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From Peter Kelly <kelly...@gmail.com>
Subject Re: OOXML
Date Sat, 02 Aug 2014 14:19:08 GMT
On 1 Aug 2014, at 2:42 pm, Rory O'Farrell <ofarrwrk@iol.ie> wrote:

> For information:
> http://www.themukt.com/2014/07/31/never-use-microsofts-ooxml-format/

An interesting article. This brings to mind a few issues I've been thinking about for a while:

- I think the rather extreme anti-OOXML stance that some take can be counterproductive. I
certainly hold the view that ODF is a superior standard in many respects (though not all),
however there are circumstances where it makes sense for a given piece of software to support
both. For example they cite the lack of support for ODF in Google Docs and iWork; if one wants
to develop software that will interoperate with these would require OOXML support.

My take on the issue is that it's important to support both, because as much as we might dislike
the fact, OOXML is out there and used very widely. With the work I'm currently doing on UX
Write, I'm adding to the existing OOXML (specifically .docx) support with support for for
ODF (.odt) and doing this in a common framework such that the app itself doesn't care which
format the file is natively stored in, it will work equally well with both. Additionally,
once I have the ODF support in, it will be possible to leverage this support for conversion
between the two formats in both directions. I'll be giving a talk on this at ApacheCon EU
later this year, and yes this framework will soon be open source - if anyone is interested
in collaborating on it, please let me know.

- One of the criticisms raised is that there are several different versions of OOXML, not
all of which are entirely compatible. However this is also true of ODF (or at least of MS's
implementation in Office 2007 and 2010; I'm not sure where the fault lies). One of the big
questions I've been asking myself in the work I'm currently on ODF is whether I should have
my implementation it save ODF 1.1 by default, or version 1.2 by default. If I choose the former,
it will work with Office 2007 and onwards. The latter, only Office 2013 (I think). For someone
such as myself writing a new implementation of the (prat of) ODF spec, and desiring compatibility
with Office 2007 and 2010, which is the best choice?

- I consider the use of proprietary fonts to be a separate issue from the standard itself.
The specification is silent on the matter, so this is really a criticism of MS Office rather
than OOXML itself. Nonetheless, it's an important one, and one I believe we should address
by promoting the use of open source fonts (e.g. https://www.google.com/fonts) independently
and in addition to the use of ODF. Perhaps these could be made available as an easily-distributed
separate package, so that those who want to stick with MS Office for whatever reason could
be encouraged to install & use them, for improved interoperability with other office suites?

In an organisation where there are some users on MS and others on OO/LO, these fonts could
be deployed by the IT department as part of the standard desktop image, and all templates
created by the organisations could use these fonts by default, which would lead to wider usage.

- Towards the end of the article, there's a discussion about the lack of support for ODF by
some vendors, particularly Google and Apple. The question then is how do we fix that? My view
is that there needs to be a migration path - and by that I mean not just a tool to convert
documents from OOMXL to ODF, but the ability to go both ways, and work with either format
for as long as necessary for the migration to complete. Most (all?) successful transitions
I've seen have used a similar approach - Microsoft going from DOS to Windows, Apple going
from 68k -> PPC -> Intel, and Mac OS classic -> OS X, and so forth.

In the case of document formats, for a country whose government currently uses MS Office and
OOXML that wants to make the switch to ODF and OpenOffice/LibreOffice/other tools, it's not
going to be an overnight change. It could very well take several years, and during that period
everyone in the organisation will need to have the capability to work with both formats. New
or modified documents would in general be saved in ODF, but older documents as well as documents
that need to be exchanged with people running MS Office 2007 or 2010 (which I think don't
support ODF 1.2) would need to be in OOXML, until such time as everyone has upgraded to a
fully-conformant version of MS Office, or switched to OpenOffice et al.

--
Dr. Peter M. Kelly
Founder, UX Productivity
peter@uxproductivity.com
http://www.uxproductivity.com/
http://www.kellypmk.net/

PGP key: http://www.kellypmk.net/pgp-key
(fingerprint 5435 6718 59F0 DD1F BFA0 5E46 2523 BAA1 44AE 2966)


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