Updated draft of the Open XML spec coming this month


I’m in New York right now, and I was talking to some folks yesterday about the work that we’ve been doing in Ecma. It reminded me that I hadn’t posted very much information on by blog though about how the meeting in London went last month. Adam Farquhar of the British Library posted a great summary of the meeting, so rather than repeat everything, I thought I’d just point you guys at that. Here is what he had to say:



The Ecma International Technical Committee (TC45) is working to establish a standard for Office Open XML File Formats as described in the TC45 program of work at http://www.ecma-international.org/memento/TC45.htm. The committee began its work in December 2005. The technical committee includes representatives from Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, The British Library, Essilor, Intel, Microsoft, NextPage, Novell, Statoil, and Toshiba, . Since January, the technical committee has held weekly 2-hour conference calls as well as regular face-to-face meetings in order to advance the work. The technical committee held its third face-to-face meeting from 18-April to 20-April in London. The meeting was hosted by The British Library and attended by nineteen participants. Previous face-to-face meetings had been hosted in Brussels by Ecma International and in Cupertino by Apple. The committee’s work has advanced substantially. During this meeting, technical work focused on SpreadsheetML and WordprocessingML. This built on previous work, including PresentationML. The committee will make publicly available an intermediate draft of the Specification for information. This is planned for May 2006. In addition, the committee continued to discuss models of conformance to support a wide range of innovative uses. Highlights of the meeting included a presentation from Barclays Capital of its use cases of SpreadsheetML, demonstrations of prototype tools by Essilor to create simple WordprocessingML documents, the tools used to create the Standard document itself, and early prototypes of open-source converters by Novell to import SpreadsheetML documents into OpenOffice and Gnumeric. The committee also toured the British Library’s conservation studios, deepening its understanding of long-term preservation. The committee’s next face-to-face meeting will be hosted in June by Toshiba in Sapporo, Japan.


Adam Farquhar (British Library)
TC45 Vice-Chairman


The two big things I wanted to call out from this were:



  1. This month there will be an updated draft release of the spec. I’m really excited about it because it will give a hear some feedback from folks who aren’t on the technical committee. There has been a lot of work done over the past 5 months, and I’m excited for everyone to get a look at what we’ve done so far!

  2. Jody Goldberg from Novel gave a demo of Gnumeric (an open-source spreadsheet application that he works on) opening an Open XML file. He’s been a really important part of the work so far and it was awesome to see that he’s also been building an implementation of his own along the way. Here is a pointer to his work: http://www.gnumeric.org

Well, I have to get back to work. I also am hoping to get out and walk around the city a bit while I’m here. It’s been a few years since I’ve been out here, and I love just wandering around. My wife came along for the trip too, so that makes the walking much more enjoyable. Talk to everyone later, and I’m sorry again to everyone who has been e-mailing me. I’ll really try hard to reply to them all, but I keep falling further behind. Keep ’em coming though, or you could even post the questions up on openxmldeveloper.org and see if someone over there can help out.


-Brian


 

Comments (14)

  1. Sean DALY says:

    The vendor-neutral OpenDocument Format has just been certified as an ISO standard (ISO/IEC 26300), which means that it is now the clear choice for reliable long-term archiving of editable electronic documents.

    Meanwhile, Microsoft seeks to promote its own XML standard as a better alternative.

    Unfortunately, your company has very real credibility problems on this subject:

    * Microsoft continues to refuse to add ODF support to the 73 other formats currently supported by Microsoft Office, although Jason Matusow of Microsoft did go so far as to state that Microsoft would not oppose the use of ODF by any organization. I should hope that such bullying would not be necessary to encourage adoption of your standard. Meanwhile, the number of members of the ODF Alliance has grown to 138 in the two months of its existence. So: When is ODF support coming to Microsoft Office?

    * The presentation made at the ECMA General Assembly at Nice last December 8th clearly identified the problems associated with old-style binary formats, yet Microsoft refuses to publish the specifications of these legacy formats – a step which would do more to unlock the data of "millions of users and their billions of documents" than any new XML format, since anyone could then develop read/write filters – assuming, that is, that Microsoft would not attack non-Microsoft developers for copyright or patent infringement. So: why do these previous formats remain closed? What is to be gained by keeping them secret, except to lock in users to Microsoft products?

    http://www.ecma-international.org/activities/Office%20Open%20XML%20Formats/TC45_GA_Dez05.ppt

    * Previous Microsoft pseudostandards such as RTF (Rich Text Format) and CSV (Comma-Separated Values) have been unstable — changing arbitrarily with each new version of Microsoft Office — and poorly documented — there has never been a Microsoft specification for CSV and it has been formalized as a MIME type only since last October thanks to the dedicated Yakov Shafranovich ( http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc4180.txt ). Why has Microsoft been so sloppy these past 15 years concerning the documentation of these two formats? How will the new XML format be any different? In other words, will the format be changed with each new version of Microsoft Office, or will it remain stable? Will it be obsolete 2, 10, 20, 50 years from now?

    * The licensing associated with the new Microsoft XML format is vague concerning the rights of developers to freely use it. Although Microsoft claims that it will renounce royalties and promises not to sue, the format remains encumbered because it is apparently illegal to transfer rights in the manner of the GNU General Public License. Why doesn’t Microsoft simply and explicitly indicate GNU GPL compatability?

    * Microsoft had every opportunity to participate in the OASIS ODF committee and indeed chose not to do so, despite the urgings and encouragements of industry pundits. Why not?

    * The "community" at openxmldeveloper.org is composed of Microsoft Certified Gold Partners, none of whom offer products which run in non-Microsoft environments and one of whom goes as far as saying that the Microsoft format will allow him to more effectively compete with open-source alternatives. Meanwhile, the ECMA TC45 committee work is already benefiting from Free Open Source Software contributors such as Jody Goldberg. When the subject is interoperability, isn’t it quite clear that FOSS is preferable to vendor-specific partners, since FOSS development is standards-based?

    http://openxmldeveloper.org/archive/2006/03/23/79.aspx

    * OpenOffice amongst others has filters to read and write Microsoft legacy binary formats; today, no Microsoft product can read or write ODF. If OpenOffice supports the new Microsoft XML format, doesn’t that mean OOo will offer richer, more flexible file conversion capabilities in comparison to Microsoft Office? And what about the other dozen ODF compliant applications including KOffice, Abiword, DocVert, Writely, etc. available today — does Microsoft really wish to keep Office inadequate in this regard?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_applications_supporting_OpenDocument#Word_processors

    Thank you

    Sean DALY.

  2. Pat Garard says:

    G’Day Brian,

    Will Office 2007 support the ISO/IEC 26300 standard office file

    format that was reportedly approved 1 May?

    Pat Garard

    Melbourne, Australia

  3. justin says:

    So the updated draft of the Open XML spec coming this month. Would it be able to support standard office file format? Lets see Ecma would establish a standard for Office open XML file formats as described in TC45 program of work.

  4. BrianJones says:

    Pat, there are a number of file formats supported by Office 2007, but ODF is not currently one of them. We do support many widely used formats like HTML, RTF, and even PDF now.

    I’ve seen that there is a project underway though to build an add-in to Office that will support ODF, so if folks want to use ODF it sounds like that will be an option. I’ve said before that while we didn’t have widespread demand from our customers for ODF support, if demand exists someone could always come along and build an add-in. Anyone is free to do so. This is a path taken for all kinds of vertical markets where it makes more sense for a 3rd party add-in to come along and leverage Office’s extensibility.

    Justin, not sure what your question is. Yes, it’s going to be a standard (that was the reason we submitted it to Ecma).

    -Brian

  5. Martin Ellis says:

    Hi Brian,

    In previous blog entries, you never quite gave a straight answer to the question of whether the new "Open XML" format could be implemented in GPL, without violating some licence or other.  (At least, I never saw you give one)

    So it’s quite interesting, to me at least, that you draw attention to the Gnumeric filter in your blog. I’ve just checked the code in CVS, and it seems it is licenced under the GPL.

    Oh, one more thing.  You mention PDF support… will that include import?  Sorry, if this it’s common knowledge – I haven’t seen it mentioned explicitly anywhere.

    Thanks

    Martin

  6. BrianJones says:

    Hi Martin, sorry if I’ve been unclear on those questions around compatibility with other licenses. The move we made back in November away from the royalty-free licenses and to instead use the CNS was done because of the earlier criticisms around potential incompatibles with some open source licenses. Here is the original post on that: http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/archive/2005/11/22/495876.aspx

    I’ve talked to a number of open source developers and read some comments that were very positive about this new approach.

    In answer to your second question, the PDF support is for save only, not open. It’s more of a “publish” feature, where once you’ve published it to PDF, you’ll need to keep a .docx file around as well if you think you’ll make any more changes. Of course there are other tools out there that will let you edit PDF files, Office just isn’t one of them.

    -Brian

  7. tom says:

    Would the update version of Open XML spec coming this month be able to support standard office file format? Its upto Ecma to establish a standard for Office open XML file formats. But there r number of file formats supported by Office 2007 and ODF is not one of them. Thanks for the info!

  8. It’s been awhile since I’ve talked in detail about the SpreadsheetML schema and I apologize. I had a…

  9. BrianJones says:

    Hey Tom, the update of the Open XML spec will be the latest draft of the standard. It is not complete yet though, as we still have a lot of hard work ahead.

    In Office 2007, there are a number of formats supported such as HTML, RTF, SpreadsheetML (from Office XP), WordprocessingML (from Word 2003), and of course the new default formats which will be the Open XML standard. Hope that helps.

    -Brian

  10. BrianJones says:

    I received an e-mail from Sean Daly notifying me that his comments he tried to leave on this post never made it up here. I’m not sure why that’s the case (I let him know that that I definitely don’t delete comments… worst case I’ll remove profanity). So, anyway, here is a comment that Sean tried to leave on this post:

    ***********************************

    The vendor-neutral OpenDocument Format has just been certified as an ISO standard (ISO/IEC 26300), which means that it is now the clear choice for reliable long-term archiving of editable electronic documents.

    Meanwhile, Microsoft seeks to promote its own XML standard as a better alternative.

    Unfortunately, your company has very real credibility problems on this subject:

    * Microsoft continues to refuse to add ODF support to the 73 other formats currently supported by Microsoft Office, although Jason Matusow of Microsoft did go so far as to state that Microsoft would not oppose the use of ODF by any organization. I should hope that such bullying would not be necessary to encourage adoption of your standard. Meanwhile, the number of members of the ODF Alliance has grown to 138 in the two months of its existence. So: When is ODF support coming to Microsoft Office?

    * The presentation made at the ECMA General Assembly at Nice last December 8th clearly identified the problems associated with old-style binary formats, yet Microsoft refuses to publish the specifications of these legacy formats – a step which would do more to unlock the data of "millions of users and their billions of documents" than any new XML format, since anyone could then develop read/write filters – assuming, that is, that Microsoft would not attack non-Microsoft developers for copyright or patent infringement. So: why do these previous formats remain closed? What is to be gained by keeping them secret, except to lock in users to Microsoft products?

    http://www.ecma-international.org/activities/Office%20Open%20XML%20Formats/TC45_GA_Dez05.ppt

    * Previous Microsoft pseudostandards such as RTF (Rich Text Format) and CSV (Comma-Separated Values) have been unstable — changing arbitrarily with each new version of Microsoft Office — and poorly documented — there has never been a Microsoft specification for CSV and it has been formalized as a MIME type only since last October thanks to the dedicated Yakov Shafranovich ( http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc4180.txt ). Why has Microsoft been so sloppy these past 15 years concerning the documentation of these two formats? How will the new XML format be any different? In other words, will the format be changed with each new version of Microsoft Office, or will it remain stable? Will it be obsolete 2, 10, 20, 50 years from now?

    * The licensing associated with the new Microsoft XML format is vague concerning the rights of developers to freely use it. Although Microsoft claims that it will renounce royalties and promises not to sue, the format remains encumbered because it is apparently illegal to transfer rights in the manner of the GNU General Public License. Why doesn’t Microsoft simply and explicitly indicate GNU GPL compatability?

    * Microsoft had every opportunity to participate in the OASIS ODF committee and indeed chose not to do so, despite the urgings and encouragements of industry pundits. Why not?

    * The "community" at openxmldeveloper.org is composed of Microsoft Certified Gold Partners, none of whom offer products which run in non-Microsoft environments and one of whom goes as far as saying that the Microsoft format will allow him to more effectively compete with open-source alternatives. Meanwhile, the ECMA TC45 committee work is already benefiting from Free Open Source Software contributors such as Jody Goldberg. When the subject is interoperability, isn’t it quite clear that FOSS is preferable to vendor-specific partners, since FOSS development is standards-based?

    http://openxmldeveloper.org/archive/2006/03/23/79.aspx

    * OpenOffice amongst others has filters to read and write Microsoft legacy binary formats; today, no Microsoft product can read or write ODF. If OpenOffice supports the new Microsoft XML format, doesn’t that mean OOo will offer richer, more flexible file conversion capabilities in comparison to Microsoft Office? And what about the other dozen ODF compliant applications including KOffice, Abiword, DocVert, Writely, etc. available today — does Microsoft really wish to keep Office inadequate in this regard?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_applications_supporting_OpenDocument#Word_processors

    * The OpenDocument Foundation has announced the near-availability of an ODF plugin for Microsoft Word which will allow governments and businesses to easily save and load ODF files. Batch conversions to ODF will come next, easing automation of currently manual data interchange processes since ODF filter development only needs to be done once on each side of an exchange. As document creators regain control of their documents, will Microsoft try to hinder the efficient functioning of third-party ODF tools designed to work with Microsoft Word? Will Microsoft help developers to maintain functionality to the next version of Word, or will Microsoft prefer to try to break compatability in order to further its own XML standard?

    Thank you

    Sean DALY.

  11. About 8 months ago we announced to our MVPs that we would provide PDF publish support natively in the…

  12. My profession: electronic engineering

    My PC use: all kinds of technical applications, much word processing with import of praphical data like ocilloscope plots tec. Use of spreadsheets.

    Sratetd the word processing in the WP age (up to WP51./52).

    Using MS Word for a couple of years, and I do not like it, because the difficulties I have in stable insertion of graphics.

    The only way to make sure that my *.docs are not destroyed at a certain moment, is to save them as *.pdf (I use PDF995 for this purpose).

    I have been using OpenOffice1.0 at home in combination with W98 and a Pentium200 (82 MB RAM) for a number of years. Although its (OO) memory use is greater (then MSWord), and certain operations are slower, with OpenOffice 2.0.2 and a new high speed Pentium based computer with WXP and 512 MB RAM, this speed difference is hardly noticeble. I get spell check in 4 languages and the whole office software set for free. It works stable, an impression that especially MS Word has never been able to give me.

    The new Open Office2 suite is easy to use, and even my wife who has just started word processing, finds it easy to use.

    Open standards are common in almost every technical field.

    I really hope the ISO/IEC 26300 standard wil become used widely, and users themselves can judge whether or not the need MS Office suits.

    I could give a lot of other time consuming "computer" events, in my daily work, all stemming from the fact that there is hardly any normal open technical standardization in Windows software land.

  13. It’s been awhile since I’ve talked in detail about the SpreadsheetML schema and I apologize. I had a