Questioning XSL

David Brownell david-b at
Sun May 23 06:39:03 BST 1999

Hmm, I see a benefit to having a pattern-matching (XSL-T style)
way to express rendering policies.  While at the same time, I
can acknowledge that it's got real limitations with respect to
a class of complex operations ... where a "normal" programming
language (Java, not JavaScript!) seems needed.

True, rule based programming is not for everyone; I paid my dues
with Prolog, I've observed the phenomonon.  Neither is JavaScript,
or any other programming language.  How may folk programmed TROFF
macros effectively?  How many people trust "Word BASIC" to be
anything more than a virus carrier?

Re David Megginson's useful bang-for-buck observation, maybe I
shouldn't worry as much since I think in $US (just kidding :-)
but all the same, that's an excellent point.  No matter how good
XSL is, it just won't be the only solution, since the economics
can't force that approach.  "XSL Sucks Less" for many folk, and
particularly for those who must work in CSS-less worlds, but
some programmers will prefer 100% Pure JavaScript style sheets
(i.e. the "(JavaScript +) XML + DOM + CSS" approach of Leventhal)
rather than balancing declarative and procedural components.

There's also flamage about the "XSL-FO" part of the spec, and
if the two criticisms I've seen about it (Hakon Lie, and Michael
Leventhal) capture the essence of the "anti-" camp, they've failed
utterly to convince me there's a problem beyond stepping on toes
of some CSS advocates, who deny use of *ML outside of browsers.

To be blunt, the "paperless office" won't happen until we all can
work on-line with the ease we can browse/markup/... paper, which
could well be never!  Until then tools need to be aiming to unify
the formatting models.  Like XSL-FO, but not like CSS.  As with
all tools (say, HTML :-) FOs can be abused; use != abuse.

- Dave

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