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What Does the Microsoft ODF Converter Mean? 177

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the pulling-hard-on-the-rudder dept.
Andy Updegrove writes "It's been a week now since Microsoft announced its ODF/Office open source converter project - time enough for 183 on-line stories to be written, as well as hundreds of blog entries (one expects) and untold numbers of appended comments. Lest all that virtual ink fade silently into obscurity, it seems like a good time to look back and try to figure out what it all means. In this entry, I report on a long chat with Microsoft's Director of Standards Affairs Jason Matusow, and match up his responses with the official messaging in the converter press release. The result is a picture of a continuing, if slow and jerky, evolution within Microsoft as those that recognize market demands for more openness debate those that want to follow the old way. This internal divide means that the proponents of change need to point to real market threats in order to justify incremental changes. This adaptation by reaction process leaves Microsoft still lagging the market, but has allowed those that favor a more open approach to gradually turn the battle ship a few degrees at a time."
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What Does the Microsoft ODF Converter Mean?

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  • Duh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Umbral Blot (737704) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @11:22AM (#15706098) Homepage
    Embrace, extend, extinguish? At least that is what everyone here is going to say, so I don't even see why the editors bothered to post this story. It's slashdot, we always have the same response to news about microsoft.
    • by skids (119237) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @11:30AM (#15706155) Homepage
      It means: there will be yet another way for desk potatos to potentially send me emails that aren't loaded up with some bell or whistle or whatnot that breaks them under anything other than the very newest version of MS Office.

      Along with text, RTF, and older MS formatting.

      And just like all those other options, they won't use it.

    • Re:Duh (Score:2, Interesting)

      by utopianfiat (774016)
      I've been saying the same thing about this issue from the start:
      If they wanted an open-source project, they should have published an open-source application. Furthermore, the ODF converter doesn't hook into the save-as dialog. Why? Because plugins in office don't support that.
      If they wanted ODF compatability, they should have PATCHED THE FILE DIALOG, not do some Open-Source song-and-dance to turn some RMS fanboys' faces red and Redmond fanboys' pants white.
      • Re:Duh (Score:3, Insightful)

        Furthermore, the ODF converter doesn't hook into the save-as dialog. Why? Because plugins in office don't support that.

        Hmm -- there's other converters that plug into the Save As dialog. I suspect this is just a packaging issue that they haven't gotten to because they're only at version 0.01 or whatever.
    • Embrace, extend, extinguish? At least that is what everyone here is going to say, so I don't even see why the editors bothered to post this story. It's slashdot, we always have the same response to news about microsoft.

      When they quit acting the same old way, I'll quit telling you about it.

  • Oh, Boy! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by waif69 (322360)
    I can keep using microsoft office forever if they support, fully and properly ODF. Actually that is only a semi-funny thought as I actually do enjoy using microsoft office as compared to the alternatives.
    • Re:Oh, Boy! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @12:01PM (#15706341) Homepage

      I don't think it's funny at all. Look, for lots of everyday uses, Microsoft Word isn't a bad program. Outlook, Excel, Powerpoint-- these all have their valid uses, and they all do a pretty decent job.

      Is it good enough that I'd want to spend hundreds of dollars for it when there are free alternatives? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on what I'm doing and what I want, but I've spend money on Photoshop and Acrobat, and those also have free alternatives. I could imagine Microsoft Office remaining successfull if Microsoft starts selling it based on its own merits.

      However, as someone running an IT department, I'm trying to migrate to OpenOffice where ever I can. It's not so that I can save a couple hundred dollars here and there, but I'm just entirely sick of the abuse Microsoft heaps on its own customers. All the vendor lock-in, piracy checks, and all the rest-- it hurts my company's flexibility. It worries me that my company might find itself in a position where it can't access its own data. I'm annoyed by the idea that Microsoft's default format isn't real XML, which would be easier for our databases to generate/process.

      So what I'm saying is, yes, I'd like Microsoft to use/support real open standards. I'd like their systems to play well with others. I'd like to see a better version of Office for the Mac, and a version for Linux-- there have been times when I would have bought Office for Linux, even though Evolution/OpenOffice is working well enough.

      I'd like Microsoft to do those things specifically because I kind of like Microsoft Office, and I'd like to keep using it. However, I can't, in good conscience, put my company's future at Microsoft's mercy because some executive in Microsoft is a childish prick who insists on leveraging their monopoly to the point of hurting their own customers. It's unacceptable.

      • Back when I switched away from Windows I had to buy Applix when I needed an office suite. If MS had made a decent competing product, I probably would have considered it (it's not as if Applix was in any way open anyway, and it didn't work that well anyway).

        Now I'm probably too used to OOo after using it and StarOffice for years. Plus I like the openness in design. Of course being a SOHO, I have a lot more flexibility in the matter than a corporation would. However Linux MS Office would be very helpful for a
        • I seriously doubt MS will be releasing an officially supported version of Office for Linux any time soon. While less attractive to businesses, Office XP runs just fine under Wine and/or Crossover Office. There are still some issues with Office 2003, tho.
        • However Linux MS Office would be very helpful for a lot of people who are stuck with the accumulated crud of Office macros or untranslatable (by OOo) Excel spreadsheets

          It might be helpful now, but I'd say open source office packages will be capable of handling the macros and cruft sooner than MS will make Office cross platform. VBA is already partly supported in Novell's version of OOo, and is under heavy development for the mainstream version. http://wiki.services.openoffice.org/wiki/VBA [openoffice.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Not so good times for Microsoft anymore... :-)

    Today I saw this: www.officeviewers.com
  • by dougman (908) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @11:24AM (#15706116)
    "...183 on-line stories to be written, as well as hundreds of blog entries (one expects) and untold numbers of appended comments"

    While I'm sure they will come out with a useful tool of some sort, the bottom line is free marketing (IMHO).
  • ...that you can convert ODF documents to and from Microsoft products with a simple plugin, I hope. Otherwise, I will have to keep on converting to .doc whenever I have to send out my CV.
  • by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis&gmail,com> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @11:26AM (#15706132) Homepage
    I'll avoid the typical MSFT bashing and move on to a tangent.

    When will "professionals" realize that Word is not meant for all documents? It's great for short documents, posters, etc. But for real professional looking documents it's hard to beat a typesetter like TeX [or LaTeX].

    This has nothing to do with bashing MSFT and everything to do with bashing the "one size fits all" mentality.

    Tom - Who hates writing a book in Word but will do it anyways because its good for the resume.
    • I write my resume in LaTeX. It allows me to have one source and offer formats in html and pdf automatically.
      • To be fair, OpenOffice will let you save in HTML and PDF as well [so will AbiWord] and with extensions so will Word.

        Though I do admire the geek-pride of using TeX for that. I used to Blog in TeX, often because I didn't like MathML and was talking about math. :-)

        What I'm talking about moreso are books [even non-math books] and papers. It's so much cleaner to write them in LaTeX with the book class macros then in Word. For one thing, TeX handles all the layout for you, so the even/odd margins [e.g. where t
        • The only thing I don't like about LaTeX is the weird syntax it uses. It seems to me that marking up documents like this is one of the things XML actually is suited to, so I'm more interested in learning DocBook (I haven't gotten around to it yet). Do you have any experience with it?
          • I don't know if you were seeking general input, but I'll throw my 2 cents in. (YMMV, see your Slashdot is-not-a-lawyer for details, not trying to start a big thing here)

            I learned LaTeX while writing my dissertation; I had started with a wordprocessor (MS Word), but switched to LaTeX for a ton of reasons (many of them mentioned by other posters in this forum). So, I've been using LaTeX for a while (well before I'd heard of docbook), and the syntax seems fine to me. But I also don't need to produce many di
    • When will "hobbiest dabblers" realize that nobody uses TeX/LaTeX outside of academics and people with the title of "Typesetter"? In non-Slashdot reality, tools like FrameMaker and Quark/InDesign are used much more in publishing than TeX/LaTeX. (And even these tools are generally only as the final production step -- the writing and editing is done in a word processor.)
      • This is typical anti-OSS flamebait but I'll respond anyways.

        TeX is a 30 yr old system still used today for a reason. Not saying the commercial side is bad but if you're working on a budget and need precision nothing beats TeX. Not only that but TeX is CVS friendly which comes in handy if you work in a team.

        Besides, academia is moving towards Word for the very reason I cited. "oh it can do anything". Look at the recent LLNCS call for papers. They used to only accept photo-ready postscripts. Now they accept .doc files straight for the submitters.

        And to add to that, writing a book in Word is cruel. You never get to see the final product and the flow/layout is just awful. When I was working on my first book I could easily make a modification then see what the final product would look like. Regenerating the entire 320 page book takes a mere minute [less really]. As an author it's encouraging to know what your presentation will look like as you work on it.

        With my second book I will know what my pages look like a mere week or two before it hits the printers. That gives me very little time to review the layout and submit feedback. So I may get stuck with a book that really doesn't reflect what I wanted to accomplish.

        Tom
        • This is typical anti-OSS flamebait but I'll respond anyways.
          "OSS" has nothing to do with this argument, Mr. Open Sores.

          And to add to that, writing a book in Word is cruel. You never get to see the final product
          And that's just the point -- most people don't want to see the "final product" until the editing cycle is complete and the publication is in the production phase. For a publication with an establshed DTP workflow, "camera ready" is a hindrance, not a help.

          TeX might be the greatest publication tool in
        • This is typical anti-OSS flamebait but I'll respond anyways. TeX is a 30 yr old system still used today for a reason. Not saying the commercial side is bad but if you're working on a budget and need precision nothing beats TeX.

          Joking, right? The parent is absolutely correct -- in professional environments, Quark, InDesign and Framemaker are used far more often than TeX. In fact, outside of publishing long documents with complex formatting requirements (e.g. academic texts), almost nobody uses TeX. I ca

    • Although the capabilities of Latex are nice I do have one beef with it: it's still eassier to use the equation editor that comes with Word (in the windows version of office). The Word equation editor lets you select formatting options from a list, each of which is accompanies by a visual representation, and you can see the results immediately. With Latex you have to remember all the formatting commands you want, and you have to wait until the very end, when you compile your document, to see what you have
      • I'll grant you that the error reporting in TeX totally sucks balls. Usually though my trick is to compile soon compile often. So when I get a bug I know it's in something I just recently added. The equations in LaTeX get easier with time. Once you know the jist of the \over \sqrt \lbrace whatever you can readily express pretty much anything in it.

        I suppose if you are willing to spend the time you can get properly laid out document in Word as well. just from what I've seen the typical user doesn't spend
      • "I'll take usability over power anyday, because I simply want to get the job done;"

        Well, power IS usability. As easy to learn, easy to remember, familiarity... Maybe you should define better the problem you are trying to solve.

    • When will "professionals" realize that Word is not meant for all documents?

      People often comment on how nice my documents look, my response is, it's because I don't use Word. Microsoft Word has always been terrible at creating attractive documents. It doesn't follow typesetting rules. I use Apple Pages now, used to use WordPerfect. Both produce documents that look much better than a standard Word document. In fact WordPerfect of ten years ago produced better looking documents than the current version of Word
      • Never used Pages or WordPerfect [I was a claris works fan back in the day ... of course I was also 10 yrs old so what did I know].

        Glad to hear there are proper editors out there. I've dabbled briefly in FrameMaker and it's decent too for layout. I dunno, my affinity for TeX comes from the fact that it's free and once you get over the initial learning curve, really easy to use.

        I wonder if Pages will be ported to Linux? :-)

        Tom
      • I've gotten the same response to my documents. When I was still in physics, my labs reports always looked the best because I wrote them in TeX. (They might not have always been correct, but they looked damn good.) Also, everyone who looks at my resumé wants to borrow the format I used. I created it in Pages from scratch, and it's a very aesthetic, professional-looking layout because Pages is more of a layout program than word processor. True, it would've been possible to duplicate what I did in Word, b
    • by Valacosa (863657) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @11:56AM (#15706313)
      When will "professionals" realize that Word is not meant for all documents?...This has nothing to do with bashing MSFT and everything to do with bashing the "one size fits all" mentality.
      I agree fully.

      I'm currently working in an office environment. Personally, I haven't used MS Word here yet - for every document I've created I've either used LaTeX (great for citations, macros, and breaking things into chapters) or Pagemaker (great when you want to do layout by hand.)

      Everyone else in this building, however, uses MS Word as their Blunt Instrument to do whatever task they have to get done. They use Word primarily because it's what they know, it works (albeit poorly) and in the end, they're uncomfortable with computers. To a lot of the general population, even an office population, computers are still magic black boxes. I'm not sure if there's a way to combat that fear. How many people can change their own oil? Fix their own TV?

      We're geeks. We learn the most efficient way to do things because that is in our nature. Most people won't bother. They just want to get the damn job done, even if they end up wasting more time in the long run.
      • Agreed. That's why when people ask you about your documents you say "I used LaTeX, want to see?" and start that way. Not all non-nerds are totally against progress. The problem is the ones in control tend to be that way and it's disheartening.

        I think the trick is to have a good technical case and a good business case. You won't switch the world in an instance but you can certainly move things in the right direction. :-) ... oh who am I kiddin, I use Word for everything at my work. Like F!@# they would
      • by rockmuelle (575982) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @12:29PM (#15706547)
        "We're geeks. We learn the most efficient way to do things because that is in our nature. Most people won't bother. They just want to get the damn job done, even if they end up wasting more time in the long run."

        I've spent a good deal of time in both Word and LaTeX and hear this all the time from geeks who still use LaTeX for everything.

        It's worth pointing out that LaTeX is not the most efficient way of doing most documents. It is very good at handling citations, but that's it. For everything else, it is inefficient compared to a word processor. And, word processors could have excellent support for citations, if there was a market for it (a few thousand acadmics who expect all software to be free is not a market).

        To back up that statement a bit, consider the process of createing a document in LaTeX. Usually, you open up a text editor, write your document using LaTeX's markup language and 'compile' the document. Once its compiled, you look at it in xpdf, find the layout/grammar bugs, and repeat. At some point, you start breaking the document out into sub-files that contain sections or complex equations, and it's not uncommon to have a main.tex file that builds the final document, usually with the aid of a makefile.

        Given that workflow, can you see any reason LaTeX would appeal to geeks? Think about it. It's exactly the same way we learned to develop code in school! Edit, compile, run, subroutines, makefile. It _appears_ to be the most efficient way because it maps nicely to something we do on a regular basis. But, most people stopped using text editors and makefiles when IDEs matured. Here's the secret: Word processors are the IDEs of layout.

        Let's look a little deeper. To do any basic formating in LaTeX, you have to surround your text with markup. That's extra typing, which is not terribly efficient. And, when you're reading heavily marked up text, you have to filter out the markup to make sense of things. To catch any layout errors, you rely on a viewer for feedback, which adds a roundtrip between the viewer-editor-web. I threw Web in there, because if you've ever tried to do any _real_ layout in LaTeX, you'll need to hunt down the secret incantation that solves your problem. Then there's spell checking. Sure, FlySpell is nice in Emacs, but it's hardly state of the art. Grammar checking? Don't even thing about it (yeah, I know this is of limited usefulness, but it helps sometimes).

        Now, go back to a word processor. There's no extra markup to type, layout problems can usually be resolved by tweaking a few settings available from the context (right-click) menu, there's no compile-debug cycle. Styles (even in Word) can be defined to change the look of a document instantly (as long as you know how to use them, but the same is true for LaTeX). For complicated documents, word processors do start to show their rough edges. But, LaTeX doesn't scale that well, either. And, that's a customer issue, most people just don't do enough complicated layout for it to matter. Output formats? "Save as..." (and don't try the human readable claim - how often do you really go back and edit things outside the program you created them in? Be honest.)

        So, next time you find yourself claiming that LaTeX is the best way to do everything, take a step back and make an honest evaluation of your workflow.

        -Chris
        • "you .. write .. using LaTeX's markup language and 'compile'.. look at it in xpdf, find the layout/grammar bugs, and repeat."

        • Mod parent up!

          I had to use LaTeX in school (CSE grad, out in the working word now), and absolutely hated it. Yeah, it was cool if I wanted to build a document from scratch. I hear it's really good for academia and math graphics and crap. But for writing a goddam letter or resume or book report or anything else 99% of the world is going to do most of the time, why in the blue hell would you use that instead of something like Word/WordPerfect/OO? For what we did in class with LaTeX (project documentati
          • My experience has been the opposite. I'm very comfortable editing with emacs, and writing a letter in LaTex is a matter of selecting a suitable template document and typing in the text. I'm faster than my collegue who uses word. I suspect you've never really invested time in using LaTeX and your one little experience at school has blinkered you to the power of text based markup.
        • But, most people stopped using text editors and makefiles when IDEs matured.

          Yes, but only because they were all VB kiddies. "Most people" is not an interesting metric when talking about complex tasks, like programming or publishing. Word is the VB of publishing. It's used by semi-literate people to bash out some crud that nobody else with any sense would want to touch, even with gloves and tongs.

          Most non-crappy programs are still written with (smarter) text editors and makefiles (or make-equivalents, like a

          • *Everyone* who uses an IDE is a script kiddie, and *everyone* who uses Word is semi-literate.

            What about all the people who make retarded blanket statements that won't stand up to a moment's scrutiny? On slashdot, no less? What would you call them? "Most" of them are trolls...
        • by jejones (115979) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:49PM (#15707779) Journal
          You're right. That's why I started using LyX [lyx.org].
        • "Easier" and "better" involve more issues than you've addressed. I love that LaTeX files are plain-text. I love the simplicity and dependability of that. I don't think any ONE tool is perfect for every job. Openoffice is not LaTeX is not InDesign, and so on. But I do know that presentations developed with LateX Beamer (and Powerdot, I think it's called) are more professional and slick than anything I've seen done with Powerpoint or Impress. Using LaTeX at this level may not be as easy as Powerpoint,
        • extra typing, which is not terribly efficient

          But in the long run, it is. If you use the right kind of markup, its easy to change styles in TeX/LaTeX/... quite easily across an entire document. In most WYSIWYG word processors, much of the formatting tends to be ad-hoc, so needs to be adjusted, brought up to date, in multiple places. Furthermore, indexing the document on specific terms (for example, dates - there may be a dozen dates in a document all of which have different meanings - how do you decid

        • Word and friends are not "IDEs for layout." It's Visual Basic for layout. Good IDEs augment standard editing and build processes (good ones, not Eclipse with its ad-hoc javac invocation); they don't completely replace them. You can always fall back to a simple text editor if you need to. Furthermore, while I won't debate about wether or not typing \textbf{...} is actually slower than clicking a toolbar button, there are IDEs for LaTeX such as emacs, TeXmaker, and LyX that handle those tasks in the same way
      • How many people can change their own oil? Fix their own TV?

        Dude...that's like saying,
        "How many people can build their own birdfeeder? Build their own House?"

        Fixing a TV requires replacement of high-voltage electronics. Good diagnostics require at least a multimeter, and preferably an oscilliscope...and if you do it wrong the high voltage could kill you.

        Changing oil requires an oil filter, a screw driver, and a pan, and if you do it wrong you'll usually just get oil all over the place (although a friend of
      • Everyone else in this building, however, uses MS Word as their Blunt Instrument to do whatever task they have to get done.

        Unless that task involves numbers, in which case they use MS Excel as their Blunt Instrument. I've never yet seen a case where Excel was the right tool to use, but they do it anyway (using spreadsheets as a database even with MS Access installed, argh!).

        They use Word primarily because it's what they know, it works (albeit poorly) and in the end, they're uncomfortable with computers. To a

    • When will "professionals" realize that Word is not meant for all documents? It's great for short documents, posters, etc. But for real professional looking documents it's hard to beat a typesetter like TeX [or LaTeX].

      The problem I see is that most people don't want to have to look at markup. A lot of people flat-out don't get the idea. Text that you write in, but it won't show up when you print it...?

      I agree, though, that Word isn't well-suited for all purposes. I'm excited to hear about some of the su

    • When will "professionals" realize that Word is not meant for all documents? It's great for short documents, posters, etc.

      I'd like to think that "professionals" have no problem grasping that Word isn't really good for anything. Office drones and beginners may get by with writing shopping lists and memos in Word, but I consider it unfortunate that their sheer number perpetuate the notion that Word is the tool to use for generating documents of any type.

      But for real professional looking documents it's hard to
    • I used to work for a company now called Financial Campus.

      Their stock and trade is Securities and Insurance Course ware. When I started there, they were in the midst of a massive project to migrate from Word perfect to Word for all heir courses.

      That's right, they maintained 200 plus page securities courses in Word, running on Windows 95 and 98.

      One problem with this was the fact that word always formatted the document for your "Default Printer" which in this case caused things like floating text boxes and gr
    • by dpilot (134227) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @12:55PM (#15706759) Homepage Journal
      The "existence" of the ODF plugin might really mean the exact opposite of what everyone would like it to be. In fact, it might mean the same thing as "Posix compatibility" or "Kerberos" did.

      In other words, big migrations never happen overnight. Let's say that an executive has made a commitment to move his organization over to ODF. If Microsoft were to continue stiffing ODF acceptance, the first action would be to start rolling out and training an alternative tool, like OpenOffice. On the other hand, if Microsoft has announced an ODF plugin is coming, the first action is to stand pat, and wait for it. At this point, 3 things may happen:
      1: Microsoft delivers an ODF plugin, and the migration moves onward.
      2: The executive moves onward to a new position, and the ODF migration can be safely ignored and/or rescinded.
      3: Things continue as-is until the deadline approaches and there's still no ODF plugin. At this point the business can either go into some sort of panic mode or make the first, perhaps of many, perhaps indefinite, ODF migration deadline postponements.

      Note that all it takes is the promise of an ODF plugin to defer the whole "ODF threat". It's easy to add "schedule slips" and other such to slow the entire migration plan to a crawl, possibly even to increase its cost until everyone cries "Uncle" and decides that Office licenses until Doomsday are cheaper.
      • You're almost, but not quite there.

        My reckoning is this: In order for ODF (or indeed any XML based file format) to support embedding things like images, it must by definition allow you to embed binary blobs, right? (You can prove this in OO.o by choosing to embed images when you save a file).

        I can envisage the Microsoft converter doing a reasonably good job of importing, but the export will be "produce a Word document, encode it as a binary blob and wrap it in ODF".

        Seriously. The reason why is simple:

        1.
    • When will "professionals" realize that Word is not meant for all documents? It's great for short documents, posters, etc. But for real professional looking documents it's hard to beat a typesetter like TeX [or LaTeX].


      When people figure out that character justification is the main feature Wordprocessor lack and how you can tell if a newspaper is using Word or a real publishing product for their articles.

      Most people don't get it; however, the suggested products you list for replacements also have severe limit
  • Duh (Score:3, Funny)

    by GweeDo (127172) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @11:34AM (#15706180) Homepage
    It means Open Document Format...geez, some acronyms are just easy...
  • Battleship (Score:5, Insightful)

    by truthsearch (249536) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @11:34AM (#15706183) Homepage Journal
    turn the battle ship

    And that's the problem. The public perception is still Microsoft as a weapon of war. And it's the perception because that's still how Microsoft operates. Going beyond the open/closed debate they need to stop treating IT as a battleground. As soon as they switch from a war mentality to a peace and cooperation mentality things will go a lot smoother. For as long as they make a fight out of things there will be trouble. Maybe one day they'll learn there's actually money to be made while at peace with others.
    • Re:Battleship (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Wylfing (144940) <(brian) (at) (wylfing.net)> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @12:13PM (#15706421) Homepage Journal
      As soon as they switch from a war mentality to a peace and cooperation mentality things will go a lot smoother.

      I think it is almost the opposite. Microsoft has always been at its best when it was not in control of the market, and had to fight for success. I remember very, very fondly Word 2.0 on DOS. That was a thing of beauty, and it came out of the need to compete with WordPerfect and Wang and all the other word processors on the market in those days. Microsoft weren't trying to lock out new competitors in those days, they were participants in a competitive landscape. That is what is missing -- that idea that they are participants in a fray, not the idea that they should enforce the Pax Microsoftia where no competitors are allowed.

    • Rule of Acquisition #34 War is good for business.
      Rule of Acquisition #35 Peace is good for business.
    • gradually turn the battle ship a few degrees at a time

      Oh wait... it only looked like the battleship was turning. It's not.

      That's just the cannons slowly swinging around.

      -
  • by Carcass666 (539381) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @11:51AM (#15706282)

    Depending on how Microsoft chooses to implement it, it can be a Good Thing or a Distracting Thing. For example:

    • They can make it simple or difficult to change the default file format (hide the option in some obscure dialog or make it impossible to implement via a group policy)
    • They can change the default file format back to the proprietary format whenever there is a service pack (think Internet Explorer browser tug-of-war)
    • They can throw up dialogs like "If you save in this format your document may look like crap later" (sort of what they do now)
    If they stick to previous behavior, the converter will work, but it will be annoying enough to implement that a lot of people and organizations won't bother with it.
    • "They can throw up dialogs like "If you save in this format your document may look like crap later" (sort of what they do now)"

      This is one of the biggest problem I have with open standards. Basically anything anyone wants to add to their word processor will now have to either have to be part of the standard, degrade in some way, or simply not be added. We're stuck with the lowest common denominator syndrome and no one wins here. If Microsoft adds a feature that's not part of the standard they'll be accus
      • I believe the OpenDocument format(s) allow for extensibility, but I see your point. Application developers can only be expected to use the standard where one exists. If they want to add something that is not in the standard like, say, a new type of animation for a presentation, then as long as they follow the standard way of extending OpenDocument, that is fine. The problem is if they decide to create a new extension for something that is already possible like how in JavaScript there are several ways to do
  • by radarsat1 (786772) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @12:15PM (#15706431) Homepage
    I was just thinking, when I read the lines:
    "if even one citizen wants to send a document to a government in ODF form, they have to be able to deal with it."


    I realize that OpenOffice has got an incredibly complex build system, and just sitting down and modifying is more than a simple task. However, it IS open-source, so I was wondering if anyone has considered this possibility:

    What about a nice, self-contained version of OpenOffice, but with all of the GUI stuff stripped out, which instead of opening the editor, simply opens a little drag'n'drop dialog box. You select your desired "output format", and drop any document supported by OpenOffice into this window. This would include ODF files, Word docs, RTF, etc. It would then perform the equivalent of "Open" and "Save" in OpenOffice, in whatever format you specified.

    Voila, instant converter!
    I would think this would be a baby-step towards having a nice universal document converter. It doesn't strike me as totally necessary to have it as an Add-in to Word, at least not immediately.

    Yes, this would use OpenOffice's reverse-engineering MSdoc parser for converting to ODF, rather than using Word's native code, but I imagine it would be a good start anyways, and easier to do.

    Anyways, I've tried to build OO before and quickly ran out of RAM and disk space, but maybe someone would be up to the task.
    • FYI, something like this already exists in OpenOffice.org. File - Wizards - Document converter. Something to remember if you ever do succeed in building it :-) (and I've heard elsewhere, by the way, that it is stupendously difficult to build).
  • by metamatic (202216) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @12:48PM (#15706709) Homepage Journal
    ...I report on a long chat with Microsoft's Director of Standards Affairs Jason Matusow...

    Presumably his title is Director of Standards Affairs because Microsoft's relationship with standards is only ever a quick fling, and someone usually gets fucked.

  • It seems to me that there are two camps inside Microsoft: the developers and the management. The developers seem to want to do cool things. They are reaching out to the development community. (With open source [sourceforge.com], coding4fun [microsoft.com], blogging, channel9 [msdn.com], etc). But the management is still trying to hold on to the old ways and the cash cows [microsoft.com].
  • Thank goodness... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by doctorjay (860762)
    This is probably going to be modded troll or flamebait, but I really dont mean it to be. In my social circle of geeks there are those who are ODF nazis. They refuse to send me documents in anything but ODF and it pisses the hell out of me. I have held my ground for a while because I, for various reasons, use MS office. Now both sides can be happy. Thank Goodness.
    • Heh. That reminds me of something -- For a while I edited Randall Schwartz's monthly Perl column for Web Techniques magazine, and he submitted every single column in PerlDoc format. Even funnier was that, before I got there, nobody even knew WHAT it was. They just told me, "He sends it in some weird format, so you'll have to do a little extra work." What that meant was that they would regularly strip out all his formatting and start over from scratch, using his plain text document as a starting point. Alas,
  • by windowpain (211052) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @04:58PM (#15708782) Journal
    Right here, right now: Let us forever more call what Microsoft refers to as "Open XML" as "MS XML."

    It's the sensible thing to do.
    • Novel's Gnumeric is already supporting OpenXML's spreadheet format, so if you're trying to imply that OpenXML is only an MS thing, your being intellectually dishonest. Unless you're also willing to call ODF, OO.o XML or some such. ODF, the native format of OO.o 2.0 is derived from OO.o 1.x's XML format and is very much tied to OO.o's code structure and design.
  • Microsoft may honestly deliver a reasonable ODF converter, or they may create a sham project in an attempt to get the item on their checklist without actually delivering anything usable.

    Whichever it is, it doesn't really matter. Microsoft Office will have good support for reading/writing ODF, if not from Microsoft, then from third parties.

    Whether Microsoft's converter works and is usable will tell us something about where Microsoft is heading; but for figuring that out, we'll have to wait until the convert

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