More on yesterday’s ODF announcement


Gray Knowlton had a great post yesterday laying out more of the details on the “Save as ODF” functionality that will be built in natively for Office 2007 SP2: http://blogs.technet.com/gray_knowlton/archive/2008/05/21/microsoft-adds-save-as-odf-to-office-2007-service-pack-2.aspx

Even though ODF 1.0 is the official ISO version of the format, the decision was made to use version 1.1 which had some accessibility improvements. Hopefully future versions of ODF will be brought back to ISO so that we have a more current ISO version soon. You also may have noticed that we as Microsoft plan to start participating in the ODF standardization efforts, whether that happens in OASIS or ISO.

We hope to work closely with the community to help ensure we make the right design decisions in our ODF implementation. We will focus heavily on interoperability and observe how other products implement the standard, but we will also make sure that our priority one goal is to follow the standard itself. So if there are areas that aren’t quite clear in the standard we’ll look to other products like Open Office and how they do things. I’ve heard different opinions though on what to do if the standard says one thing and Open Office does something else. I think the right thing to do is to follow the standard, but I’d be curious to hear what other folks have to say. Doug Mahugh’s blog is a great place to start conversations around these types of issues, and I know he’ll be posting a lot more material around our design philosophies and areas where we hope to get feedback.

Gray and Doug both blogged yesterday with all the details:

-Brian

Comments (18)

  1. Reggie says:

    Here’s a question:

    It’s well known that some portions of the ODF spec are ambiguous/vague, so many (all?) implementors have had to resort to looking at OO.o’s code to figure out what the correct behavior should be in these cases (basically treating OO.o as THE reference implementation).

    Will you guys be able to look at OO.o’s code, or will you not do this (out of fear that you’d later be accused of "stealing" the code outside the bounds of the code’s license)?

  2. anonymous says:

    I feel completely cheated by the purchase of a current shipping modern Microsoft product i.e. Office 2007. I hate Microsoft for not supporting ISO 29500 in Office 2007 and making us upgrade to a newer version of Office. I sincerely wish there will an overwhelming outcry now regarding this and Microsoft will reconsider its decision.

  3. "I think the right thing to do is to follow the standard, but I’d be curious to hear what other folks have to say"

    On the money Brian, stick with the spec.  If there is a difference in interpretation then hash it out at the OASIS TC. Only by those means do multiple uses of a spec maintain a good standard.  Discussion fosters cooperation which develops a good product.  A terribly Open Source way of doing things I know, but you’ll get the hang of it!  😀

  4. orcmid says:

    Interesting.

    @anonymous: How could Office 2007 have supported IS 29500 when it wasn’t even determined what it was until this year?  My sense is that the support for ECMA-376 and that the fact that documents mostly conform to  the IS 29500 transitional profile (or whatever the right word is) should be good enough.  The few exceptions will have to be cured in some way, and I figure the Microsoft folks are pondering that as we type.

    @everyone.  I too am aligned with conformance to the ODF 1.1 specification, but for one problem, and that is places where there is no specification in ODF 1.1 such as spreadsheet formulas.  Now, since they are wide open, it would be possible to support OpenFormula as OO.o 3.0 is apparently expecting to do (not sure what their legacy approach will be, haven’t looked at the beta).

    And I fully agree with having the rough edges straightened out with the ODF TC, including the, um, OpenOffice participation there.

    [I am baffled what the OOXML-ODF Translator project did with regard to import into Excel.  I must pay better attention.]

  5. orcmid says:

    I was curious so I looked at some files to confirm that the OO.o folk have been careful in a very useful way.  In my copy of OO.o 2.3 (Sun distribution), the spreadsheet formulas are all in the form "oooc:=formula…" (the "=formula…" form being reserved for OpenFormula when it becomes part of the spec).  

    At the top of the spreadsheet content.xml file, there is this attribute,

    xmlns:oooc="http://openoffice.org/2004/calc"

    which keeps everything tidy (although that namespace is application specific, there being no default formula scheme in the ODF specification yet).  

    [So, I am still wondering what the OOXML-ODF Translator project did for spreadsheet conversions.]

  6. Peter Sefton says:

    It sounds reasonable to say ‘follow the standard’ but the ODF standard is in parts rather loose, and the definition of conformance is incredibly vague. It would be very easy to read and write a legit version of ODF and have very poor interop with OpenOffice.org.

    See my blog for a discussion of some of the issues with software that claims to support ODF – results a very bad when you try to interchange documents.

    http://ptsefton.com/2008/05/13/claims-about-odf-support-are-typically-meaningless.htm

    I think that for users doing things as closely as possible to the OOo way would be the most useful, but there are no details in the press releases and blogs to say how all the incompatibilities between ODF and OOXML will be handled. There are pages and pages of them at the free Add in site.

  7. consumer4beta@hotmail.com says:

    Of course Office 2007 cannot support ISO 29500 since it was standardized in March. But what no one seems to be getting or objecting to is Microsoft has stated it is supporting it ONLY IN Office 14, not in Office 2007 SP2. SP2 only adds XPS, ODF and PDF support. Isn’t this pulling the carpet from under the feet of Office 2007 users? This is a supported current product, not a legacy version.

  8. Daniel says:

    Whatever problems Microsoft comes across regarding ambiguous specs, etc, are probably also being faced by developers of other office software suites such as KOffice.  The key thing will be open, transparent, nitty-gritty technical discussions for areas that are not clear.  Obviously if OpenOffice.org or another suite clearly got something undeniably wrong, Microsoft should go with the spec rather than the OOo implementation; however, it’s probably far more common (as other posters have mentioned) that the spec will be somewhat ambiguous in places.  In that case, I’d check the implementation of at least OpenOffice, and preferably other suites that are also working to implement ODF, and choose the implementations that OO.org and others are using (perhaps weighing OOo a tad more heavily than the others).  I have to say, if Microsoft really goes through with this in the manner you are suggesting, I will respect the company a whole lot more.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed!  

  9. JZA says:

    Microsoft is in similar position — not so similar.  of having what IBM did with the symphony project. Granted that they were derived from the OOo 1.x branch their codebase change much more.

    Since KOffice will run on windows really more platforms are joining the Office suite competition and we will see how they also make Windows more responsive to the ODF file format.

  10. hAl says:

    Support fo rthe ISO version will probably come for Office 2007 (and XP/2003 versions) as well but then at the same time that Office 14 is released.

  11. jones206@hotmail.com says:

    It’s hard to commit to deliverables and details on support for the ISO version at this point given that it hasn’t been published yet. It took about 6 months for the ODF spec to get published by ISO so I wouldn’t be suprised to see the same with Open XML (although you never know).

    Most of the changes at the BRM were additive, so Office 2007 is already close to 100% compliant with the upcoming standard, it just doesn’t implement all of the new stuff yet (just like you see with OpenOffice and ODF). I think the question most folks are wondering about though is which of the added functionality (DrawingML instead of VML, date format, etc.) will be supported. Those things are obviously big chunks of work and will probably take some time to sort out once the spec is released.

    Given how important cross app collaboration is, any updates made to Office 14 would either need to go along with patches to Office 2007 to ensure compatibility, or would need to be done is such a way that compatibility is ensured.

    -Brian

  12. beqiraj.net says:

    Office 2007 Service Pack 2 will support more file formats

  13. StefanWord2K says:

    What features of Office 2007 will NOT be supported when saving with it to ODF? Themes? Printer tray setup in Word different for first page and others, etc?

  14. Rick Jelliffe says:

    It is great that MS will be participating in ODF. This will improve both ODF and OOXML, and both need it.

    By participating in the ODF effort, MS comes under the IP umbrellas of Sun and IBM w.r.t. ODF implementation, so there should be no danger in *looking* at the open source code for Open Office to help figure out what at least one implementation did. I don’t see much scope for copyright violations, since differences in the underlying libraries makes simple cut-and-paste unworkable.

    Participating in ODF comes at a good time for everyone to get spreadsheet formulas (and library mechanisms) under control.

    As for adopting OASIS ODF 1.1 rather than ISO ODF 1.0, of course users should *always* adopt the most appropriate standard for their use, regardless of the source. The only reason this issue is raised is because OASIS failed to submit ODF 1.1 as they should have: I guess they were so spooked by OOXML that they neglected to keep their own house in order. But ODF 1.2 looks much better, and I hope that MS will adopt it in due time.

    It is of course incredibly frustrating that all this is not over and done by now. But people need to be looking at a five to ten year timeframe: standardized document formats are not something where you can get checkmate in one move, and certainly this is not the case from the position we were in in 2005/2006/2007!  (And we may never be in that position…it is a long-term market and procurement issue, not something with technical imperatives.)

  15. Olivier says:

    These are great news indeed! I think that MS should always go with what the ODF spec says and never try to figure out how OO does things, otherwise those quirks will eventually become a de facto standard, which is something nobody wants on the long term. Rather, MS should question the parts of the spec that are unclear. Compatibility with OO will take longer to happen, but we will end up with a much improved standard.

  16. michael says:

    Feeling all warm about ODF support as OOXML goes down the crapper with all the protests?

  17. Stefan says:

    Save the time for fully implementing ISO 29500… just implement ODF in Office really good and then make it the new default file format! That’s what the majority of people would have wanted but will never happen, I guess 😉

  18. beqiraj.net says:

    Office 2007 Service Pack 2 (SP2) will support more file formats