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[Groff] XSL-FO to groff to PDF?

From: Michael Smith
Subject: [Groff] XSL-FO to groff to PDF?
Date: Wed, 19 Oct 2005 22:20:30 +0900
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.9i

I wonder if anyone has put any consideration into developing an
XSL-FO to groff converter?

I maintain an XSLT stylesheet for generating man-page output from
DocBook XML source documents that contain Refentry elements. It is
included in the DocBook XSL stylesheets distribution (in the
"manpages" directory):

So I have been following the recent discussions here (about XML,
but also about front-ends for editing groff) with some interest.

I guess most people consider groff from the perspective of
authoring/editing documents in it directly. But I think it's also
interesting to consider groff as a powerful rendering engine that
can take documents converted from other authoring formats and
render them in a variety of output formats. 

For example, I have recently been attempting to put together a
"standard" Makefile for generating output from DocBook docs. For
the specific case of documents containing DocBook Refentry
elements, it does:

  DocBook Refentry -> man
  DocBook Refentry -> man -> PDF
  DocBook Refentry -> man -> text

The PDF and text output parts just rely on the built-in output
capabilities in groff and Ghostscript.

But that chain is currently useable only for transforming Refentry
content. The DocBook stylesheets also include a set of stylesheets
for converting any DocBook content to XSL-FO:

So if an XSL-FO converter were implemented in groff, it'd be
possible to do:

  DocBook -> XSL-FO -> groff -> PDF
  DocBook -> XSL-FO -> groff -> PS
  DocBook -> XSL-FO -> groff -> DVI

And to any other output formats that groff can convert to.

There have been some attempts to implement XSL-FO converters in
TeX/LaTex/PDFTeX, but that has proven to be a pretty difficult
taks, and those work on those apps never reached the point where
they became usable for production-quality work.

I wonder if it would be easier to implement an XSL-FO to PDF
converter in groff, or harder.


Michael Smith

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