Many aspects of layout are, in fact, adopted in the Web community; they are applicable for electronic displays and described in Recommendations such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). This Recommendation defines presentation semantics in areas such as font, margin, and color properties. Paginating marked up information is also not something new. The Document Style Semantics and Specification Language (DSSSL), the international standard on which XSL-FO is based, was used originally with SGML documents and therefore works unchanged with XML documents.
Accepting that HTML and CSS are suitable and sufficient for browser-oriented rendering of information, the W3C set out to define a collection of pagination semantics for print-oriented rendering. Along with paper results, these pagination semantics are equally suitable for an electronic display of fixed-size folios of information, e.g. in page-turner browsers or Portable Document Format (PDF) readers.
The Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL), also known colloquially in our community as the Extensible Stylesheet Language Formatting Objects (XSL-FO), combines the heritage of CSS and DSSSL in a well-thought-out and robust specification of formatting semantics for paginating information.
The Recommendation itself is a rigorous , lengthy, and involved technical specification of the processes and operations performed by a formatting engine to effect paginated results consistent with other formatting engines acting on the same inputs. Well-written for its intended purpose and useful as a reference, the document remains out of reach for many people who just want to write XSL-FO stylesheets and print their marked-up information.