Some Tools That Suck Significantly Less
- Antenna House XSL Formatter. An XSL-FO implementation that implements essentially every useful feature of the XSL-FO recommendation with a high degree of correctness, provides needed and useful extensions, has very high engineering quality, excellent support, pretty good API, decent documentation, good platform coverage, and it does Thai (which until recently was distinguishing).
- RenderX XEP. An XSL-FO implementation that is a very close second to XSL Formatter in all respects. It's just a little less complete and correct in its feature implementation but has very high performance and comparable support and documentation quality. And now XEP does Thai too, making things a little more interesting in the XSL FO implementation world.
To my mind, these two tools exemplify how standards-based software tools should be: they compete competently, vigorously, and fairly on value, providing tools that will serve their users well at a reasonable cost with minimal proprietary lock-in. They participate constructively in the standards process and generally make me happy.
In my many years of experience few tools have given me more pleasure and caused me less pain than these two products. Their existence has made it possible for me and my professional collegues to achieve remarkable success in creating sophisticated, affordable, sustainable publishing systems using XSL-FO.
My genunine thanks go out to the teams at RenderX and Antenna House.
Another tool that doesn't really suck at all is the Saxon XSLT engine from Mike Kay. Saxon is remarkable in being software of the highest engineering quality that supports essentially 100% of the relevant standards and is backed by exceptional support, especially given that it's just one man doing it and it's free, open-source software. I don't think it's overstating things to say that Mike Kay is a god among men and it's not within my power to meaningfully repay him for the value that Saxon has provided me personally. It's the only XSLT engine I use both for feature reasons (it's the only implementation that provides the collator extension support I need) and for quality reasons: it is as close to a bug-free piece of non-trivial software as I've ever worked with, and its fast. Wicked fast.
There are a few other tools, maybe I'll mention them at some point. The fact that I haven't mentioned your tool doesn't mean that you don't suck less, but I'm hard pressed to think of any other tool that I depend on day-to-day for my XML-related work that has the same level of completeness and quality as these three pieces of software.
Arbortext Editor (nee Epic Editor nee Adept Editor) is also at the top of the list: it's a solid tool that implements XML and related useful specifications with remarkable completeness. It has good integration features and documentation. Support is usually pretty good. It's a powerful tool that can solve a lot of problems. It's level of suck is pretty low, but it does not quite achieve the level of excellence of the foregoing. It does crash occasionally (but almost never loses data or at least not a significant amount of data), it is a little spendy (reflective of its value but still spendy relative to its competition and what people want to spend).
Maybe next I'll discuss why all XML content management systems are, without exception, heinous piles of crap that should be avoided at all costs....