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I wrote last week about the way supporters of the OpenDocument Format talk-up the number of supporting applications, but for our purposes the support is not as widespread as is often claimed.

Now there’s a post on the Official Google Blog A renewed wish for open document standards.Note the plural; standards.

They talk about supporting the Open document Format, even though support in their Google Docs product is pretty limited. I think this is support in the political sense, not in the sense that matters to users. Here’s the usual pointers to Wikipedia lists of supporting applications, most of which I reckon would disappoint if you tried them:

Google supports open document standards and the Open Document Format - ODF, the recognized international standard (ISO 26300). ODF is supported and implemented across the globe, and its communal creation and iteration has helped ensure the transparency, consistency and interoperability necessary in a workable standard.

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/02/renewed-wish-for-open-document.html

But despite the plural in standards, they are not wanting to support the Microsoft-led OOXML standard on its journey through ISO. Maybe these reasons are valid, I don’t have time to investigate:

Google’s concerns about OOXML include, but are not limited to:

  • The limitations on the openness of OOXML format;

  • The lack of proper review as compared to other ISO standards;

  • The continued use of binary code tied to platform-specific features; and

  • Unclear licensing terms for third-party implementers.

http://www.odfalliance.org/resources/Google%20XML%20Q%20%20A%20(2).pdf

Me, I don’t particularly care about the bickering; as a practitioner working with document formats I know that the OpenOffice.org Writer + ODT combinations which AFAIK is the most mature implementation, does not support lots of Word features, whereas OOXML supports all of them. And Word doesn’t support some ODF features. We do the best we can given these realities. and Google Docs to edit ODT? Forget it.

As far as I can tell, the ODF format is pretty much built around the OpenOffice.org application. See the comment from Gary Edwards on my previous post:

My own take is that ODF suffers from the same application specific problems that will forever doom OOXML. The presentation layers of each format are entirely reflective of the application specific idiosyncrasies, feature sets and layout engines unique to the originating applications.

http://ptsefton.com/2008/02/22/opendocument-format-support-not-as-great-as-the-cheer-squad-keep-saying.htm#comment-64

I don’t really care if it’s an ISO Standard but it will be important for our work on document interoperability to have the OOXML spec out there, and to have MS Office saving into native XML file formats. For example if Word import in Writer doesn’t improve then we’ll probably look for funding to extend out ICE system to work with MS Word. And yes, we are active in feeding back problems to the OOo team and we make contributions to the open source community as well as whingeing.


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