Office Formats Fail to

By Tiffany Maleshefski  |  Posted 2007-08-10 Print this article Print

Communicate"> The second, and the one Edwards subscribes to, is to allow the inclusion of proprietary extensions to implement the needed feature sets. This idea, Tenhumberg said, "might be faster to get through, but by doing so wont achieve interoperability because its not based on something ODF-specific … but on proprietary extensions."

The Da Vinci code
The opendocument foundation has put its ideas regarding ODF interoperability into practice in the form of a plug-in for providing interoperability between Microsofts binary formats and ODF, complete with what Edwards said is a higher conversion fidelity throughout a round-trip document exchange process.
The conversion engine of the groups plug-in, named "Da Vinci" for its ability to crack the code of what Edwards describes as "secret relationships" within Microsoft Word that only Microsofts application can understand, works similarly to the OOXML (Office Open XML) conversion plug-in that Microsoft is sponsoring. "Internally, all MS Word documents have an in-memory-binary-representation [IMBR]," Edwards said. "A .doc binary document is simply a dump of IMBR to file. The reverse occurs on loading into MS Word. Whenever a conversion process is triggered in MS Word, the IMBR is first converted to something very special and 100 percent internal. We call it MS-RTF because it looks like public RTF, but its not." However, according to Edwards, for the foundations conversion approach to fulfill its potential, ODF Version 1.2 (which is currently slated for late 2007) would have to include provisions for working with the proprietary extensions that appear in Microsoft-formatted documents. It was here that the foundations efforts hit a brick wall. "They opposed making any changes to OpenOffice that would enable the high level of round-trip fidelity demanded by MS Office bound workgroup-workflow business processes," Edwards said. "The external plug-in proposal they pursued is unable to crack the bound business processes." Without the needed buy-in from Sun, the foundations once promising plug-in now sits idle, and Edwards, after sitting nearly five years on the OASIS Open Document Technical Committee, has retreated from his plug-in efforts. "In April of 2007, we finally gave up on our efforts to improve ODF interoperability," Edwards said. "Sun has successfully blocked or otherwise neutralized all efforts to improve ODF interoperability with Microsoft documents, applications and bound processes." He added that the foundation will now begin to put its efforts into interoperability as it pertains to client-side servers. "Now that we know the plug-in architecture can convert both Microsoft and Sun applications at the file format level, the quest for a universal file format looks closer than ever before. Whats really needed is a standards process not controlled by big vendors with big applications and big market share appetites," Edwards said. "Its up to the governments to force Microsoft to do this or that. We cant do what the marketplace wants us to do." If the marketplace is given the authority to dictate the future of the Open Document Format, according to Edwards, it can only result in a "rip out and replace" agenda that governments simply wont get behind, making the fate of Open Document vulnerable. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.


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