[xml/sgml-pkgs] Re: [xml/sgml] db2latex-xsl and alternatives for DocBook XML to PDF

Mark Johnson mrj at debian.org
Fri Oct 21 04:43:44 UTC 2005

> unfortunately, the db2latex-xsl project seems to be dead on the
> upstream end.  The last release was on 2004-01-30, called
> 0.8pre1 :-(  Questions and suggestions on the mailing list
> remain unanswered.  Of course, we can fix this and that on the
> Debian side, but I don't believe we have the human power to do
> it properly without living upstream.  Alternatives are:
> - dblatex (not yet in Debian, uses Perl :-( and XSL, active
>   upstream, XSL parts seem to be based on db2latex-xsl, maybe
>   not buildable from sources)

Have heard of some reasonable output from dblatex, but tha it still 
needs much work and requires much tweaking. Not well-enough informed 
(i.e. haven't tested it) to offer any sprt of authoritative opinion.

> - fop (currently in contrib, depends on J2RE, should be compiled
>   with gcj for performance anyway, but I don't know whether this
>   would work)

despite the frozen developement since 12/2003, FOP does surprisingly 
well in implementing most of the xsl-fo spec. IOW, it seems to work 
quite well for most processing. in fact, it's part of the official DITA 
open toolkit: http://sourceforge.net/projects/dita-ot/
Not perfect, but seems to be one of the best (free) solutions.

> - passivetex (also not very active upstream, AFAIK)

passivetex is dead. have confirmed with upstream that further 
development is not worth the effort.

> What are your experiences and opinions?  

I've been testing FOP extensively with complex DocBook documents and 
have yet to find any problems. Then again, it is a java-based processor.

FWIW, there are folks in the Fedora Documentation Project who are 
currently working on building FOP & Saxon with gcj. I'd be happy to 
connect everyone (for some reason, the emails on this week have not been 
posted to the fedora-docs-list). I think it'd be great if we could pool 
all this expertise to get FOP & Saxon built with gcj.

 From what I understand, the current problem is that FOP depends on 
Batik, and Batik uses proprietary APIs in the Sun JRE, which are not 
required - but that's as far as my knowledge extends.

> Shall we (Debian) take over db2latex-xsl?  

Only if we can harness someone to continue to develop the package, plus 
maintain it. But I really dunno - no experience testing this tool.

> Shall we package dblatex?  

I dunno. Ditto above.

> Shall we try to gcj-compile fop? 

Absolutely! Doing so would be doing the free software community a great 

> Are there more alternatives to db2latex-xsl?

I've heard good things about xmlroff - though it's also still under 
development. IMO, some test processing needs to be done...


Call me old-school, but I prefer xsl-fo -> pdf tools that only require 
modification/customization of the the xsl-fo files (which are XML), 
rather than having to use TeX-based customization. But that's only my 
$0.02 - we should let the users decide...


Mark Johnson      <mrj at debian.org>
Debian XML/SGML:  <http://debian-xml-sgml.alioth.debian.org>
Home Page:        <http://linux.duke.edu/~mark/>
GPG fp: DBEA FA3C C46A 70B5 F120  568B 89D5 4F61 C07D E242

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