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Getting Fancy with FOP-4 : Page 4


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Processing FOP
XSL-FO by itself is simply a formatting standard—to do anything with it you need to have some kind of processor which will convert the contents of the file into a fully formatted page. Currently, there are few "native" processors for XSL-FO, the most notable one currently being the Antenna House XSL Formatter from Japan. The FOP project was essentially begun as a way to preview XSL-FO, and it has the added benefit of outputting content compatible with the Adobe Acrobat format, which currently is one of the mostly widely available page layout viewers in use on the web. The FOP project is now a part of the Apache Open Source project, so it's designed for use with Apache and Cocoon—a content management system that's also part of the work done with Apache.

The FOP binary is a set of Java classes that you can invoke directly through the command line or via batch files. On Windows, the package also includes a command line .bat file which you can (with a little finagling) invoke anywhere. You can also integrate the FOP Java classes into Java applications or Servlets to generate PDF files on the fly. XSL-FO is an interesting technology. While it's arguably still trying to determine its true direction, it's also increasingly likely to fill the role of creating hard copy from information on the fly, a task at which HTML is not especially adept, because the onus of such work falls not on the language itself but the specific browser implementation.



Kurt Cagle is the author or co-author of twelve books and several dozen articles on web technologies, XML and web services. He is the president of Cagle Communications (Olympia, WA), which specializes in the production of training materials for XML and Web Services education. He can be reached at kurt@kurtcagle.net.
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