XSL Debate, Leventhal responds to Stephen Deach

Paul Prescod paul at prescod.net
Tue Jun 22 07:07:34 BST 1999

"Simon St.Laurent" wrote:
> I'm afraid - in my opinion at least - that this is a gross underestimation
> of the capabilities of CSS.  While CSS does not at present provide an easy
> way to display graphics, this is:
> a) easy to add

I agree.

> b) dependent on XLink, which is thus far a no-show.

Dozens of simple style languages do not have any dependence on a
particular linking standard in order to implement graphics. All you need
to do is to be able to say what attribute is the graphic referencing one!

> Navigational mechanisms and cross references have similar dependencies on
> XLink, but I see no reason why they should cause 'severe problems'.

The navigational mechanisms that I mean have no dependencies on XLink.
Tables of contents, indexes, forward and back buttons. These can (and
should) all be generated with a *transformation language* but cannot be
with an annotative language.

> It's not there yet, mostly because XLink isn't there yet, but these are
> hardly significant barriers.  If you want, we can put this part of the
> discussion back on www-style, and see what people come up with.  Unlike
> formatting objects, I think this is quite solvable.

I might be tempted to try and make an annotative style languages that is
as sophisticated as a transformation language but I tried and failed about
five years ago. I subsequently found out that hundreds of people had tried
it before me in dozens of different types of style languages for many
different kinds of markup and word processing languages.

Let me give you a real-world problem. Authors make links to images
on a corporate website. Every image has an associated XML document.
foo/bar/baz.gif has an associated foo/bar/baz.xml with metadata about the
image, including a caption. With a transformational technology like XSL or
DOM+Javascript, I split the string, reach into the associated XML document
and retrieve the caption. I transform it into a peer element of the
graphic. How do I handle this problem with CSS? 

Note that Leventhal is NOT against destructive transformations. Nor are
any of the CSS designers that I know of.
 Paul Prescod  - ISOGEN Consulting Engineer

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