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

Andreas Hoenen andreas.hoenen at arcor.de
Sat Oct 22 12:47:39 UTC 2005

From: Mark Johnson <mrj at debian.org>
Subject: Re: [xml/sgml] db2latex-xsl and alternatives for DocBook XML to PDF
Date: Fri, 21 Oct 2005 00:43:44 -0400

> ...
> > - 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.
> ...
> > Shall we package dblatex?  
> I dunno. Ditto above.
> ...
> 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...


I'd like to advocate the dblatex solution:

The most important point to me is that is under active development.  One can
tell the developer (it seems to be quite a small team) about a problem, and
normally he will supply one with a patch in a very short time.  Also the release
cycles are quite short, about once a month for the last three releases.  As each
project always needs continuous maintenance and improvement, this can not be

If you want to get an own impression of the project's vitality, just take a look
at the project's mailing list archive:

I think dblatex will gain some popularity as the KDE project seems to want using
it for the pdf output of its documentation.

Maybe in the past it has been a little tricky to install dblatex on a Debian
system, as the LaTeX file 'bibtopic.sty' was neither included in Debian nor in
dblatex, thus one had to fetch it manually somewhere from the internet (not such
a big problem with Google, anyway).  But since the previous dblatex release
0.1.6 it is included in dblatex, thus one does not need anything besides the
Debian Perl and LaTex packages to get dblatex installed on a Debian system.

Okay, in difference to db2latex dblatex is not a pure XSLT solution, but uses
some Perl code for post-processing; but as this is hidden from the end user, it
does not complicate the tool's use.  I like to consider the usage of Perl as
pragmatical, even if it's not theoretically "pure".  Actually it is one of the
goals of dblatex to hide as much as possible of the underlying toolchain's
complexity from the end user, in many cases it's not more than a 'dblatex
document.xml' to produce 'document.pdf'.

And for the usage of TeX as the intermediate format between DocBook and pdf
instead of XSL-FO: at least TeX is a well known, stable typesetting language of
high quality (even if it's quite old and somehow obscure), thus one could
consider this as an advantage rather than a disadvantage.

To summarize: IMHO dblatex is one interesting solution for transforming DocBook
into pdf, and as a quite enthusiastic Debian user I would be pleased to see it
packaged into Debian.  Do not understand this as bashing of other solutions: the
more open source ways there are to get this task done, the better.

Regards, Andreas Hoenen

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