Brussels / 31 January & 1 February 2015


Introducing SILE: A New Typesetting System

SILE is a system for creating beautiful printed documents. It borrows extensively from TeX, but brings some of TeX's ideas into the 21st century with frame-based layouts, native support for Unicode, PDF, Opentype and XML processing, and extensibility and programmability in a modern, high-level language.

Hello, my name's Simon and I wrote a typesetting system by mistake. Then I found out that people needed to use it. Come and hear about how SILE got started, how it's developed since then, and how you can use it to make printed documents.

SILE is a typesetter designed to meet the needs of a particular translation community, with an emphasis on extensibility and layout flexibility. Existing solutions (TeX and friends) were not able to provide the required features in these areas, and so translators and publishers have been looking around for an alternative solution for many years. SILE takes a lot of inspiration from TeX, but updates many of its ideas to match the changes in the software ecosystem in the past 35 years.

SILE does not, however, aim to be a replacement for TeX, but is a separate system for document layout and rendering. Because of this, functionality which is a challenge for TeX users - for instance, laying out text on a grid, or magazine-style frame based layouts - becomes very easy in SILE. SILE is written in an interpreted language, so parts of the system's operation, including core typesetting algorithms, can be redefined at run time.

SILE is also designed to meet the realities of today's data processing. Documents these days are often prepared in authoring software and stored in XML format. This applies both to document-specific XML DTDs, such as DocBook and the Text Encoding Initiative, and also tagged text database formats, such as those for storing linguistic and other annotation data such as the LIFT standard for dictionary data and the USX format used by translators. SILE classes can define processing expectations for XML elements, which means that XML files can then be read in and typeset directly. We will look at examples of complex book layouts driven by XML data sources.


Photo of Simon Cozens Simon Cozens