PC World – ISO Rejects Microsoft’s OOXML as Standard

ISO Rejects Microsoft’s OOXML as Standard

The title is somewhat misleading – OOXML was not rejected as a standard, but the attempt to fast track its approval failed. This is a good thing. While a setback for Microsoft, it now will allow some of the comments raised against the specification to be addressed before a new vote occurs.

Unfortunately, it means we get to listen to much more of the ODF vs OOXML, “Microsoft is evil” babel.

Such is life.

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Some good OOXML analyses

This article has some good thoughts about the weaknesses of OOXML. I am not sure I agree with all of the author’s conclusions, but it is definitely worth reading if you are interested in the OOXML standardization debate.

http://www.arstdesign.com/articles/OOXML-is-defective-by-design.html

More OOXML Standarization Noise

I found this post by Mark Shuttleworth interesting and well written (I found it after reading a ZDNet article referencing it – I will not link to it, since the ZDNet blogs do not seem to handle trackbacks) Emerging consensus in favour of a unified document format standard?

I agree with a number of things in this post.

Is Microsoft investing heavily in getting OOXML accepted? I would be pretty sure they are – I would be.

I agree there are technical issues with the current OOXML spec, based upon what I have read elsewhere. I do not believe that these issues are a reason to abandon the spec, only that “fast-tracking” the spec without fixing them is wrong. The OOXML spec should go through as much review as is necessary to satisfy the standards bodies that it is ready.

I agree that ODF supporters (and other OOXML opponents) should make their opinions known in a technically meaning full way to their representatives on the standards bodies.

I also believe that supporters of OOXML should do the same.  

I still disagree with the belief that there must be one “standard”. It still seems strangely ironic to me that the open source community is very much in favour of having alternatives, as long as the alternatives do not come from Microsoft.

Apple and Open XML

This post Apple Beats Microsoft at its Own Open XML Game and PC World article to which it refers are both mostly just more Microsoft-bashing fluff.

It is very interesting to me, however, that Apple has implemented programs which are able to read Open XML format documents. Given that one of the major complaints from the ODF camp is that the Open XML specification is too large and complicated, and contains references to Microsoft proprietary material, making it impossible or impractical for anyone except Microsoft to implement.

How do they answer Apple’s apparent ability to import and display Open XML documents?

Also, a question for anyone actually using the Apple programs – how is the format fidelity when importing these documents? 

Open XML versus ODF, Part III

Well, since I did not receive any pointers to more analyses from my last post, I went searching on my own (doing the work myself always being a last resort!) I have found a number of articles which were very informative and seemed well put together. I am still reading and re-reading some of them, so my opinions my changed, but they all seem to be at least thoughtful analyses.

ODF/OOXML technical white paper has a fairly detailed analysis, though from the outset the author admits that the underlying philosophy of the paper is

“We are of the view that the format appears to be designed by Microsoft for Microsoft products, and to inter-operate with the Microsoft environment. Little thought appears to have been exercised regarding interoperability with non-Microsoft environments or compliance with established vendor-neutral standards [11].”

This seems to be an underlying theme of most of the articles – to start with the purpose of showing “why ODF is good and Open XML is bad”, as opposed to being purely unbiased form the start. This paper appears to be relatively fair in its analysis, however.

I also stumbled across a number of articles related to errors in the spreadsheet formula portion of the OOXML documentation, such as Microsoft OOXML spec ‘dangerously flawed’. While I would agree that these flaws (if they exist – I have not searched for them, but I beleive they do) are important, you do not through out a proposed standard because of flaws like this, you fix them and move on. I would be relatively surprised if a 6000-page document did not contain any errors. I would see this as an argument against fast-tracking standardization, but not for throwing the Open XML specification out altogether.

Then there are the documents presented on http://www.noooxml.org/arguments. While I am sure there are some great documents on this site, for my purposes I excluded them from the outset, since the site is obviously biased. For similar reasons, I did not go searching around Microsoft’s web site, or Microsoft Blog’s for information supporting Open XML.

The wiki at http://www.grokdoc.net/index.php/EOOXML_objections maintains a substantial list of concerns with the Open XML specification. There are concerns in there with which I agree, and others with which I do not. It, also, starts from the premise that “Open XML is bad”, and so is not really an unbiased analysis.

One thing that struck me as interesting, is that outside of the purely Microsoft sphere of influence (the Microsoft web site, Microsoft blogs, etc.), I came across no information presented from a Microsoft perspective, or analyzing why Open XML is better or as-good-as ODF. It seems the Microsoft camp is focusing purely on “we would like to get this specification standardized”, rather than attacking the alternative.

This leads to the question, isn’t that the correct approach? Let the Open XML specification be standardized (with identified “real” problems fixed, and let Darwinism decide which format survives?  (I can hear the Open Source community crying already!)

But, isn’t that what having alternatives is all about?

Open XML versus ODF, Part II

Last Thursday, I posted a question about Open XML versus ODF, hoping someone could point me a a real, technical analysis of the strengths and weakness of the two formats. The one response I received, from Sam Hiser, pointed to an article entitled Interoperability: Will the Real Universal File Format please Stand Up? 

The article (and the other related articles in the same publication) was very interesting, well written, and raised some interesting points. Unfortunately, I do not agree that it constitutes a technical analysis of the two formats. There is a great deal of reference to features in OOXML which cannot be implemented by third parties without access to proprietary information from Microsoft, but there are few if any hard examples. The primary examples might be the inclusion of things like autoSpaceLikeWord95 and footnoteLayoutLikeWW8. I cannot see how Microsoft could avoid including items like this in order to support proper rendering of legacy documents. In fact, if Microsoft had not included backwards compatibility support in the specification, I could see them being equally criticized for it. As for implementing these features, this is only necessary if you want to render documents to look like old versions of Word.

Most of the commentary in these articles still comes down to “ODF is good because Microsoft is evil”.

In addition, there is a great deal of argument as to whether having more than one standard is a good thing or a bad thing. It is interesting to me that the open source community is extremely supportive of having alternatives, unless one of the alternatives comes from Microsoft.

So, I repeat my question (and clarify slightly): Does anyone know of an independent, unbiased analysis of these two document specifications?

Open XML versus ODF

I have been reading several articles and blog posts the last while on the approvel process for Open XML in various countries. These include Open XML – US V1 Committee Vote and IBM MotivationsMicrosoft guns Open XML onto ISO fast track, and Open XML Suffers a Setback on the Road to ISO Ratification . Setting aside the name-calling, accusations, insinuations and other vitriol which seems to pervade all discussion involving Microsoft and the open source world, I would like to better understand what the technical justification of ODF over Open XML might be (or vice versa). While I would not claim to be a technical expert in either format (though I know Open XML much better than ODF), the main arguments I have seen in favour of ODF are:

  1. It got here first
  2. It is not from Microsoft

I do not see either of these as useful arguments. Can anyone out there point me to real, meaningful, technical reasons why one is better than the other?