Friday thoughts

Some really interesting things to note for the week:

  1. New blog on Math in OfficeMurray Sargent who was the key architect behind the new math functionality in Office 2007 has started blogging. Check out his first post on Formula Autobuildup in Word 2007. Murray was the one who I'd mentioned having discussions with early on about whether or not MathML would be possible to use as the default persistence format for math in Word. It turned out that it wasn't going to meet our needs (another example was that we needed the <func> and <nary> tags), but Murray is hoping to help share a lot of our experiences with the folks working on the MathML 3.0 standard. I think he's even thinking about joining the working group.

  2. Difficult decisions between loose conformance and true interoperability – Rick Jelliffe had a great post earlier this week discussing the problems you get when you allow for really loose conformance. I talked about it in a post (made about 30 minutes ago), but wanted to bring it up again. I'm interested to hear how folks feel about the latest working draft of the spec. We were really concerned about getting the conformance clause nailed, because we knew that it was something people would really want to see done right. As you can see, Rick was disappointed by statements he'd seen around another standard:

    If Microsoft wrote this, we would be up in arms: "people have been able to exchange spreadsheets using completely undocumented formats, such as Excel's, for many years so this notion that documents "can't be exchanged" until every jot and tiddle is written down is simply untrue." What a snowjob! Actually, the quote comes from the ODF website.

  3. Traitors or Mercenaries - It's really a shame that there are folks out there that get worked up into this "us vs. them" way of thinking. I talked about this in an older post called "There can be only one?" Well it looks like the folks working on the ODF to Open XML translator project are running into similar problems ( They've had some meetings with the Open Office folks and the ODF folks and had some interesting reactions. I think that we're making some really good strides here though, and I hope that as we continue in this direction with the standard those remaining doubters will be convinced. Here's a little blurb from Jean's post:

    What I see is that Microsoft is taking a new turn on the interoperability field - yes it goes slowly, very slowly, but hey! that's Microsoft! We're not speaking of a little agile company. Yes, they could have done better regarding ODF compatibility, but they could have done less as well. So we have here an opportunity to do a good job, to allow MS Office users to work with ODF documents: let's give this initiative a chance. I'm not saying that or OASIS hostility are a threat for the success of this project - but for sure things wouldn't go worse if they supported it!

  4. IBM comments about level of ODF support – Interesting comments in Andy Updegrove's blog about the level of ODF support in IBM workplace. I had thought they just took the Open Office code base for their support so I was kind of surprised to see they didn't have full support yet. I would think it's not going to be too far away though given that IBM has been ODF's most vocal proponent for the past year or two:

    Q:  Which of these products will be compliant with ODF?

    A:  Today, the IBM productivity editors do not fully support Open Document Format with 100% compliance. Implementation to complete support for SVG (graphics), SMIL (animation), and XForms (forms) will be complete in the next major release. IBM productivity editors can edit and save to Microsoft Office formats as well.

  5. Beta 2 of the XPS Essentials Pack - Beta 2 of the XPS essentials pack has been released to the web ( It contains:

    • A stand-alone XPS Document Viewer
    • Microsoft XPS Document Writer to output files to the XPS Document format through the print command of any Windows application. 
    • iPreview and iFilter interface implementations for XPS Documents
    • XPSDrv printer driver to enable printing to XPS devices.
    • Shell extensions for inspecting and changing XPS Document properties in Windows Explorer

  6. No sleep - Two weeks ago to celebrate our 2 year anniversary my wife and I got a Weimaraner puppy. I get a kick out of her but man is she a lot of work (the puppy J). I haven't had a full night's sleep in a couple weeks now. Her name is Luna and I love coming home to her, but I can't wait until she gets a little older and doesn't have to be taken outside every 2-3 hours (and I can actually start taking her on hikes, etc.). I'll post some pictures of her at some point since somehow I'm having that same reaction people with new born kids get. I can't stop telling people how cool she is. J

  7. American Football – The Huskies won last week, although it wasn't too convincing of a win. This week against Oklahoma has me pretty nervous, but I'm also a very optimistic person (some would say way too overly optimistic) so I'm hoping for a win. I'm really excited about the Seahawk game though. I was a huge Jon Kitna fan when he was here with the Seahawks, and I'm curious to see how he's going to be in Martz's new system. I'm not too nervous for the Hawks, but the first game of the season is always a bit of a question mark.

Have a great weekend everyone.


Comments (12)

  1. Personally, I loved this quote from the ODF site: "and the dreadfully incomplete Microsoft XML format"

    I’m wondering why OpenXML is "dreadfully incomplete".  What’s missing?

  2. TDM says:

    You’ll have to post the pictures of the first "Luna Tick" you find too.  Have a good weekend.

    Oh and… "Boomer Sooner".

  3. Larry, I hadn’t notice that. That’s pretty funny since at other times they have complained that there is too much information for Open XML. 🙂

    TDM, every evening around 6 or 7 she turns into a "Luna Tick" and start biting at everything. I’ll have to watch more episodes of the Dog Whisperer or something…

    Oh and… "Go Dogs" 🙂


  4. Francis says:

    Partial conformance could be very problematic, especially when the user is round-tripping data between two applications. Imagine a Venn diagram–only the area of overlap will be preserved.

    The result of this will be a lot of data being converted or flattened (generally a loss of structure and the benefits that accrue with structure.)

    This could be extremely frustrating unless you minimally "predefine" application behavior. A couple of suggestions:

    1. If data is going to be converted (e.g., formulas computed into values), the user should be advised of this. If this flattening occurs invisibly, users will discover the loss of information after the fact, and most will not have backup to revert to. This alert behavior could be modeled on Excel’s Compatibility Checker.

    2. Applications should only modify the parts of a document that the user modifies in that application. Say I open a spreadsheet with columns A-M in another application ("x") with the intent of deriving new information from those columns. This data would then be written to columns N-Z. If I do not touch columns A-M in program "x," they should not be converted or re-encoded. (Applications whose internal representation of open files often differs from the saved format would have to flag unmodified parts of the file.)

  5. orcmid says:

    <b>IBM comments about level of ODF support</b>: Hmm, you said: "I had thought they just took the Open Office code base for their support so I was kind of surprised to see they didn’t have full support yet."  I guess you fell for it too, huh? — because OO.o writes and reads files with ODF extensions, that must be full support.

    I don’t want to leave this page so I’ll not go looking, but I am not sure where OO.o specifies their level of support.  I also wonder where there are details of their OO.o namespaces, DTDs, and other assumptions about ODF features that might matter to someone interesting in interchange of OO.o’s ODF files with someone else’s.  

    I did do a simple experiment though.  I used OO.o 2.01 to open a Word 2003 document that I am working on.  It has two Visio-authored diagrams in it.  OO.o opened the document and the diagrams came through all right (though some other things were mangled).  I saved the document as an ODT and inspected the contents of that Zip packaging.  The diagrams are interesting.  First, there is preservation of the binary OLE part (as allowed-for in ODF).  There is also an alternative binary of the diagram in which the nature of the image is not defined anywhere (and the ODF specification is indecisive on the matter).  However, when I extracted the alternative image and renamed it as a PNG, it opened fine and there was my diagram.  (If I rename it as a GIF, it opens too, so some of this is how smart the Microsoft Picture and Fax viewer is.)  I’m sure that Sam Hiser will be thrilled to learn about all of these binary elements that are fully authorized by ODF 1.0 though.

    It hurts my head to consider how one works out meaningful interchange agreements in the face of this "support" though.

  6. orcmid says:

    I thought it wise to do some diligence and see what OO.o has in terms of an ODF compliance statement.  I may not have found the right place, but my search for "ODF" on the site was surprisingly unsuccessful.  I found a nice report on a mailing list concerning citations and bibliographies and a concern for roundtripping between OOX and ODF where possible (this from Bruce D’ Arcus).  But this is about new work at an ODF subcommittee.

    I found the declaration that OO.o "uses" the Open Document Format.  That is the strongest statement I have found, and it is in feature summaries.  There are no details to back that up.

    I found bug reports but no specific test plan or approach to confirming ODF compliance.  There is no specific declaration about conformance and any technical description of what one needs to know about OO.o’s ODF in an interchange situation.  

    One bug report points out how ODF is being process and produced incorrectly (presumably a misinterpretation of the spec.) for certain text case.  These reports seem to be kind of random based on things people run into.

    I found an interesting closed bug report (#66168, opened June 6 of this year) that confirms the introduction of "non-standard" attributes in ODF namespaces as a by-design way to preserve some material from other formats (e.g., Microsoft Office).  We discussed this.

    There is a still-open 2003-04-20 item on MathML 1.01 support that may impact ODF.  The use of weird Unicode characters (opened 2006-09-07) that I noticed in a little test is going to be addressed in OO.o release 2.0.4.

    I’m hoping I missed something.

    [I will be similarly attentive for declarations of OOX support of course, especially by OOX-ODF converters.]

  7. orcmid says:

    The top-level mentions of ODF at the OpenOffice site all link to the OASIS WG page for ODF.  Apart from the deeper occurences I already reported, there are slim pickings.  But I thought, well, heck, StarOffice might have something useful, so I looked there.

    Well, the bullet point is "OASIS OpenDocument format for global compatibility."

    On the enterprise features page there is this refrain: ‘StarOffice adopts the … Open Document Format.  This further increases the interoperability of StarOffice as files can be exchanged with any application that also uses the OASIS XML file format."

    I couldn’t find anything deeper than that with regard to conformance, deviations, extensions, etc.

    I am not surprised that this kind of thing shows up as bulletpoints and brochure-ware.   But somewhere there needs to be some ground truth that provides a response to those who worry about procurement of compliant products.

    I do hope you guys manage to do better.  IBM has been careful about documenting compliance in the past, but I’m tired of looking around for what seems to not be on the ODF radar.

  8. John says:

    Hello, Brian,

    I have been reading your blog nearly since it started.  Let me first stae that i have been using Office at work for nearly 10 years. Great piece of software, I like it. But, one main nasty thing is inside. That beast is creating things that can be readed only by herself.

    Sad to say, my initial thoughts have come true. The game on interoperability which you play on behalf of Microsoft is very strange. Here is why.

    1. The main reason why you started with interoperability was extreme pressure from governments, companies and users, who were  for years locked in your own DOC, XLS, and PPT formats, and nobody in the galaxy except your Office (moreover:last version of it) could properly open the files created. I have been dealing with this as a network administrator for a long time.

    2. Your marketing guys know the power of this. They know, that the main selling point for Office is not the interface, not its user friendliness, not its relatively low system requirements, but the fact that they and only they can offer their customers compatibility with their own created documents.

    3. But because of that extreme pressure, you must have reacted some ways. So you decided

    a) to create your own format, which will be somewhat documented, but so complicated that nobody in the world at least for next 2 years will be able to open files the same way as your last Office 2007 will. Really great window for competition. You will have open format, but your mantra – real world compatibility with documents – will be again possible –  only by your software. Aim achieved.

    b) constantly show the imperfections on ODF. Maybe it is true – but your format also make step-by-step approaches .. i am not very much into this kind of stuff, but from i ahve read on your blog, it is clear. Every draft of OpenXML is cheered with passion, and strange problems with ODF are analyzed. Even they are real – why this approach? You know why … the reputation of ODF must be diminished. Aim achieved.

    c) put the conversion job to another company, which you sponsor. That is also great for you, because the users (when the converter won’t work perfectly – and it won’t, primarily because it CAN’T, your marketing does not want this) will not blame MS, but that poor CleverAge company or what their name is. So you will kinda support that bad nasty ODF format, just to respond to the requests. But you will not be responsible for the software that is doing it. Aim achieved.

    4. You are doing this in spite of that you still can’t sell the software that is doing this all … called vaporware, I know that Office 2007 will deliver finally. But all this hype and type is here with good reason … to make users forget, that now and for many more months they are still stuck will DOC, XLS and PPT Office 2003 version, which are good everyday work tools, but still continuing create the files in closed formats, despite all that talk about new interoperable ones. That’s why you CAN talk about those gazillions of documents created and having responsibility about – if you did not lock your users, you would not have that responsibility. Your users did not want you to take one. And by this talk, you are masking the fact that you gained one more year (at least) of creating it. Aim achieved.

    Finally, I am impressed by what Microsoft has done. You are talking about all what your customer wants, blah, blah. But the single thing you are capable and really wanting to do is to deliver your next version of Office, which will be great and i will use it …. but still not able to feed the interoperatibility beast. It would be fair to say, that it was never your goal anyway. If it were you would

    1) develop the two sided converter OpenXML-ODF on your own, stop bitching about its imperfections and glitches, and seamlessly integrate it into Office without all this hype. If your developers are having short-time of problems, you could have bought a company or employ people  which are doing it. You did it many times in history – Windows Defender being the last example.

    2) as a member of nearly all the file format commitees in the world, be constructive and not obstructive. If you managed to create another "open" format, focus on its interoperability and not the glitches in other formats. Your goal is to work with them as well as possible, just as the other world must have dealt with yours.

    3) make a version of Office viewer (at least !) or editor for other OSes, the same way as you did with Internet Explorer, when you wanted to gain market share – you even did it for Solaris! and Windows 3.11! And stop telling the world such a things that it is not possible because of this and that. The case of IE shows that Microsoft can do everything to gain its market share.

    But, you will never do those things, and many more which you could for real interoperability. That word is just a cliché for Microsoft, only working as a one-path migration to your products. And then there is no way back.


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