Monday, March 31, 2008

Open XML and ODF

Here I am putting some of thought expressed in recent posts by various people, so that the points expressed reach more people to better understand.

* jlundstocholm of A 'mooh' point' in his post IBM is now fighting from the trenches blogs about how IBM is blocking comments and using their blogs as mere portals with no user-interaction ... at least not interaction of the people opposing their views.

To the posts many have commented with replies like :...."It seems Microsoft bloggers have a much less strict moderation policy and are more willing to discuss with opposite minds......"


* Another blog post Who Loses If OpenXML Loses? (link to pdf document) from Patrick Durusau, project editor of ISO/IEC 26300 (the Open Document Format (ODF) specification), as well as the ODF Technical Committee Editor in OASIS puts across checklist of who loses if OpenXML does :

  • National bodies lose an open and international forum for further work on DIS 29500.
  • Microsoft based third-party vendors may be excluded from contracts because Microsoft has no
    ISO approved format.
  • ODF has no ISO-based formula definitions to insure compatibility between OpenDocument and
  • ODF has no ISO-based definition of MS legacy features for an ODF extension.
  • ODF has no ISO-based definition of the current MS format for mapping purposes.

These thoughts from an editor of ODF is quite significant. He goes on to say : "Passage of OpenXML in ISO is going to benefit OpenDocument as much as anyone else" and puts forward some specifics:

OpenDocument currently lacks formula definitions for spreadsheets. (To appear in OpenDocument
1.2.) Many core financial functions in spreadsheets are undefined except for actual Excel output. That
output varies by version and service pack of MS Office. What happens if OpenDocument and
OpenXML reach different definitions of those functions?

OpenDocument does not presently support legacy features of Microsoft formats. That will be easier
with a formal definition of those features. Without OpenXML, OpenDocument has no authoritative
definition of those legacy features. That delays OpenDocument supporting them in some future release.

OpenDocument does not have a robust mapping to the current Microsoft format. That requires an
OpenXML that has completed the standards process. If OpenXML is unclear, it must be fixed in order
to create a robust mapping between the two.

The bottom line is that OpenDocument, among others, will lose if OpenXML loses.

That says it all.

The same reference is also given in "The fate of ODF if Open XML loses" by Aatish Ramkaran. 

Since February, Patrick Durusau has been releasing letters calling for sanity around the FUD campaign surrounding Open XML. He has discussed issues ranging from the openness of Open XML to possible co-evolution with ODF.


* Another of Aatish Ramkaran post "Some comparisons between Open XML and ODF" compares the two on some of the points:

"Anti-Open XML lobbyists have long been crying foul on some of the flaws in the specification.

Two main points emerge from their perspective:

  1. ODF is already an ISO standard, therefore there is no need for Open XML.
  2. Open XML has a number of flaws which make it unsuitable for becoming an ISO standard.

The first point ignores the fact that Open XML and ODF were created to fulfil different needs.

Open XML provides complete support for representing (with 100% fidelity) the billions of existing Microsoft Office binary documents in existence today.

Based on the second point, ODF should have none of the flaws Open XML has, because it's already an ISO standard.

However, the fact remains that no standard is created perfectly the first time around. That's what the maintenance process is for.

In fact, ODF v1.0 (the only ISO standard of ODF) has no definition for spreadsheet formulae, but this is being addressed in v1.2 (as part of the maintenance process), which still needs to become an ISO standard.

After the BRM, 98.73% of the proposed changes based on the comments were accepted. This was a huge leap forward in the technical quality of Open XML.

Check the post for the full story.

Reading all these should clear many of the doubts, I hope.

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