December 17, 2004

List of XSL-FO processors

XSL-FO is a W3C recommendation for describing layout information. In other words, by attaching a XSL-FO stylesheet to an XML file (content file), we specify how the content should be laid out on an output medium complete with headers/footers, table of contents, indexes etc. With XSL-FO, we can also flow text around images, add footnotes etc. Of course, none of the browsers currently supports this standard. We cannot use XSL-FO for web pages yet. However, we have XSL-FO tools which convert a given XML file to PDF, PS etc.

Here is a list of currently available XSL-FO processors and tools. Please check the respective websites for updated information and pricing.

Apache - FOP (I tested this tool)
  • An open-source free tool.
  • Written in Java.
  • Java interface.
  • PDF, PS, RTF outputs etc.
  • Very good support for XSL-FO specifications.
  • Extensive SVG support. (Yes, you can embed on-the-fly images in PDF using SVG. Helpful for creating dynamic charts and graphs).
  • No major updates to the project since 2003. However, actively maintained for bug fixes.
Antenna House – XSL Formatter V3.2 (I tested this tool)
  • Commerical tool. $5000 per CPU. $3000/$900 developer license.
  • Extensive support for XSL-FO specifications.
  • PDF output.
  • .NET / JAVA interfaces.
  • Very good SVG support.
RenderX – XEP Engine (I tested this tool)
  • Commerical tool. $4000 per CPU.
  • Very good support for XSL-FO specifications.
  • PDF, PS outputs.
  • Java interface. (Connectivity kit for other platforms)
  • Extensive SVG support
Inventive Designers – Scriptura XBOS 3.1
  • Commerical tool. Expensive.
  • PDF, PS, HTML, RTF outputs etc.
  • Requires a Java application server.
  • Java/C++ interfaces.
  • GUI layout designer. (No need to hand code XSL-FO stylesheets)
  • Lots of features
Unicorn Enterprises SA - Unicorn Formatting Objects
  • Commerical tool.
  • PDF, PS, HTML outputs.
  • Very little information on their website.
Visual Programming Limited - Ibex XSL-FO Formatter 3.0
  • Commerical tool. An inexpensive tool.
  • .NET / JAVA interfaces.
  • PDF output.
  • SVG support.
Adobe - Adobe Document Server
  • Commerical tool.
  • C++ interface.
  • PDF output.
  • SVG support.
Ecrion - XF Rendering Server
  • Commerical tool. $805 - $995 per cpu.
  • .NET / COM+ / SOAP interfaces.
  • PDF, HTML, PS outputs.
  • SVG support.
  • GUI designer.
  • Built-in charting feature.
Lunacil - Xinc XSL-FO formatter
  • Commerical tool. $495 per cpu.
  • JAVA/COM interfaces.
  • PDF output.
Altova - Stylevision 2005
  • Commerical tool. Starts at $599 per cpu.
  • No interface listed on their website.
  • PDF/HTML/RTF outputs.
  • GUI designer.
ALTSOFT - Xml2PDF.NET
  • Commerical tool. $49 - $1599(depending on the editions).
  • .NET interface.
  • PDF output.
  • SVG support.
  • GUI tool for formatting.

In the mulberrytech mailing list, I was told that http://www.xmlsoftware.com/xslfo.html has a better listing of xsl-fo tools.

UPDATED: Jan 10, 2005.

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A more current list of XSL FO processors is at http://www.PrintXSL.com/

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