Real-Life Requirements for Advanced Layout from XML Content

Podcast!

Since Arbortext Advanced Print Publisher (APP) was released as an alternative print composition engine in Arbortext 5.4 (June 2009), we’ve been digging into what it can do and why someone would really need it.

We interviewed Simon Taylor from PTC. Simon spends his time “thinking about printing content on pages”. It’s no surprise, given that he’s the Product Manager for APP and Styler at PTC. Simon was part of Advent, the company that originally built APP (named “3B2” at the time), which was acquired by Arbortext in 2005, before their acquisition by PTC.

We were very lucky to speak with him about real-life requirements for advanced layout and why customers are forced to go to a product like APP from formatting languages like FOSI and XSL-FO. He had a lot to say…

There are two schools when it comes to printing XML content on pages. InDesign, XPP, and PTC’s Arbortext Advanced Print Publisher (APP), come at things from a different perspective than the rest of the XML Publishing technologies (FOSI, XSL-FO). They think about layout as typesetters would think about it: frames and layers.

There are a lot of things that push customers to the limits of what FOSI or XSL-FO can provide. Examples include things like:

  • Change style based on an element or element context

    “Sometimes style needs to behave differently depending on whether content appears on a left or a right hand page”

  • More than 5 regions (header, footer, left/right margins, and body) on a page without having to build tables in tables in tables

    “You can tie regions together, so that if one moves, the other moves as well.”

  • Advanced graphics presentation: Spill text around a graphic using it’s “clipping path”

    “This is especially useful in product catalogs”

  • Marginalia: Extract content from the content stream and insert it into a side-note

    ” And have them behave nicely, moving other components around based on size and amount of content”

  • “Synoptic Alignment”[1]: The ability to align multiple content streams at the same vertical position on the page.

    “You can flow multiple content streams at the same time and have them interact with each other.”

  • Language formatting capabilities for non-English language: Japanese, Arabic, Thai, Hebrew, Chinese, Korean, etc. (See the full list of Arbortext-supported languages).

    “There are different rules about how you break lines, do character spacing based on how you’ve justified the text, punctuation rules…

    If you want to do good Japanese typesetting, then things like Ruby, Warichu, Yakumono, Kinsoku Shori are required, and APP has handled all of that for a long time.”

  • And a lot more…

    “That’s really only scratching the surface of what APP can do”

Simon discusses these examples and more, while discussing the kinds of reasons customers move to advanced publishing applications.

“With APP, you get the tools to create the layouts that you want. You don’t have to cut down your requirements for what you want to achieve, you just have to spend a little bit of extra effort achieving it.”

APP can do everything that any layout program on the market today can do, plus everything else and the ability to automate all of it.

“We don’t like the word compromise. If a customer comes to us and says, ‘We want our layouts to look like this’, we’re normally very confident that we can achieve it. We don’t like to go back to them and say, ‘Well, you know if you move this around and change this kind of layout thing…”

If you want to hear the whole interview, listen to the podcast.

P.S. If you want to see the “synoptic alignment” feature in action, watch the unedited recording of the Arbortext User Group June 2009 meeting. One of the examples was how the Canadian House of Commons is delivering two-column output (French version in one column, English version in the other) and delivering sections that line up vertically. The source content comes from two different content streams. APP automatically matches those sections and lines them up automatically on the page. The alignment can be dynamically adjusted in the desktop UI on the fly. It’s amazing to watch.

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Author: Liz Fraley

Liz Fraley has founded two companies, sits on the boards of three non-profits, and is constantly coming up with new ways to share knowledge in the technical communications and content industries. https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizabethfraley/

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