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Spreadsheets and documents based on standards - OpenXML and ODF, ODF and Excel or all 3

I have been using and referencing standards for a long time.  They are great.  C# is an ECMA standard for example as are parts of .Net which is how project Mono has managed to come great strides in delivering part of the .Net experience on non-Microsoft platforms.  Also my 1st job out after University was writing document converters.

So there are two things here - one, what is wrong with more than 1 standard - we have several for networks, several for character sets.  Often one standard will work where another will not.  Nearly always one standard is driven by an interested party.  Open Office is very keen to see greater adoption of ODF.  Microsoft is very keen to seen greater adoption of OpenXML. 

OpenXML is already a European standard (ECMA) and one of the nice things about that is the stability you are offered if you are developing against it.  There is no requirement to have Office to use this file format.

OK, so we could say "lets not use the European standard and create a similar one, but not quite the same" - so we have Office 2007 and the ECMA standard in one camp competing against a similar almost identical offering elsewhere... not really ideal.

Now to ODF, the "why don't we all just use ODF" standard?  Well, you know how those little details can be a killer - how about this?  The formulas in ODF spreadsheets are NOT covered by the standard, so ANY string that goes into a cell is just that.  It is down to the individual implementation as to which formulas to support or not.  This alone says to me that ODF can't be used as a serious interchange standard (if it is just used as the document file format for OpenOffice then why bother with it as a standard?).  it is the same with Macro's.  They can be stored, but no talk about the language they use or how they work, so again, you have a document you can open, but not know if the formulas will work etc.

 

So, if you think there is any merit in having more than 1 document format in the world, please click here and sign the petition.

 

For more information on ODF and the spreadsheet issues, have a look at http://notes2self.net/archive/2006/07/12/Cutting-corners-_2D00_-the-realpolitik-of-ODF-standardisation_3F00_.aspx  and for a more balanced view on the views expressed by both organisations see http://weblog.infoworld.com/realitycheck/archives/2007/05/odf_vs_openxml.html

 

I also read this article here http://www.freesoftwaremagazine.com/articles/odf_programs?page=0%2C1 and noted the comments (this is a review of a number of ODF based office applications)

Remarkably, the document doesn’t look the same as it did when it was last saved with KWord (KOffice). So, just like when we moved from OpenOffice to KWord, our sample document suffers from non-trivial layout differences. Again, while we haven’t lost content, parts of the formatting details have been lost. While the image is still centered as it should be, the paragraph wraps around the image. If rendered consistently, then the paragraph should begin underneath the picture.

When exchanging documents, data loss is obviously not acceptable. We consider losing the layout as a form of data loss as well, and therefore the loss of layout is a serious matter

When exchanging documents, data loss is obviously not acceptable. We consider losing the layout as a form of data loss as well, and therefore the loss of layout is a serious matter. Some may say that included images are not that important as long as they are shown. They may argue that the primary focus of a word processor is the processing of text and that dealing with pictures is of secondary concern. But we think format is an integral part of office documents that combine text, graphics, charts etc. The formatting is the key attribute of a word processor over a text editor.

 

thanks

David

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Posted Fri, Jun 29 2007 3:21 PM by David Overton

Comments

David Russell wrote re: Spreadsheets and documents based on standards - OpenXML and ODF, ODF and Excel or all 3
on Fri, Jun 29 2007 9:43 PM

Er... ODF is an ECMA standard as well. It got that before it was submitted to ISO, unless I'm forgetting something.

David Overton wrote re: Spreadsheets and documents based on standards - OpenXML and ODF, ODF and Excel or all 3
on Fri, Jun 29 2007 10:00 PM

David,

Sorry, you are right - I don't have a problem with lots of standards, I also don't mind how many standards bodies ratify them.  Because ODF was an ECMA standard helped it through the fast track process that led to it being an ISO standard.  I simply want to answer those who say "why should we have 2 standards" - because they do different things.  I am pro fast-track!..

ttfn

David

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