Experts speak out on document formats

A couple of interesting posts today by two of the most experienced people I know in the world of document formats …

First, I see that my buddy Dennis Hamilton (photo) has a new post on document formats and the harmonization hope chest. As always, Dennis provides plenty of food for thought, while covering four fundamental concepts:

  1. Translatability Informs Harmonization
    Difficulty of translation is a rough indicator of the degree to which reconciliation of the formats is difficult.

  2. Models Limit Translation/Harmonization
    There is no assurance that either format is universal enough, in the sense that it can faithfully express all documents of the other format.

  3. We Must Know the Differences
    We need to know the severity of the model disparities and individual-feature differences before concluding how much useful harmonization is possible.

  4. The Reality in the Punchbowl
    People do not deal with the file formats when creating office documents. The stored formats are below the level of office-worker attention and detail. Most people deal with their office-document software in an ad hoc way, using trial and error to obtain the appearance that is desired. Interchange among those using different (versions of) office-document software is dominated by these user practices. Common formats are not enough by themselves to ensure interoperability and faithful interchange.

In addition to Dennis’s post, I saw on Gray’s blog that we have another treat today, a new article by Patrick Durusau.  I know Patrick as the respected chair of INCITS V1, the technical committee evaluating DIS 29500 in the US, and he’s also the editor of the original ODF spec.

His article, “OpenXML: A Poster Child for Open Standards Development?”, is a look at how the Open XML format has evolved, starting with Microsoft’s 2000-page submission to Ecma in 2005:

OpenXML has progressed from being developed in a closed environment to being handed over to approximately 70% of the world’s population for future development so I am missing the “not open” aspect of OpenXML. If anything, the improvements made to OpenXML during that process make it a poster child for the open standards development process.

Read the rest here.