Ben Langhinrichs

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Genii Weblog

In the future, Open Document Format > OpenOffice.org

Tue 29 Aug 2006, 10:20 PM



by Ben Langhinrichs
One of the major criticisms of Open Document Format was summed up by M. David Peterson in this post, when he said that the oft-repeated claim:
Well, ODF was designed for people who use spreadsheets, word processors, and presentations. Office Open XML (OOXML) was designed for people who use Microsoft spreadsheets, word processors and presentations.
should be changed to read
Well, ODF was designed for people who use Open Office spreadsheets, word processors documents, and presentations. Office Open XML was designed for people who use Microsoft spreadsheets, word processors and presentations.
I don't agree with a lot of what Mr. Peterson says, but he has a point that ODF has been quite closely tied to the OpenOffice.org office suite.  I was recently reminded of this when I was searching for the specific options for a particular parameter, and came upon Chapter 3 - Text Document Basics of the OASIS OpenDocument Essentials, which is subtitled Using OASIS OpenDocument XML.  It was very handy, but when I searched for it again at a different point, I came up with the eerily similar  Chapter 3 - Text Document Basics of the OpenOffice.org XML Essentials book, which is subtitled Using OpenOffice.org's XML Data Format.  Now, it is no surprise that ODF was created originally from the OpenOffice.org specs, but there are lots of places in the OpenDocument Essentials book where they forget that this is a general standard and specifically address how OpenOffice.org Writer handles such and such a parameter.

Some would cheer this on, and say that OpenOffice.org should be the reference example of ODF.  Not me.  I don't want ODF to be the horse and OpenOffice.org to be the driver, which is what has happened until recently.  If Open Document Format is only really suitable for one implementation, then why bother?

But of course, Open Document Format is greater than OpenOffice.org.  We are just starting to see signs of it, but there are innovators out there looking at reinventing the whole idea of a spreadsheet, or integrating presentations and documents in whole new ways.  The true test for Open Document Format is how well it supports these innovations and innovators, and whether it can grow up beyond its roots.  The true test for those of us who would like to be the innovators is whether we can seize the opportunity and go beyond copying Microsoft Office and start inventing the future.

Copyright © 2006 Genii Software Ltd.

What has been said:


494.1. Rob Weir
(08/30/2006 05:23 AM)

Good points. A principle I live by is this: A good design will solve the problem it intends to solve, but a great design will generalize to solve other problems as well, including those not even imagined by the designers.

Look at AJAX and mashups: XHTML was not designed with those use cases in mind. But it works. That's the key thing, to have a standard flexible enough that it won't be made irrelevant by the next paradigm shift. It needs to be open to evolution, and that is as much an organizational requirement as it is a technical one.