W3C: Printing and the Web

With the ubiquity of formats such as HTML for online use, there has been long-standing interest in applying W3C technologies in printing environments. Starting with a workshop in 1996, the W3C has developed technologies with a focus on printing, such as XSL-FO, XHTML Print and SVG Print.

All the W3C Print Technologies are developed in a vendor-neutral way with the goal of being implementable on a royalty-free basis. The W3C Process contains strict interoperability and conformance criteria, ensuring the standards are usable across multiple platforms and devices.

SVG Print

Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) is an XML-based language for two-dimensional graphics. It has been a W3C Recommendation since 2001 and SVG viewers are deployed to more than 100 million desktops and mobile devices worldwide.

SVG Print uses the base SVG language to create a graphically rich page description format, similar to Postscript and PDF. It is mainly targeted at Enterprise printing solutions, but is also useful in smaller workflows, such as connecting a digital camera directly to a printer.

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SVG Print is being developed at the W3C with primary input from Canon, HP and Adobe. The first Working Draft of SVG Print has been released. Feedback on requirements and technology direction is welcome.


HTML is the ubiquitous Web language. There are millions of content developers and many thousands HTML authoring tools and systems. The W3C's most recent work on HTML has been to develop an XML version called XHTML. Meanwhile, HTML is being adopted in many non-Web environments, such as embedded systems, mobile and, more recently, printing.

XHTML Print was developed by the IEEE PWG and brought to W3C for standardization by HP and Lexmark. It is targeted primarily at low-end printers -- a typical device costing around 50 USD. The low overhead of XHTML processing means XHTML Print will be used in consumer applications, such as using a mobile phone to print a web page or digital photograph on an XHTML printer using Bluetooth.

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XHTML Print is currently a W3C Candidate Recommendation. Implementation feedback is welcome.


The XSL suite of technologies includes an XML-based transformation language called XSLT, and an XML-based styling language called XSL-FO (for Formatting Objects). The main goal of XSL is to enable users to write rules to transform their XML documents into a format that will provide high-quality printouts.

The Formatting Objects language contains elements specifically designed for professional-grade page layout, including controls for automatic page numbering, footnotes, hyphenation, complex mixing of text blocks with arbitrary writing directions, advanced page or line breaking methods, and many other features.

XSLT and XSLFO have been W3C Recommendations since 1999 and 2001, respectively. Numerous implementations and extensive documentation of both specifications exist, and many companies use them in production environment. The XSL Working Group are currently working on version 2 of XSLT and version 1.1 or XSL-FO.

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Other W3C print technologies

The W3C also has technologies related to printing that are not document formats, including:

Partner Organizations

The W3C develops technologies designed to interoperate. In many cases it works with other organizations in order to achieve the best solution. In the printing area, W3C is liaising with the following:

Some W3C Members in Print and Publishing areas

About W3C/Join W3C

In 1994, the formation of the World Wide Web Consortium was motivated by increasing demands from a wide range of organizations and their markets for Web infrastructure that is based on open, interoperable standards. Today, corporations, research groups, non-profit organizations and governmental agencies are enjoying a return on investments by partnering their capabilities to the collaborative power of nearly 400 Member organizations and the Consortium's technical staff in leading the future development of the World Wide Web.

W3C is an international industry consortium jointly run by MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL) in the USA, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) headquartered in France and Keio University in Japan. Services provided by the Consortium include: a repository of information about the World Wide Web for developers and users, and various prototype and sample applications to demonstrate use of new technology. For more information see http://www.w3.org/

Dean Jackson
Last modified: $Date: 2004/02/17 09:49:42 $
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