Obtaining the DSSSL standard

From an e-mail message <199601120520.VAA13372@netcom23.netcom.com>:

DSSSL (Document Style Semantics and Specification Language) is an International Standard, ISO/IEC 10179:1996, for specifying document transformation and formatting in a platform- and language-independent manner. DSSSL can be used with any document format for which a property set can be defined according to the Property Set Definition Requirements of ISO/IEC 10744 (HyTime). In particular, it is designed to specify the presentation of documents marked up according to ISO 8879:1986, Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML).

DSSSL provides four distinct areas of standardization:

(a) A transformation language for specifying structural transformations on SGML documents.

(b) A style language for associating formatting characteristics with SGML documents.

(c) A Standard Document Query Language (SDQL) for identifying portions of an SGML document. SDQL is used by both the transformation and style languages.

(d) An expression language used to create and manipulate objects in the transformation language, the style language, and SDQL. The DSSSL expression language is based on a functional, side-effect-free subset of the Scheme programming language.

DSSSL also defines a subset of the expression language called the core expression language and a subset of SDQL called the core query language. Many features of DSSSL are designated as optional. The core expression language, the core query language, and the other required features of DSSSL constitute a "core DSSSL" designed to meet the needs of applications like online browsers that do not require the complex data manipulation and page layout capabilities of complete SGML-based publishing systems.

By defining a comprehensive and extensible language for applying presentational semantics to structured documents, DSSSL completes the international standardization of text processing begun in 1986 with the release of the SGML standard.

Obtaining the Draft Standard
The final committee draft of the DSSSL standard is available in three electronic distributions.

1. The draft standard is available over the World Wide Web from the Novell Publications Server at


For suggestions on how to use the underlying SGML tag structure of the draft standard for searching, see


2. The same document is available in DynaText form together with a runtime DynaText browser for Windows. To obtain the draft and the browser, log in via anonymous ftp to


and, in binary mode, download the four files dsssl96.zip, dtwin23.zip, readme.txt, and unzip.exe. Note that you must use unzip.exe to unpack the two zip files; you cannot use pkunzip. Directions for installing the draft and the DynaText browser will be found in the file readme.txt. These files may be freely distributed.

3. The SGML source files used to generate the DynaWeb and DynaText versions of the draft are available by anonymous ftp from


These files may be freely distributed and used to generate other electronic versions of the draft.

Jon Bosak

Note: although the above message speaks about the `draft' standard, this is really the official text, published electronically with permission from ISO.