Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 2nd Aug 2007 23:01 UTC
Features, Office The commonwealth of Massachusetts has officially thrown its weight behind Microsoft's Office Open XML format along with the OASIS Open Document Format. In July, the commonwealth added Microsoft's format, also known as Ecma-376 or Open XML, to the list of approved standards in a draft of the Massachusetts ETRM, an architectural framework used to identify the standards, specifications and technologies that support Massachusetts' computing environment.
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If nothing else...
by flanque on Thu 2nd Aug 2007 23:30 UTC
flanque
Member since:
2005-12-15

If nothing else, I think this has demonstrated to Microsoft that they must become far more openly inter operable. I certainly don't see this as a validation to Microsoft that their format is superior however.

Remember, the future can always turn against Microsoft. This to my mind is just one step in what will be a long future of pressure to open up, standardise and allow other products to interoperate with theirs.

Something as simple as the format of a word processing document should never place barriers between organisations and people trying to communicate.

Reply Score: 5

Standard?
by jessta on Thu 2nd Aug 2007 23:39 UTC
jessta
Member since:
2005-08-17

A standard can only be a standard if it is implemented by more than one vendor no matter what organisation approves it.

Open XML is only implemented by microsoft and from what I hear of it's complexity it will probably only ever be implemented by microsoft.

Reply Score: 8

RE: Standard?
by flanque on Thu 2nd Aug 2007 23:54 UTC in reply to "Standard?"
flanque Member since:
2005-12-15

You may very well be right on the complexity preventing others from implementing it, but this could then be viewed as an opportunity for the alternative open standards to push themselves for implementation.

In the end I think this will, in practice, likely turn out to be just the new default format, which is available for everyone to see, but possibly too complex for most to attempt.

I'd love to be proven wrong though.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Standard?
by DeadFishMan on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 00:56 UTC in reply to "RE: Standard?"
DeadFishMan Member since:
2006-01-09

No, no, no... This is bad! Open XML is too complex and encumbered with legacy stuff to support Microsoft's older products. If this turns out to be another defacto standard, thus all the office suite developers being forced *to try* to implement full MS OOXML compliance into their products (possibly taking forever while they do that), it will only feed MS' bottom line.

The right thing to do would be to adopt ODF and push it as a true, royalty-free, fully documented and governed by a body of industry heavy-hitters standard.

This is a huge step back.... ;)

Reply Score: 9

RE: Standard?
by codehead78 on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 05:04 UTC in reply to "Standard?"
codehead78 Member since:
2006-08-04

Since when was "it's too hard" the Open Source motto?

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Standard?
by Lettherebemorelight on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 08:31 UTC in reply to "RE: Standard?"
Lettherebemorelight Member since:
2005-07-11

Maybe someone has yet to discover a reason to bother doing it?

Reply Score: 2

RE: Standard?
by Soulbender on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 10:12 UTC in reply to "Standard?"
Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

"A standard can only be a standard if it is implemented by more than one vendor no matter what organisation approves it."

Many standards has started out with only one implementation only to get more in time.
Fortunately you're not in charge of defining what a standard is.

"Open XML is only implemented by microsoft"

Yet.

"from what I hear of it's complexity it will probably only ever be implemented by microsoft."

Ah yes, hearsay. The pinnacle of reliable reporting and concrete facts.

Edited 2007-08-03 10:14

Reply Score: 2

=[
by JrezIN on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 00:03 UTC
JrezIN
Member since:
2005-06-29

disappointed... =

Reply Score: 8

It's...
by systyrant on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 00:54 UTC
systyrant
Member since:
2007-01-18

just politics as usual. Although I'm saddened to see this overshadowing ODF, I certainly don't see this as a derailment of it.

People have to remember that politicians, in general, don't know squat about technology. They are... well, politicians.

Reply Score: 4

RE: It's...
by Redeeman on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 02:38 UTC in reply to "It's..."
Redeeman Member since:
2006-03-23

and thats why they should consult QUALIFIED people to decide, clearly this is not something they have managed to do

Reply Score: 5

RE[2]: It's...
by dlundh on Sun 5th Aug 2007 16:02 UTC in reply to "RE: It's..."
dlundh Member since:
2007-03-29

They did consult qualified people - and fired them when they came up with the "wrong" answer.

Reply Score: 1

its a win!
by ciphernaut on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 01:19 UTC
ciphernaut
Member since:
2006-01-12

Dictatorship^WDemocracy always wins out in the end.

Reply Score: 1

Who Got Paid?
by BrendaEM on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 02:35 UTC
BrendaEM
Member since:
2005-11-23

No one but Microsoft has anything to gain. Someone got paid.

Reply Score: 12

RE: Who Got Paid?
by Soulbender on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 05:49 UTC in reply to "Who Got Paid?"
Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

Welcome to reality.
Grease money is a fact of life and for sure MS is in no way whatsoever the only ones doing it.

Reply Score: 6

Amusing
by sappyvcv on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 03:17 UTC
sappyvcv
Member since:
2005-07-06

When Massachussettes approved ODF, everyone praised them and said how forward-thinking they are. They approve OpenXML and quite the opposite. Agendas?

Obviously OpenXML met their requirments and that's all that matters.

Reply Score: 6

RE: Amusing
by butters on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 04:02 UTC in reply to "Amusing"
butters Member since:
2005-07-08

The primary requirement was that Massachusetts could convert documents from DOC to OpenXML. Being as DOC is proprietary, Microsoft leveraged their monopoly in the productivity market in order to gain an unfair advantage in creating an XML-based document format.

If Microsoft wants to push an open document standard, then they should be required to open the DOC format. What good is an open format if have to convert documents from a proprietary format? What use is interoperability in the present without interoperability with the past?

Reply Score: 6

RE[2]: Amusing
by sb56637 on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 04:16 UTC in reply to "RE: Amusing"
sb56637 Member since:
2006-05-11

>>What good is an open format if have to convert documents from a proprietary format? What use is interoperability in the present without interoperability with the past?
>>

Very true. But too bad nobody thought of that back when Massachusetts was using DOC as their default. They got locked in by their vendor, and they still are to a certain extent. Such are the consequences of bad technology choices.

Reply Score: 6

RE[3]: Amusing
by Bryan on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 06:06 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Amusing"
Bryan Member since:
2005-07-11

"Bad technology choices"? What exactly were the alternatives, say, 10 years ago? Maybe Lotus or WordPerfect, but those would have simply been different proprietary formats. HTML on its own wasn't rich enough for documents or slides and would have been completely inapproprate for spreadsheets. SGML was too complex and XML was yet to be ratified.

For better or worse, Microsoft Office was and still is the dominant application. A lot of ODF advocates seem to believe that technology decisions should be made in a vacuum, but that isn't feasible for any organization that's concerned with moving large libraries of existing documents to XML formats without having to visually confirm that nothing gets corrupted in the process.

Even if Open XML does eventually eclipse ODF, it's still a significant step forward. Just because Microsoft was by far the dominate contributor for the initial version doesn't necessarily mean that can't change for future revisions. (In fact, according to Wikipedia's article on ECMAScript [1], the initial version was based on Microsoft's JScript implementation.) I can't speak to the complexity point, since I don't have a thorough understanding of either spec. I can point out, however, that (1) it's highly unlikely that anyone will need to understand the whole thing except those who implement complete office suites or search indexers, and (2) most people will eventually create and modify these documents through some higher level library than sifting through the raw XML and ZIP container.

I've been really surprised by all the histrionics that resulted from what, at the end of the day, is a pretty mundane decision. Open XML does have problems, which should definitely be addressed before a final ISO standard is ratified. But I can't see why people were so hellbent that Open XML not even be considered as legitimate alternative. It seems clear to me that IBM lobbied hard to push ODF into the spotlight to give their own products an advantage over Office and then was shocked to see that Microsoft didn't sit still and take it. That they managed to convince so many people that this was a frontline battle between "us vs. them" is pretty remarkable. Open XML will probably no more destroy ODF than the CLR did Java.

I'm glad the Massachusetts decision has been made; hopefully the ISO process will wrap up without too much middle school drama and everyone can realize what a non-event this is.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ECMAScript#History

Edited 2007-08-03 06:07

Reply Score: 5

RE[4]: Amusing
by butters on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 08:05 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Amusing"
butters Member since:
2005-07-08

Generic markup languages have been around since the 1960s. There's no reason why a document format couldn't have been developed in the early 90s as a set of SGML DTDs. At the time, HTML was essentially an SGML-compliant markup. Later, they could have been transitioned to XML, just like what (sort of) happened with XHTML. TeX was a stable markup-based document format by 1990.

The fact of the matter is that OpenXML is a bad standard. Not because it isn't open enough, although there are some concerns, but because it doesn't even pretend to be application-neutral. It's a format designed specifically for Microsoft's proprietary office suite. It doesn't make sense from the perspective of the problem, which is to rigorously define a range of generic document types. They didn't start by asking, "What is a document?" Instead they asked, "How does Microsoft Office manipulate documents?"

As for ECMAScript, that's the name of the standard based on JavaScript, which was developed by Sun, of course. Microsoft made a Y2K-compliant version, JScript, and put it through the standardization process.

As for ISO, the debate will be over in about a month. Right now, it's too close to call. There's a serious chance that OpenXML will be rejected even if Microsoft addresses the objections already raised. The ball is essentially in America's court (no pun intended), and it's a tough call. Microsoft, IBM, Sun, Adobe, Boeing, and several other stakeholders on both sides are American corporations. America might vote to reject simply because there's too much contention.

Finally, I see an opportunity for cooler technologies to prevail. A document is really a part of a deconstructed Web-2.0 stack. Split that into markup (i.e. XAML), scripting (i.e. JScript), and runtime (i.e. .NET). Then take the markup apart into your document and interface markups. You can then distill the document markup into an immutable document markup (i.e. XPS).

But OpenXML doesn't have this relationship with the rest of the Microsoft Web stack. This is especially interesting because XPS is indeed related to XAML. The difference is that a document format must support editing. But doesn't a XAML presentation also need to support editing? It seems that Microsoft, the vendor that brought us Frontpage (for better or worse), doesn't see the design synergy between a WYSIWYG document suite and a WYSIWYG Web development suite.

So the logical solution is to combine an interface markup with a document markup, each designed to be mutable with immutable shorthands. OASIS has an interface markup in development called UIML, but I'm not sure if it's compatible with ODF. Mozilla's XUL is another option. Of course, if Microsoft chooses not to support the resulting presentation markup in IE, then the idea is less attractive.

Reply Score: 7

RE[5]: Amusing
by DeadFishMan on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 11:58 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Amusing"
DeadFishMan Member since:
2006-01-09

As for ECMAScript, that's the name of the standard based on JavaScript, which was developed by Sun, of course.

Actually, Javascript was created by Netscape, not Sun: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Javascript

But other than that, a remarkable post as always, butters. +1

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: Amusing
by MollyC on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 13:58 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Amusing"
MollyC Member since:
2006-07-04

I don't take issue with most of your post, but I do take issue with the implication that OOXML didn't aspire to be the epidome of "document-ness" while ODF did.

"The fact of the matter is that OpenXML is a bad standard. Not because it isn't open enough, although there are some concerns, but because it doesn't even pretend to be application-neutral. It's a format designed specifically for Microsoft's proprietary office suite. It doesn't make sense from the perspective of the problem, which is to rigorously define a range of generic document types. They didn't start by asking, "What is a document?" Instead they asked, "How does Microsoft Office manipulate documents?""

To put it another way, Microsoft is honest about the purpose of OOXML, which is to provide a public XML-spec for MS Office documents. You're right, there isn't any pretense that OOXML is to be the be-all and end-all of what constitutes a "document".

ODF, on the other hand, *does* "pretend" to be that, even though it was developed, not to answer the question "What is a document?", but to be a public spec based on OO.o 1.0's proprietary XML format, which is based on "How does OO.o manipulate documents?"
http://www.osnews.com/permalink.php?news_id=18185&comment_id=252669
ODF wasn't designed in a "from the ground up" app-neutral fashion, but ODF advocates like to "pretend" otherwise. Are you saying that such false pretense should be applauded? That such false pretense is what makes for a *good* standard?

But that pretense works to MS's advantage regarding ISO-certification. Since OOXML and ODF *ostensibly* have different purposes, then there is room for both as far as ISO is concerned. That's part of the reason that Microsoft voted YES for both ISO and ANSI certification for ODF. Becuase ODF purports to serve a different purpose than OOXML, so MS doesn't care whether ODF is a certified standard or not. (IBM, on the other hand, wants the public to buy into the notion that ODF is the be-all and end-all of document formats, one format to rule them all, and all other formats must be crushed out of existence.)

(IMO, the real purpose of ODF is NOT to answer the question, "What is a document?" (they darn sure didn't ask, "what is a spreadsheet?"), but to serve as a political weapon to eliminate, by law, the ability to use features of MS Office that OO.o lacks (by mandating government use of a format built for OO.o's specific featureset, *ostensibly* for the purpose of guaranteeing the integrity of document archives by using a publicly-spec'ed format), thereby making it easier for OO.o (and others) to compete. Microsoft, by publicly spec'ing their own format (much to the shock and dismay of ODF's political strategists), shifts the office suite competition back to features/usability, which is MS's turf. But at least OO.o still has price on their side.)

Edited 2007-08-03 14:17

Reply Score: 4

RE[6]: Amusing
by sbergman27 on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 14:24 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Amusing"
sbergman27 Member since:
2005-07-24

"""
ODF, on the other hand, *does* "pretend" to be that, even though it was developed, not to answer the question "What is a document?", but to be a public spec based on OO.o 1.0's proprietary XML format, which is based on "How does OO.o manipulate documents?"
http://www.osnews.com/permalink.php?news_id=18185&comment_id=25...
ODF wasn't designed in a "from the ground up" app-neutral fashion, but ODF advocates like to "pretend" otherwise. Are you saying that such false pretense should be applauded? That such false pretense is what makes for a *good* standard?

"""

Molly. Shame on you. Below is a link to a list of the members of the OpenDocument Format Alliance. Essentially, the creators of ODF. Can you provide a list of those on the OOXML format alliance, or it's equivalent?

http://www.odfalliance.org/memberlist.php

Edited 2007-08-03 14:35

Reply Score: 2

RE[7]: Amusing
by hibridmatthias on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 14:30 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: Amusing"
hibridmatthias Member since:
2007-04-11

Awesome List!

Reply Score: 1

RE[7]: Amusing
by sappyvcv on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 14:50 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: Amusing"
sappyvcv Member since:
2005-07-06

How many of those actually participated in the creation? That list is just a list of companies/people who have signed up, nothing more.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Amusing
by sappyvcv on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 11:55 UTC in reply to "RE: Amusing"
sappyvcv Member since:
2005-07-06

I'm sure the doc format specification would be worse than the OpenXML specification in terms of length and how easy it is to follow. I don't see what's wrong with instead providing a tool for converting from the old propietary binary format to a newer more open XML format. That's better for everyone, yes including Microsoft.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Amusing
by butters on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 13:11 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Amusing"
butters Member since:
2005-07-08

I'm sure that DOC is high on the list of the worst data formats of all time, and that's probably one of the major reasons why Microsoft designed a brand new format. But a great deal of the world's documents are stored in that deathtrap, and only Microsoft knows how to get them out reliably.

So you suggest that Microsoft writes us a tool to convert to their new subpar data format. We probably won't be able to cajole them into writing a converter for ODF, I guess. Oh well, having to convert through OpenXML is a perfectly reasonable long-term solution.

How is this tool licensed? Will it run if you don't have Microsoft Office installed? Will it run on non-Windows operating systems? Can we turn it into a library and integrate it into our desktop frameworks so that any application can import DOCs?

I'm sorry, but it seems like Microsoft's tool wouldn't offer their competitors a way to interoperate seamlessly with DOC, even if they implement OpenXML. It will always be inefficient, clunky, inconsistently integrated, and unsupportable.

If Microsoft is into "open" these days, then why don't they open their old format? It's obsolete, and the only reason to implement it is for interoperability, which is universally a good thing, right? The only way to avoid the legacy of "most insidious data format ever" is to open it up.

I promise not to laugh.

Reply Score: 4

RE[4]: Amusing
by sappyvcv on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 13:52 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Amusing"
sappyvcv Member since:
2005-07-06

If you want to convert your doc files to OpenXML, you'll need Office 2000, 2003 or 2007 installed.

If you want to convert your doc files to ODF, there are other tools out there such as 3BOpenDoc.

I'm not suggesting Microsoft write any tools to do it, there are already methods.

What does ODF solve in regards to converting older documents to a newer format that OpenXML does not? You can always do doc->openxml->odf right in Office itself (using a plugin).

Reply Score: 2

Well, the old standard ...
by deb2006 on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 07:37 UTC
deb2006
Member since:
2006-06-26

... was .doc, and the new standard is Open XML. So everything's fine for Microsoft ...

Never mind the stupid user

Reply Score: 2

why hurry?
by ichi on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 10:17 UTC
ichi
Member since:
2007-03-06

I'd have thought they would wait to see if OOXML was aproved as ISO standard.

Reply Score: 1

A Question and Proposal
by hibridmatthias on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 14:19 UTC
hibridmatthias
Member since:
2007-04-11

If the standards folks were not paid off (and I am not saying they were not), than theoretically, the OpenXML for should be convertible to ODF by any outside vendor or group that puts forth the effort, isn't that correct? And to backwards engineer a piece of FLOSS software to convert documents from OpenXmL to ODF should be possible shouldn't it (and not punishable by Microsoft in the courts)?

I understand that the submitted snow job paper work that Microsoft gave to the standards folks is designed specifically to obfuscate things and not truly open the standards. But isnt there enough info in that drek to backwards engineer things to create such a tool?

If this is the case, maybe those who can code should quit whining and (as I am sure Linus would agree) dig into the documentation (all 2 semi trucks of it) and get to reading to either

A)point out that it is not truly open to the standards folks or

B)else get coding so that we libre users can free ourselve from .doc?

I am not a programmer; I have indeed only begun learning Ruby the past few months and have only begun to get an inkling of an understanding of the time, effort, and brain power to create complex code.

But the thermodynamic cost (time, money, ATP) of either doing that versus pushing the ODF format (both through marketing and promotion as well as code maturation) against Microsoft should be weighed and assessed and then the appropriate action attempted before we just throw our hands in the air and give up.

Personally, as soon as Open Office started usig ODF, I converted all my documents to it as they were smaller then and easier to archive. If I could help with my minisule Ruby knowledge, I would, though such a high level language is probably not the correct tool for the job...

Any light shed here would perhaps help me understand things a bit better... Until then, thanks for reading and GO ODF!...

Reply Score: 1

RE: A Question and Proposal
by MollyC on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 18:52 UTC in reply to "A Question and Proposal"
MollyC Member since:
2006-07-04

"If the standards folks were not paid off (and I am not saying they were not), than theoretically, the OpenXML for should be convertible to ODF by any outside vendor or group that puts forth the effort, isn't that correct? And to backwards engineer a piece of FLOSS software to convert documents from OpenXmL to ODF should be possible shouldn't it (and not punishable by Microsoft in the courts)?

I understand that the submitted snow job paper work that Microsoft gave to the standards folks is designed specifically to obfuscate things and not truly open the standards. But isnt there enough info in that drek to backwards engineer things to create such a tool?"


Your question is filled with so much BS FUD that I was tempted to ignore it. But for education of the other readers:
There is already a Micrsosoft-sponsored open source project (hosted on SorceForge, no less) for a converter that converts between ODF and OOXML (as much as is feasible, given the different feature sets). The code is their for all to see, if you don't trust the code.
http://odf-converter.sourceforge.net

BTW, the OOXML documentation is here:
http://www.ecma-international.org/publications/standards/Ecma-376.h...
And you can find lots of sample code for manipulating OOXML files here:
http://openxmldeveloper.org/default.aspx

SourceForge has other OOXML projects too, such as this Java OOXML lib project:
http://sourceforge.net/projects/openxml4j/

The notion that OOXML isn't documented well enough to be programmed against nothing but FUD.

Edited 2007-08-03 19:01

Reply Score: 3

Did not throw its weight behind it
by angryrobot on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 16:28 UTC
angryrobot
Member since:
2006-04-26

I think you have the article title backwards. It should read:

"Microsoft has thrown its weight against Massachusetts to get it to adopt OOXML."

I'm really curious how anyone could think this is anything more than the result of lobbying and pro-MS bureaucrats.

Does anyone really think Mass did it because it was a better standard when they had so many negative responses? Honestly, has anyone not connected or dependent on MS said anything good about OOXML? I would love to know.

Reply Score: 3

Good basis for an corrution investigation
by BrendaEM on Fri 3rd Aug 2007 16:59 UTC
BrendaEM
Member since:
2005-11-23

People of Massachusetts, I dare you to anything legal about this. I dare you to write letters to your representatives. I dare you to appear on television telling them what you think. I double-dare you stage a protest.

Enough is enough.

Edited 2007-08-03 17:00

Reply Score: 2

Think from a user's perspective
by Angel Blue01 on Sat 4th Aug 2007 00:07 UTC
Angel Blue01
Member since:
2006-11-01

Think about this as a standard office worker:

I do a lot of word processing and spreasheet work everyday. I watch PowerPoint presenations at meetings.

Everyone I know, at our company and elsewhere saves files as .doc, .xls, .ppt. A few of my family members use Publisher (.pub) at home.

Now my company wants to force a new format on us. They'll listen to our input. They give us one of two choices. One is developed by Microsoft and promises to be completely compatible with all the features of Office. The other is developed by somebody else and is not fully compatible.

Which should I support?

[<sarcasm>]Hmmm... Tough choice![</sarcasm>]

In other words: It doesn't matter unless it works "right"!

Massachusetts, if they thought about it at all, was almost certainly thinking along those lines.

Reply Score: 2