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Practical Word Processor Interoperability


There's a been a bit of talk lately about Word processor formats, and some well reasoned arguments that XHTML would be a good core format for an application. But it isn't, yet. Last time I said:

I have decided the way forward is to adapt the existing leading word processors using their programmable interfaces (APIs), their template and style systems, and their macro languages that make them programmable.

This time I will start the process of looking at how we can get Microsoft Word and OpenOffice to work together using templates, macros, glue and string. I can't go and write a Word Processor but I can adapt the ones I have to hand. I will develop the ideas here in the blog, and start to compile the coherent bits into a manual: "Word processing for Content Management" or some sexier title.

Read on for the project goals.

Why are we here

We are here to look at how you might couple a word processor to a Content Management System. Specifically, to start off with I will look at Microsoft Word and OpenOffice.org.

What's Content Management?

I say: "It's the process of treating some or all of your electronic data as set of related stuff, so that you can stick in on the web, amongst other things you might do with it".

People usually talk about a "Content Management System" (CMS) as if it were a computer application, but in my opinion, that's like talking about a "Quality Management System" as though it were a computer application; you probably know that it isn't; it's one of your core business systems. Isn't it?

To manage content I think you probably need to know a little bit about your content, and the formats and standards you use to create it and store it. And that involves looking beyond the CMS software you may or may not need, to processes.

Having a CMS applicationis important, though, because it will allow you to treat your content as, well, content, and treat the business of turning it into one or more web sites, or CDs, or local repositories, or whatever as a separate issue.

(Another reason we're here is that I'm getting tired of typing documents like this in the wiki-like formatting used by the Leonardo web site software used here. I end up using Word anyway, to get the spill chucker and the automatic saving and document recovery. I want to be able to use my work machine in Word, touch up content at home in OpenOffice.org and publish from either to here where the colour de jour will be automatically applied.)

The goal (as of 2004-08-16)

Why OO.o and Word? Well one is free, and cross platform and almost comfortable if you don't try anything too trickly like resizing cropping an image, and one is unavoidable. Other contenders like WordPerfect simply don't have the market share to make it worthwhile paying for licenses and learning them unless they have some extremely redeeming feature, like a good inbuilt XML editor that could interoperate with the documents as word processing documents, which I'm pretty sure WordPerfect nearly but not quite has; I am looking for other contenders to add to the project.