|By Frank Neugebauer||
|March 28, 2003 12:00 AM EST||
The Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) W3C recommendation was created as a means to display XML data. The recommendation includes a transformation language (XSLT) and formatting object (or output format) language (XSL-FO), which together provide the XSL stylesheet developer with the tools necessary to present XML.
The XSL-FO language is like HTML on steroids, because it allows not only cascading stylesheet (CSS)-type functionality, but also pagination and page layout, which are not available using HTML alone (at least not to as great a degree as with XSL-FO). However, such robustness comes at a cost; the language is very (very) verbose, which makes writing XSL-FO XSL stylesheets very difficult; thus, XSL-FO stylesheets are supposed to be produced as the result of an XSL transformation. But someone has to write the XSL stylesheet that transforms the XML into XSL-FO, and that's where this article can help.
The purpose of this article is to show you, the XSL stylesheet developer, how to make XSL-FO XSL stylesheets that are flexible and reusable. In other words, I'm going to show you how to make modularized XSL-FO XSL stylesheets.
Many of the key concepts presented in this article are not XSL-FO specific and can be leveraged to write any kind of XSL stylesheet. However, I concentrated on XSL-FO XSL stylesheets because their verbosity highlights the need for modularization more than most stylesheets.
I'm assuming a working knowledge of both XSLT and XSL-FO. For an introduction, you can refer to many resources on the Internet, including my article in the January 2002 edition of XML-Journal.
Overview of the Solution
Although this modularization solution is very flexible, it is also very simple and uses the XSL <xsl:import> and <xsl:attribute-set> elements, along with the xsl:use-attribute-sets attribute. When used properly, these elements and this attribute not only allow you to externalize the way an XML document is transformed into an XSL-FO document (<xsl:import>), but also the look-and-feel of the eventual FO document (<xsl:attribute-set>, xsl:use-attribute-sets). Figure 1 depicts all the pieces of these concepts.
From a high level, the XSLT engine reads in an XML document and XSL stylesheet (nothing new there). The main stylesheet, the one that is read by the XSLT engine, then uses <xsl:import> to use two additional stylesheets - one for the layout of the XSL-FO document and another for the "look-and-feel." The layout document then uses the use-attribute-sets attribute to get the "look-and-feel" (i.e., element attribution information) data from the "look-and-feel" XSL stylesheet, which is implemented as a series of <xsl:attribute-set> elements.
With the layout and look-and-feel externalized and separated into different stylesheets, the stylesheet writer can easily exchange both/either the layout and/or look-and-feel of the XSL-FO document information. If the XSL-FO document has such flexibility, it follows that the layout and look-and-feel of the eventual output document, a PDF file for example, has equal flexibility.
A Presentation Example
The example I'm going to present is a good case for the advantages of using a modular design in XSL. In presentation graphics (e.g., Microsoft PowerPoint), there are templates that can change the layout of pages and the color/graphics scheme of your presentation. I am going to replicate, to some degree, that same kind of functionality using XSL. If you use the ideas in this example, you can impress your friends by creating PDF presentations that are cross-platform with data separated from the presentation (which implies that the same data could potentially be used in entirely different formats).
The XML file
The data for the sample is represented in a simple XML file, named presentation.xml, that depicts the idea of a presentation with pages containing concepts (such a format is probably a little too coupled to the presentation, but it'll work). The root element of the document is "Presentation," with descriptive child elements called "Title," "Author," "Date," and "CorporateLogo," and a series of "Page" elements that take the following form:
The "style" attribute is referred to in the layout stylesheet to create the proper text layout in the presentation (e.g, PDF) output. The example is bullet, but you could extend the idea to be graphic, column, bullet-graphic, or any other style you require. You'll see shortly how the value of this attribute is used.
The position element allows you to put the "Page" elements in any order within the XML document and still have them laid out the way you want in the final output. Like the "style" attribute, the "Position" element is used by the layout stylesheet.
The main XSL stylesheet
Ultimately, the XSLT engine requires the name of a stylesheet to be processed. In this example, that file is called main.xsl and is very simple since its main purpose is to point to the correct layout and look-and-feel stylesheet. Listing 1 shows the contents of that stylesheet, minus the XML declaration and <xsl:stylesheet> element.
Within Listing 1, the <xsl:import> elements point to the layout and look-and-feel stylesheet, respectively. To change the template, you simply create a new layout and/or look-and-feel stylesheet and change the value of the import.
The other interesting point of the main.xsl stylesheet is simply that it creates the <fo:root> element and uses the <xsl:apply-templates> to transfer processing to other templates (which are defined in the plainPageLayout.xsl stylesheet).
The lookandfeel.xsl stylesheet contains a number of <xsl:attribute-set> definitions, which can be referenced using the xsl:use-attribute-sets property with an FO element. The contents of each <xsl:attribute-set> are the equivalent of attributes on XSL elements.
Take, for instance, a relatively simple <fo:simple-page-master> element, which defines a template for a page.
You can externalize all the attributes of the <fo:simple-page-master> element into the lookandfeel.xsl file by defining an <xsl:attribute-set> element as follows:
Then, you can refer to the attribute set within the <fo:simple-page-master> by using the "xsl:use-attribute-sets" attribute, such as:
Not only is the syntax easier to read, but the attributes values themselves are now externalized from the layout in what's essentially the FO equivalent of an external CSS.
In XSL-FO, layout is a matter of setting up page definitions and their contents. In my example, I use the page layout XSL document, named plainPageLayout.xsl, to perform the template matching on the XML document contents. I did this because the layout is responsible for understanding the output document, something that requires knowledge of the XML input, since the data from the latter becomes part of the former.
The plainPageLayout.xsl document itself looks like most XSL-FO stylesheets. However, instead of very long attribute listings (for look-and-feel type attributes), there are several xsl:use-attribute-sets attributes.
In terms of XSLT, plainPageLayout. xsl contains three templates: one each to process the "Presentation," "Page," and "Concept" elements, respectively. That presentation template creates the basic layout of the resulting XSL-FO document and then creates the title page, using data from the XML document. Throughout this stylesheet, xsl:use-attribute-sets attributes are used within <fo> elements to retrieve attributes from lookandfeel.xsl.
The Page template actually processes Page elements by style. That is, the
element will catch the "bullet" style pages only. Within the template, the non-title pages are set up with a title and two blank lines, after which the "Concept" elements are selected within a <xsl:apply templates select="Concept"/> statement. Finally, the "Concept" template processes each "Concept," creating an XSL-FO list with bullets.
As a side note, the stylesheet can be made even more modularized if you were to externalize your "Page" and/or "Concept" templates. Doing so would let you use the "bullet" style across different layout XSL documents. I did not do so for the sake of simplicity.
Listing 2 shows the entire contents of plainPageLayout.xsl. Within Listing 2, notice the comment that reads "<!-- Shows how to override attributes. -->." What I'm showing at that point in the stylesheet is that even if an XSL-FO element uses an attribute set, you can still override and/or amend the attribute set within the element itself, much in the same way you can override/add to an HTML element if a CSS is defined - further evidence of the CSS-like nature of attribute sets.
I believe that the proof of any technology is in the pudding. When you run presentation.xml and main.xsl through an FO processor (I used FOP 0.20.3), you will end up with a three-page PDF (if you choose the PDF output option within FOP). Figures 2 and 3 show the first two pages. Page 3 is just like page 2 but contains different concepts (refer to presentation.xml).
Figure 2 shows not only the main "Presentation" element (and the relevant non-page children of "Presentation"), but it also shows some of the XSL-FO design I created. For instance, the logo and yellow background color. The color and font characteristics are externalized within lookandfeel.xsl, of course.
Figure 3 uses the same basic layout characteristics of the title page, but also contains the list of concepts. Every "Page" that uses the "bullet" style will be rendered just as Figure 3 (refer to the third page of presentation.pdf if you download the source code, available at www.sys-con.com/xml/sourcec.cfm).
XSL-FO XSL stylesheets are long and difficult to read and write. Furthermore, it's not easy to change layout and look-and-feel without additional modularization. Using the XSL <xsl:import> and <xsl:attribute-sets> elements along with the xsl:use-attribute-sets attribute can go a very long way toward making such modularization a reality.
We’ve worked with dozens of early adopters across numerous industries and will debunk common misperceptions, which starts with understanding that many of the connected products we’ll use over the next 5 years are already products, they’re just not yet connected. With an IoT product, time-in-market provides much more essential feedback than ever before. Innovation comes from what you do with the data that the connected product provides in order to enhance the customer experience and optimize busi...
May. 1, 2016 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 928
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Klein, CEO and Co-founder of Rachio, will discuss next generation communities that are using IoT to create more sustainable, intelligent communities. One example is Sterling Ranch, a 10,000 home development that – with the help of Siemens – will integrate IoT technology into the community to provide residents with energy and water savings as well as intelligent security. Everything from stop lights to sprinkler systems to building infrastructures will run ef...
May. 1, 2016 04:00 PM EDT Reads: 877
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, will provide tips on how to be successful in large scale machine lear...
May. 1, 2016 01:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,200
SYS-CON Events announced today that Stratoscale, the software company developing the next generation data center operating system, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Stratoscale is revolutionizing the data center with a zero-to-cloud-in-minutes solution. With Stratoscale’s hardware-agnostic, Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) solution to store everything, run anything and scale everywhere...
May. 1, 2016 01:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,558
Digital payments using wearable devices such as smart watches, fitness trackers, and payment wristbands are an increasing area of focus for industry participants, and consumer acceptance from early trials and deployments has encouraged some of the biggest names in technology and banking to continue their push to drive growth in this nascent market. Wearable payment systems may utilize near field communication (NFC), radio frequency identification (RFID), or quick response (QR) codes and barcodes...
May. 1, 2016 01:30 PM EDT Reads: 783
Angular 2 is a complete re-write of the popular framework AngularJS. Programming in Angular 2 is greatly simplified – now it's a component-based well-performing framework. This immersive one-day workshop at 18th Cloud Expo, led by Yakov Fain, a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay, will provide you with everything you wanted to know about Angular 2.
May. 1, 2016 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,738
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
May. 1, 2016 12:45 PM EDT Reads: 784
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
May. 1, 2016 12:15 PM EDT Reads: 2,316
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
May. 1, 2016 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,116
You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.
May. 1, 2016 11:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,485
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
May. 1, 2016 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,087
Increasing IoT connectivity is forcing enterprises to find elegant solutions to organize and visualize all incoming data from these connected devices with re-configurable dashboard widgets to effectively allow rapid decision-making for everything from immediate actions in tactical situations to strategic analysis and reporting. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Shikhir Singh, Senior Developer Relations Manager at Sencha, will discuss how to create HTML5 dashboards that interact with IoT devic...
May. 1, 2016 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 994
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to massively disrupt IoT. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, AJ Abdallat, CEO of Beyond AI, will discuss what the five main drivers are in Artificial Intelligence that could shape the future of the Internet of Things. AJ Abdallat is CEO of Beyond AI. He has over 20 years of management experience in the fields of artificial intelligence, sensors, instruments, devices and software for telecommunications, life sciences, environmental monitoring, process...
May. 1, 2016 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 919
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ericsson has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Ericsson is a world leader in the rapidly changing environment of communications technology – providing equipment, software and services to enable transformation through mobility. Some 40 percent of global mobile traffic runs through networks we have supplied. More than 1 billion subscribers around the world re...
May. 1, 2016 07:30 AM EDT Reads: 965
There is an ever-growing explosion of new devices that are connected to the Internet using “cloud” solutions. This rapid growth is creating a massive new demand for efficient access to data. And it’s not just about connecting to that data anymore. This new demand is bringing new issues and challenges and it is important for companies to scale for the coming growth. And with that scaling comes the need for greater security, gathering and data analysis, storage, connectivity and, of course, the...
May. 1, 2016 07:00 AM EDT Reads: 834
SYS-CON Events announced today that DatacenterDynamics has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. DatacenterDynamics is a brand of DCD Group, a global B2B media and publishing company that develops products to help senior professionals in the world's most ICT dependent organizations make risk-based infrastructure and capacity decisions.
May. 1, 2016 06:30 AM EDT Reads: 2,494
Machine Learning helps make complex systems more efficient. By applying advanced Machine Learning techniques such as Cognitive Fingerprinting, wind project operators can utilize these tools to learn from collected data, detect regular patterns, and optimize their own operations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stuart Gillen, Director of Business Development at SparkCognition, will discuss how research has demonstrated the value of Machine Learning in delivering next generation analytics to im...
Apr. 30, 2016 04:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,693
This is not a small hotel event. It is also not a big vendor party where politicians and entertainers are more important than real content. This is Cloud Expo, the world's longest-running conference and exhibition focused on Cloud Computing and all that it entails. If you want serious presentations and valuable insight about Cloud Computing for three straight days, then register now for Cloud Expo.
Apr. 30, 2016 02:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,726
IoT device adoption is growing at staggering rates, and with it comes opportunity for developers to meet consumer demand for an ever more connected world. Wireless communication is the key part of the encompassing components of any IoT device. Wireless connectivity enhances the device utility at the expense of ease of use and deployment challenges. Since connectivity is fundamental for IoT device development, engineers must understand how to overcome the hurdles inherent in incorporating multipl...
Apr. 30, 2016 02:15 PM EDT Reads: 1,467
The increasing popularity of the Internet of Things necessitates that our physical and cognitive relationship with wearable technology will change rapidly in the near future. This advent means logging has become a thing of the past. Before, it was on us to track our own data, but now that data is automatically available. What does this mean for mHealth and the "connected" body? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Lisa Calkins, CEO and co-founder of Amadeus Consulting, will discuss the impact of wea...
Apr. 30, 2016 01:15 PM EDT Reads: 689