Andreas Jung (ZOPYX)
XSL-FO is the de-facto technical standard for automatic typesetting of XML content in the publishing industry besides workflows build on top of Adobe Indesign. XSL-FO has come into its years and is not very much loved by the XML solution providers. Professional XSL-FO engines like Antenna House provide very good typographic results but it is usually a hard and time-consuming business for producing high-quality documents with XSL-FO.
The author worked in 2007 with XSL-FO for one year as part of a publishing project at Haufe-Lexware where HTML content provided through a content-retrival application (installed as desktop application on customer PCs) had to be converted to PDF, RTF and DOC on the fly as part of an extended print/export functionality. The only possible solution for building a cross-plattform PDF generation that would both run on customer desktops and on server installations was based on the converter XINC (an Apache FOP derivative). Already at this time it was possible to use CSS with some extensions to create PDF documents with a professional look & feel and support for headers and footers, footnotes, reasonable table layouts etc. However the underlaying XSL-FO functionality was never exposed to the developers since an open-source converter csstoxslfo could be used to transform the existing HTML content together with a stylesheet to XSL-FO and run the conversion on top of the generation FO document.