Use Inkscape and XSLT to Create Cross-Platform Reports and Forms

A way to create platform-independent dynamic forms and reports.
Converting the SVG to an XSLT

Once we had the master SVG finished, it was time to convert it into an XSLT. Because SVG images are just XML files, we added all of the XSLT markup with a text editor. Converting the SVG was a rather simple matter. To make it a true XSLT, only a few lines are required in the header. Listing 1 shows a few lines of the SVG before we modified it. Listing 2 shows the same set of lines with the XSLT markup.

As you can see, there are four new lines. The first new line declares this file an XSLT. The second new line contains an XPath (XML Path Language) expression that matches the root element in our claim data XML. This line tells the XML transform engine where to start reading the XML to do the conversion. The last two new lines simply close the open xsl tags.

At this point, the XSLT can be used in conjunction with our claim data XML to produce an SVG. However, the resulting SVG would look just like the SVG did before we modified it. To make it actually show the claim data, we had to go into the XSLT and add all of the XPath expressions to populate the SVG. Because we divided the SVG objects into layers, we had to modify only the dynamic text layer. In the SVG XML, the dynamic text layer is nothing more than a series of text tags. Listing 3 shows the text tag for the Patient's City box on our claim form.

When the XSLT is applied to the claim data XML, the value of /claim/patient/address/city will be substituted here. We went through the entire XSLT and added the appropriate XPath expressions where they belonged. In special cases, we also added XPath conditional logic and formatting rules.

The Claim Data XML

As mentioned previously, all of our claim data was in a database—a Postgres database to be more specific. As we wanted a solution that was not language-specific, we had to devise a way to get the claim data out of the database and into an XML format without depending on a specific programming language. One of my fellow developers had the idea to write a series of PL/pgSQL functions to return a single XML string that contained the XML data. His solution was brilliant and fit the bill perfectly. All we needed to do to get the claim data was run one small query with the ID of the claim (Listing 4). The result was well-formatted XML that we used to make claim images.

Displaying the Final SVG in a Browser

At first, the primary point of creating this solution was to display claims in our Web interface. All of our Web applications are written in PHP5 and run in an Apache/mod_php environment. To do the XSLT transformation, we used the XSL functions in PHP. This set of functions comes as an extension to PHP. The extension is a front end to the libxslt C library.

The XSLT extension makes doing the transition easy. Listing 5 shows a portion of a PHP script that transforms the claim XML into an SVG and displays it in the browser.



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I did this for a few

Satya2's picture

I did this for a few projects and then turned to JasperReports. Keeping the XSLT in sync with the Inkscape SVG was getting to be a pain.

Does everyone have this problem, where people keep entering their life story into a field that has room for a couple of short lines only?


ewalstad's picture

Thanks for the article, Chad.

Are your files available for download? I wasn't able to find them on the LJ site. I'm especially interested in your xe2_claim PL/pgSQL function because my data is also in a PostgreSQL database.



Re: Resources?

cfiles's picture

You are welcome.

I will be glad to post the full SVG. The database stuff is a bit more complicated; it is tied into our main processing system. Basically outside of the database, without the structure and the data, it is useless.

I am going to try to get the guy who wrote it to publish an article about what he did.

Multiple lines

Anonymous's picture

I am interested in figuring out how to fill out a list of items that is variable for each record. Creating a new variable for every blank like in the template will not be a good idea, so how did you accomplished that?

Re: Multiple lines

Cafuego's picture

You create a flowRoot object in inkscape by clicking and dragging the text tool.

This object contains flowPara objects, which are the paragraphs that wrap properly within the defined flowRoot area.

Note you need to set the text-align property to justify manually if you want justified text, the inkscape text properties dialog doesn't allow you to do that (yet).

Can you share a sample hcfa

mak's picture

Can you share a sample hcfa 1500 file with layers? That will help to understand the design.