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Re: Quality between XSL:FO PDF and InDesign PDF

Subject: Re: Quality between XSL:FO PDF and InDesign PDF
From: Hoskins & Gretton <hoskgret@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 2010 21:51:04 -0400
Re:  Quality between XSL:FO PDF and InDesign PDF
[Peter Stoll's question]
HI, without trying to respond to the other comments about InDesign and PDF (and trying not to violate the spirit of the xl-list), here is my opinion based on my work with XML in InDesign: If you need to generate PDF, and that is you major criteria for output, then the difference is whether you need to be able to make full-scale aesthetic adjustments on the output, or whether an automated, template-driven output will meet your needs.
Adobe InDesign is the only high-end graphic design application on the market that will permit mixing non-XML and XML content in the same document, with different column layouts on any page, have complete typographic control and will produce PDFs that are suitable for offset printing color separations. It will compose pages in appropriate imposition pairs, although you will need other software to make complete press-ready signature imposition. You use InDesign typically because the paper printing process defines the space that you MUST publish within, whatever your defined page size, and you can't add pages if the text runs longer that what will fit in your design. Balancing all these advantages is the fact that it is a poor XML editing application. You are likely to need to simplify the XML structure to map it to paragraph and character styles, and it's very difficult to develop true round-tripping back to the original XML.
PDF generation from XSL-FO, by contrast, typically outputs content until the content is finished (including with different page layouts), and often the final output is intended for online or looseleaf publishing, where it doesn't matter if you have 16 pages or 17. You also are not generally concerned about adjusting individual words, lines, paragraphs or columns for purely aesthetic reasons. You don't need to include significant amounts of variable non-XML content mixed into the XML on the same page layouts. You don't usually need complete 4-color process control for creating printing plates. You are not trying to include cross-page-gutter content, bleeds, transparencies, other publishing tricks of the trade -- you are just trying to crank out all the pages of content in the document in a reasonable and reliable manner.
I am working on XML in InDesign with full color, drop shadows, table styles, etc. because I can have the kind of aesthetic control that I want. But if I have to edit the XML after I import it, I have only a very weak XML editor to use in InDesign. You have to understand the XML validation messages that InDesign generates, which usually aren't helpful to a designer-type person -- you need to be pretty expert at XML to know how to fix what is wrong.
The high-end solution to this is the InCopy/InServer applications coupled with InDesign, which is only justifiable for those who have a lot of full color offset printing publication work, need to handle a wide range of image formats, fonts, etc.
The InDesign solution will not, at present, meet the needs of those who want a low-cost, reliable PDF production system, for high-volume black and white content as XSL-FO provides. I do see room for developing some reliable XML InDesign publishing applications with judicious use of XSL for import and export in InDesign publications.
If you would like to see a tiny sample of XML and non-XML content in full color combined in InDesign, drop me a line and I will send you a two-page spread in InDesign CS3 (Win) and the output PDF.
Regards, Dorothy

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