Vivliostyle at Balisage 2015

Johannes Wilm


I presented a paper we wrote collaboratively about how we see the way ahead at Vivliostyle at this year's Balisage conference in Washington, DC, August 11-14.

The conference is one of the main meeting places in the world of XML. Some of the presentations are mainly about how to do certain tasks using XML, whereas others are about new tools around XML. Vivliostyle fell into the second category. While Vivliostyle can be used to turn HTML pages into PDFs for print and paged media, it can also be used to style XML documents once undergone a transformation so that they can be styled with CSS. CSS is set to become the standard way of styling XML for print, but hitherto there have not been any open alternatives to do so. The interest in Vivliostyle was therefore considerable.

As part of the presentation I also highlighted the need for continuing the work on some of the remaining W3C specifications for print – such as the CSS Page Float spec which I have been editing for Vivliostyle over the past few months. Various people present promised to take a look at the current draft and provide feedback.

Other questions were related to Vivliostyle as a means to display EPUB files in browsers or whether Vivliostyle can be combined with hyphenation JavaScript tools (yes, that should work, but we probably need to test it first).

Antennahouse, the Japanese company well-known for its XSL-FO formatter also provides CSS-based styling, and even though the general idea seems to be that XSL-FO be replaced by CSS after XSL-FO development has halted, Antennahouse reacted to our paper by claiming that CSS cannot replace XSL-FO:

They even created a Japanese translation of our paper:

Antennahouse announced a review of our paper some time this week.

We are intrigued and looking forward to their response!

After the conference, a discussion about Vivliostyle on the DITA mailing list concentrated on those parts of our paper that had talked about HTML and XML that some people interpreted as us thinking that XML should be fully replaced with HTML. This is of course not how we see it. We think that authors and publishers should have the greatest possible freedom to chose what base format they want to use for their texts; be it XML, XHTML, HTML, Markdown, JSON or ODT files. Different formats work for different workflows, and Vivliostyle will try to work with the greatest amount of workflows possible for which CSS-styling makes sense.