“FYI we’re not looking to go to print”

Restyling the Markup UK Proceedings

Tony Graham

Senior Architect
Antenna House
XML Division


Markup UK is a markup conference, and its conference proceedings start life as DocBook XML markup. DocBook has a standard set of XSLT 1.0 stylesheets for transforming DocBook XML markup into other formats.

Markup UK 2018 was put together very rapidly, so it is a tribute to the usefulness of the DocBook XSLT stylesheets that the conference had proceedings at all. However, the PDF proceedings were the stock DocBook styles done with a Garamond font and with the addition of some front matter with sponsors’ logos and acknowledgements.

The Markup UK 2019 proceedings were produced using the same customisation. Happily for the conference, a second page of sponsors’ logos was needed, but that was about the only change. It was agreed shortly after the conference that the styles should be improved. The full instructions for what to do were “FYI we’re not looking to go to print, if that influences any of your decisions.”

It did, but it didn’t make the task any easier. This paper discusses the changes to the proceedings and how the DocBook stylesheets were customised to achieve them.

Table of Contents

Markup UK look-and-feel
Not going to print
Front matter
Other customisations
Syntax highlighting
Current status

The ‘classic’ academic paper or conference proceedings paper (to the extent that there is one) has one or two columns of justified text per page. If there are two columns per page, the title and abstract, etc., typically span both columns.

Papers typically start on an odd-numbered, right-hand page: this could just follow from right-hand pages being the ‘front’ of a leaf, or it could be a by-product of single-article reprints of papers needing to start on a right-hand page.[13] Graphics are typically floated to the top (and sometimes also to the bottom) of the page. In a two-column paper, graphics can be either one column wide or span both columns. Large graphics might instead be grouped at the back of the paper, after the references. The combination of a two-column layout plus floating figures generally takes fewer pages than if all text, headings, and figures span the width of the page.

The changes fall into three areas: Markup UK look-and-feel; not going to print; and accessibility.

[13] Magazines and newspapers start articles as a two-page spread when it suits them, but in my limited experience, papers in journals and in conference proceedings do not start with a two-page spread.