Wednesday, February 13, 2008

OOXML vs. ODF - the "battle" is heating up as we get closer to the ISO BRM date

I wrote about the Burton Group's report "What's Up, .DOC?" before on the XML Aficionado blog, and it didn't take long for the ODF Alliance to write a scathing rebuttal to the Burton Group report. Ironically, that rebuttal was published in PDF format, not ODF...

Before we take a look at what happens next, maybe it is time for a short review of the various acronyms and abbreviations that are commonly used in these reports, discussions, and in related blogs:

OOXML Office Open XML is an XML-based file format specification for electronic productivity application documents, such as spreadsheets, charts, presentations, and word processing documents. Originally developed by Microsoft, it is already an Ecma standard and widely used due to its implementation by Microsoft Office 2007. It is currently in the process of being proposed as an ISO standard.
ODF Open Document Format is a file format for electronic office documents, originally developed by Sun for the OpenOffice.org office suite and then later standardized through OASIS and ISO.
ISO International Organization for Standardization
BRM Ballot Resolution Meeting is the ISO process by which comments received during the previous ISO FastTrack vote and letter ballot phase are resolved by the meeting, during which national bodies and the submitting entity (Ecma) will possibly agree on a set of revisions to the originally submitted standard text. The DIS-29500 BRM is scheduled for February 25-29, 2008, in Geneva.
DIS-29500 The official ISO name and standard number for OOXML
OASIS Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards; a non-profit consortium that defines open standards for the global information society
Ecma Originally this was called the European Computer Manufacturers Association, but their new name is Ecma International - European association for standardizing information and communication systems.
XML eXtensible Markup Language as defined by the W3C in 1998. Probably the most important standard of them all, because both OOXML and ODF are built on top of XML. If you don't know it already, you should definitely learn XML... :)

 

So what's new with the OOXML vs. ODF debate now that we are only two weeks away from the ISO BRM? Earlier this week, the Burton Group responded to the ODF Alliance's rebuttal in a series of three postings by Guy Creese on the Collaboration and Content Strategies Blog, and you can find them here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. In this response, the Burton Group addresses each criticism from the ODF Alliance point by point.

Also, Slashdot reported this week on the Ecma response to the ISO comments and the recent blog post from Russel Ossendryver (an open source and ODF advocate) criticizing the Ecma response.

If you prefer some demos over reading thousands of pages of specifications, you may find these videos interesting that have been posted on YouTube recently: a video of Open XML on the iPhone, as well as a video of Native Open XML support on Mac OS X. Both videos show support of OOXML on Apple's platforms, yet Martin Bekkelund (a proponent of Norway's "no" vote on DIS-29500) writes on his blog today about some headaches he's had with OOXML on the Mac and his iPhone. I was curious about his allegation that a .DOCX on the iPhone produces an error message, so I had to try it myself - and I am happy to report that any .DOCX attachment received on my iPhone (running the 1.1.3 software) displays beautifully and works pretty much exactly like it is shown in the YouTube video above.

More commentary and further information can be found on Michael Desmond's blog, as well as in previous OOXML-related posts on this XML Aficionado blog. Also keep in mind that the best way to learn OOXML is to start experimenting with it, and I recently wrote a longer article on Content reuse with Open XML and XSLT to show exactly how easily it can be done using the built-in OOXML support in your favorite XML Editor.

One thing is certain: everybody will be watching the outcome of the ISO BRM very closely...

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

You fail to mention several things:

* Microsoft have screwed up the process for getting ISO/IEC approval by bribing, corrupting and using their undoubted muscle to force their badly written spec through. Honestly - a 6000+ page spec that had "at least" 3522 errors, although given the limited time to review it is doubtful that they were all identified.

* The current MSO implementation in docx is NOT ECMA-376 (OOXML) and M$ have NEVER publicly committed to actually producing a compliant product or supporting their own standard.

* The applications which Martin Bekkelund tried to use were all (aprt from the text editor) viewers only (not editors) of an non-public file specification.

* The EU has opened a 3rd investigation into Microsoft specifically relating to their efforts to force this spec through ISO/IEC.

The Open Sourcerer

hAl said...

A similar file to Martins seems to display fine on the iPhone.
I think Martins problems might be related to the actual picture format he was using in the document which might not be suipported by the Apple. But I can't see which format he was using as he did not provide the sample files

Fredrik E. Nilsen said...

Martins source files are available on his Norwegian blog:

http://www.bekkelund.net/blogg/2008/02/01/ooxml-og-apple-produkter/

Scroll half way down on the page for the links.

It seems like the trouble was the implementation of OOXML in NeoOffice. Shazhad Rana (member of the Norwegian delegation to the BRM) wrote about it in his blog, but it's unfortunately only available in Norwegian:

http://blog.rana.io/2008/02/05/open-xml-i-neooffice-apple-finder-iwork-og-iphone/

Martin Bekkelund said...

I'd like to translate a quote from Shahzad Rana's blog:

«I cannot say if the error resides on Apple or NeoOffice»

So, the question stands. For me, not having a license for Microsoft Office, (MS)OOXML is useless.

When it comes to the files, the picture is just a normal JPEG. Anyway, I would be extremely surprised if a picture in a document this simple would be able to break the syntax.