Open XML links for 05-05-2008

Library of Congress’s standards activity. The Library of Congress has posted an overview of the work they’ve been doing to support the development of key open standards for digital content, including Office Open XML and PDF/A. I had the pleasure of working with LOC’s Caroline Arms during the ISO/IEC standards process for Open XML, and she is a thorough and meticulous editor who continues to be one of the driving forces in the work of TC45. As the LOC announcement says regarding the Office Open XML standards process,

The need for long-term preservation and interoperability was a major issue driving the development of this new open standard. For any organization that is required to retain documents for future use, there was concern that older documents would become unusable as formats change. Customers also asked that valuable data within documents, such as accounting figures in spreadsheets, be efficiently accessible by other applications and not hidden in proprietary binary formats. The participation of the Library of Congress and the British Library made it possible to introduce the interests and experience of archives and libraries in digital preservation as part of the standardization discussions.

Creating Open XML documents from XML and database data. Hot on the heels of the recent upgrade to Altova’s XML tools, Alexander Falk has published step-by-step instructions on how to use StyleVision to publish database data in a DOCX. He also notes that StyleVision’s price has been reduced, so it’s a good time to think about adding this flexible stylesheet design tool to your arsenal.

Office System Power Tools. Eric White tells how to use the Open XML Package Editor to explore and edit Open XML documents from within Visual Studio. This integrated tool can help .NET developers be more productive while writing code that manipulates Open XML documents.

What to do now. Rick Jelliffe has some thoughts on how ODF supporters can take productive steps to help improve ODF and Open XML now that both of them are ISO/IEC standards. He offers eight specific suggestions regarding how to contribute to various standards groups, and also observes that “if you were not interested in being constructive but in trying to frustrate yourself there are other things you could do,” ending with these thoughts:

National and international standards bodies are highly aware that their activities and importance is tolerated and encouraged only because they create markets. The minute a national or international standards effort becomes a servant of some clique or cartel, to the exclusion of others, it loses its fundamental justification. (I say “effort” because a body may have thousands of efforts on the boil at any time.) For standards bodies, exclusive behaviour is a mortal sin; in comparison, too much inclusiveness (i.e. by having multiple standards where in a perfect world we could imagine having only one) is only a mild (and bearable) fault. (And, indeed, in most cases I consider support of plurality, to allow the market to choose, a positive virtue.)

ODF conformance testing. I posted last week about the work that Jesper Lund Stocholm and Alex Brown have been doing to test conformance of ODF documents created by various versions of OpenOffice. Now Rob Weir has joined in, with a post entitled “ODF Validation for Dummies” that questions the validity of Alex’s test, prompting Alex to respond with “ODF validation for the cognoscenti”.

I’ll not try to paraphrase or summarize anyone’s perspectives since it’s a complex debate around the ID/IDREF/IDREFS semantics of XML 1.0 and whether it’s a reasonable step to disable the checking of Relax NG DTD Compatibility constraints when validating ODF documents. But if you’re interested in the details, be sure to read the comment threads on the posts linked in the paragraph above. Regardless of the specific details, I think it’s great to see so many BRM participants (Alex, Jesper, Rob, and also Inigo Surguy and Jirka Kosek on the comments) discussing conformance issues publicly. This is technical blogging at its best, and I look forward to seeing where it leads.