter of the XSL Working Group. Among
>the deliverables are:
> >            (a) a language for flow object tree construction and 
>This part has turned into what I call XTL. XTL is actually a much more
>general tool than what (a) describes, but I think everyone is happy
>that the WG went beyond its charter in this case.
> >            (b) an extensible set of flow object properties/characteristics
> >                and values. 
>This part has turned into what I call XFO. XFO is an XML vocabulary
>for describing a formatted document. While the group was chartered to
>deliver a set of "properties" (as they are called now) and "values",
>it has produced a syntax for formatted documets. This is also, IMHO,
>going beyond the charter and -- unlike (a) -- I think the result is
>prone to abuse.
>At the end of the day, the charter is rather uninteresting -- what
>matters is the resulting specifications and how they are used. My
>point in analyzing it is that "the charter forces us to do it" can't
>be read out of the text.
>The charter also says:
> >      The working group will take as its starting position the proposal
> >      submitted by Microsoft, INSO, and ArborText on 27 August 1997.
>The submission can be found from [1]. That document has the notion of
>"HTML/CSS flow objects". One of the examples is:
>  <rule>
>    <target-element type="emph"/>
>    <target-element type="strong"/>
>    <SPAN font-weight="bold">
>      <children/>
>    </SPAN>
>  </rule>
>[1] http://www.w3.org/TR/NOTE-XSL-970910
>This concept seems very close to Paul's HTML-level formatting objects.
>I'd suggest the use of semantic HTML elements (e.g. EM and STRONG) and
>the STYLE attribute in the output, but at least these formatting
>objects can be media-independent and this addresses my concern about
>(Perhaps they're better described as "document objects" rather than
>"formatting objects"?)
>Håkon Wium Lie             http://www.operasoftware.com/people/howcome
>howcome@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx                      simply a better browser
> XSL-List info and archive:  http://www.mulberrytech.com/xsl/xsl-list

  Stephen Deach                            |  Sr Computer Scientist
  408-536-6521 (office)                    |  Adobe Systems Inc.
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