Friday thoughts (Oct 27, 2006)


I’d been meaning to post a write-up on how to create a simple SpreadsheetML document from scratch, but just haven’t had the time this week to pull it all together. Hopefully I’ll get that out early next week. I had already done a similar post for WordprocessingML (both for Beta 1 as well as RTM). Here are a couple things I wanted to point out for the week:

  1. Arccast interview on Office Open XML Doug Mahugh and I did a live webcast last month with Ron Jacobs. Ron now has both Part 1 and Part 2 of the interview available up on Channel 9.
  2. Upcoming SpreadsheetML Generator – Stephane Rodriguez (who also wrote the Open XML diffing tool) is getting really close to releasing the latest version of his xlsgen tool; and it will include SpreadsheetML support (http://www.arstdesign.com/BBS/BulletinBoard.php?qs_id=1661). I think he’s planning on still going with the B2TR version of SpreadsheetML and won’t update to the RTM version until after Office 2007 ships. There were still a couple changes that tool place between B2TR and RTM for spreadsheetML that brought it fully inline with the Ecma standard, but that resulted in B2TR not having the ability to open RTM spreadsheetML files (similar to what all three applications experienced between B2 and B2TR).
  3. Apose.Words supports WordprocessingML – I saw this blog post the other day that mentions that Apose.Words now supports exporting as WordprocessingML.
  4. Document your SQL DB using WordprocessingML – From this blog post: “Data Dictionary Creator (DDC) is a simple application which helps you document SQL Server databases. It stores all the information in Extended Properties, so it’s easier to keep the documentation in sync with the database as it changes… DDC exports to WordML, Excel, HTML, and XML.”
  5. Generate Wordprocessing Documents from your SAP Web Application Server – This is a cool intro article that shows how you can leverage WordprocessingML to generate rich documents directly from your SAP server. It would be really interesting to see some examples of leveraging the custom defined schema support and content controls in Word 2007 to not only populate the documents with SAP data, but to also mine that information back out of the document if the user has edited it.
  6. Leverage SpreadsheetML to build rich reports – I actually don’t know anything about this product :-), but I randomly came across it and noticed that it allows you to generate spreadsheets using the original SpreadsheetML format we started working on over 8 years ago (and shipped with Office XP): “Perfect table creation – NEW SPREADSHEETML The new Microsoft format SpreadsheetML is supported. Based on XML, it generates richer editing and formatting of Excel files optimized for Windows Office 2003. Your tables are perfectly reproduced in Excel 2003, retaining the text and the colored background.” I always love seeing people leveraging the existing technologies. The new SpreadsheetML format will give them a lot more power, as the old one didn’t support Excel’s full feature set.
  7. WordML import and export on the Mac – I think that this tool is built on top of the TextEdit functionality built into the Mac (which supports WordML itself). Not sure if they actually do anything additional in terms of the WordML support.

I hope everyone has a great weekend.

-Brian

Comments (10)

  1. hAl says:

    There is a lot of comments on legacy features in the OOXML format. (some of which are even going to far as far as I am concerned mr weir).

    I am not sure if this is the case but does the standard contain infomation on which features are not to be used anymore for creating new documents. It would be a good thing if the standard contained information that some features are only for conversion of old files and not for creating new ones. Those features should only be supported in conversions and in document viewing but not in document editting.

    If it doesn’t then it would be something I like to see added in a future version or even earlier for instance as a added statement by Ecma on implementing the format.

    It would not be good to create new documents containing those features.

  2. hAl – The OOXML specification generally does a good job of marking deprecated features, which is what I think you are asking about.

    Brian – This sort of compendium post is very handy, as it is good to know what is going on out there even outside of Microsoft surrounding the OOXML specification.  For those of use who write software in this area, it is both good to see other ideas of how to use the specs and also try to carve out our little niches, which is easier when we know what is there.  Thanks!

    – Ben

  3. jones206@hotmail.com says:

    hAl,

    Ben is correct in that we tried to be very clear and prescriptive about all the legacy elements. We clearly state they are there for compatibility with the existing document base, and that going forward they shouldn’t be used in new documents. While the Office Open XML formats were designed with the past and present in mind, we also clearly focused on the future. That’s why so much work went into the Markup compatibility and extensibility sections.

    Ben,

    I’ll try to point out other solutions as I come across them. I’m constantly meeting with folks who are building solutions that leverage the XML formats, but often I can’t talk publicly about it. Rather than jotting it down though and eventually looking for public information I could point to, I often just forget about it.

    I can see that it’s a really valuable thing to reference though, so I’ll try to make more of a habit out of looking for good links to point out.

    -Brian

  4. Stephane Rodriguez says:

    I am not entirely sure Aspose.Words supports the OfficeOpen WordprocessingML file format at this point. I think that’s Word 2003’s WordPressingML. It’s unfortunate that the similarity in the names are going to cause confusion, not just for Word XML but in fact all of the 3 apps.

    As for Excel 2007 B2TR versus Excel 2007 RTM, while it’s unfortunate the SpreadsheetML schemas were not final in B2TR, somebody out there pointed out a workaround to bring those documents back to life : in order to open B2TR spreadsheets in the RTM version, open the B2TR spreadsheets in Excel 2007 B2TR, save them as binary files (.XSLB), and you’re done. The trick is that the binary files don’t store any schema namespace information (other than than specific to OPC, which has stalled long ago already). The downside to the workaround is of course that you need a running instance of said beta version, which might be problematic if you are trying to bring say "beta 1" spreadsheets back to life.

    Hope this helps,

  5. Francis says:

    It is great that parts of the spec that are included for legacy reasons are marked as such. I noticed this before. :-)

    However, in some cases, it still is short on guidance, e.g., for the forward-looking developer set on creating a WordML files with complex layouts. He might wonder:

    1. Should I use text boxes? (No, they are legacy VML, so use frames.)

    2. Should I use frames? (No, they are legacy controls, so use text boxes.)

    [Not to mention that text boxes offer poor or no support of fields, references, and comments in Word, while frames do not work with the new themes, drawing engine, and UI in Office.]

    See the problem? It is technically the fault of Word, but the spec does not offer much help.

  6. jones206@hotmail.com says:

    Hi Francis, I agree with you on that.

    Textboxes & frames are in an area where I can imagine a lot of great innovation in the future. I think that would be an interesting thing to tackle for the next version of the spec. Either we improve on one of those two, or maybe even move into using drawingML or some other new functionality.

    -Brian

  7. Jimmy says:

    Looks like Rob Weir has found new faults in the standard.

    He is just waiting on his blog to tell us that OOXML doesn’t support some legacy features from older documents in his next article.

    To bad though he has refuses to moderate some critical comments on his last few articles

  8. hAl says:

    You shouldn’t take mr Weirs blog to seriously anymore.

    He is moderating posts that are critical of his own postings. Probably after his ridiculous article on comparing OOXML to Chernobyl of which I (and I hope others too) was highly critical.  I guess he considers IBM the only party allowed to critisize others.

  9. jones206@hotmail.com says:

    That’s too bad. For me the comments are the most useful and interesting part of my blog.

  10. Aspose.Words says:

    Brian’s post that mentions Aspose.Words is Friday Thoughts. Thanks Brian, we are happy to attract…