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RTF Vs. OOXML 141

Posted by kdawson
from the already-extinguished dept.
Rob Weir has an interesting essay comparing the viciousness of RTF and OOXML: "The [document format standard] concerns of 2004 (or 1995 even) are very similar to the concerns of 2007... 'RTF is defined as whatever Word saves when you ask it to save as RTF.' This should sound familiar. OOXML is nothing more than the preferences of Microsoft Office. Whenever Word changes, OOXML will change. And if you are a user or competitor of Word, you will be the last one to hear about these changes. The coding of Office 14 a.k.a. Office 2009 is well underway. Beta releases are expected in early 2008. But are file format changes needed to accommodate the new features being discussed in Ecma? No. Are they being discussed in ISO? No. Are they being discussed anywhere publicly? No. By owning the 'standard' and developing it in secret, in an Ecma rubber-stamp process, Microsoft rigs the system so they can author an ISO standard with which they are effortlessly compatible, while at the same time ensuring that their products maintain an insurmountable head start in implementing these same standards. Is this how an open standard is developed?"
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RTF Vs. OOXML

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  • by yagu (721525) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ugayay]> on Thursday January 03, 2008 @09:21AM (#21893970) Journal

    Up front disclaimer: This article has a tangible odor of troll, so don't blame me and the other posters for responding in kind (flamebait, troll, offtopic, etc.)

    FTS:

    By owning the 'standard' and developing it in secret, in an Ecma rubber-stamp process, Microsoft rigs the system so they can author an ISO standard with which they are effortlessly compatible

    I wouldn't say this is entirely true (effortless) on Microsoft's part. Any user of any Microsoft product is well aware of how difficult it is to work in and out of various new vs. old formats. Yes, even Microsoft has a difficult time being compatible and interoperable with Microsoft (actually, I seem to have better luck overall with interoperability using OpenOffice...).

    And, also FTS:

    Is this how an open standard is developed?

    Actually no, usually Microsoft takes an existing open standard (e.g., sockets), implements it poorly (winsock), and puts it everywhere (95,98, NT, XP, etc.) forcing the technical community to re-adopt the standard in Microsoft's cast.

    • by Corporate Troll (537873) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @09:36AM (#21894128) Homepage Journal

      Any user of any Microsoft product is well aware of how difficult it is to work in and out of various new vs. old formats.

      You'd think that, wouldn't you? Actually, my experience is that users are blissfully ignorant about document incompatibilities caused by any software (not particular to Microsoft). Today, I received an email from a friend of mine asking how she could open a .rm file on her Apple. I was more surprised that some people still use that format. However, it was required listening (viewing?) for one of her courses.

      In this case I fault the professor of that course, but how many times do you get people that say it's your fault when you can't open a document they said. After all, it works on their machines.

      • by elronxenu (117773)
        OpenCourseWare?

        I tried to view a video from that just the other day and what they sent was a .rm file. Why can't they provide an mpeg or AVI encoding?

        • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

          by LWATCDR (28044)
          AVI is a just as proprietary as rm if not more so.
          With Helix you can have an FOSS program that can read rm files.
          Yes Mpeg would be more open.
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by samkass (174571)
            In theory VC-1 is the "open" descendant of AVI. It is part of both the Blu-Ray and the HD DVD spec, and roughly equivalent to WMP9's file format. It's kind of interesting that no one talks about needing to read VC-1, while there are zillions of MP4 players and even quite a few AVI players.

          • avi is a container format. It can contain pretty much anything, including Theora. For the moment, I recommend encoding in H264 and you can put it in an avi container. Not a problem at all.

            Getting a decoder for that is pretty much painless...

          • by Ash-Fox (726320)

            AVI is a just as proprietary as rm if not more so.
            With Helix you can have an FOSS program that can read rm files.
            Yes Mpeg would be more open.
            A OGM or MKV container that uses Vorbis for audio streams and Theora for video would be considered a 100% open format. MPEG, Realmedia codecs and their containers, less so.
        • I didn't ask what the context was. I had not much other choice than to point her to RealPlayer (which worked). I would have pointed her to Real Alternative, but I didn't know of such a program for Mac OS X. (VideoLAN seemed not to have a implementation yet either)
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by krazytekn0 (1069802)
          Becuase still, somehow our schools know next to nothing about the value of open standards. Microsoft word viewer is "required" by my college but it would be fairer to say that MS Office 07 is really what all the Profs are trying to "require". I turn in pdf's and at least one instructor asks for a word document every semester.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Inda (580031)
        I know this isn't ask slashdot but couldn't she have just uploaded it to YouTube and got them to convert it?
        • Frankly, that solution didn't even occur to me. Would it work? I don't know. Clever idea, nevertheless. Try it out if you have a .ra file lying around. I most certainly do not have one.

          However, many people don't even know how youtube works either. An acquaintance of my wife tried to send a huge movie for New Years wishes by email. Not surprisingly it bounced and by accident she got me on the phone and I tried to explain that huge attachemts aren't a good idea and that she should just put it on youtu

        • by xenocide2 (231786)
          Youtube requires you hold copyright on all uploaded material. Not that anyone heeds the rule, but some people are pissed and there's no reason to require a student to lie to people during their studies.
    • by Gr8Apes (679165) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @09:43AM (#21894202)
      You know, if the only item I had to compare formats with was MS and applications trying to be MS, I might have come to your conclusion.

      However, you should look to older and other standards. HTML - 4 versions and all of them work seamlessly together, although newer versions may not have the pizazz in older renderers. WordPerfect and WordStar, good examples of how file formats don't have to break backwards compatibility from what I recall.

      As for winsock, that was a poor port of the BSD socket stack. Actually, it's a really poor port. Multicast still doesn't work, and if it did, an entire set of applications could occur with much lower traffic on the internet. (Think IPTV, IPRadio, and other streaming type applications)
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Androne (656820)

        As for winsock, that was a poor port of the BSD socket stack. Actually, it's a really poor port. Multicast still doesn't work, and if it did, an entire set of applications could occur with much lower traffic on the internet. (Think IPTV, IPRadio, and other streaming type applications)

        Multicast still wouldn't work since the vast majority (at least here in Canada) of ISPs filter multicast packets because they think they are the same as broadcast packets and thus increase network traffic, I know about this s

        • by Gr8Apes (679165)
          IIRC, multicast for windows only works on LANS. The windows stack can't route it. It's likewise been 7 years since I dealt with this issue on windows, so I freely admit I could be fuzzy about the fine details.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by kanweg (771128)
      "I wouldn't say this is entirely true (effortless) on Microsoft's part. Any user of any Microsoft product is well aware of how difficult it is to work in and out of various new vs. old formats. Yes, even Microsoft has a difficult time being compatible and interoperable with Microsoft"

      The problem is mainly caused by trying to develop a convoluted standard to make it difficult to create a standard that is difficult for others to figure out AND then understand your own convoluted standard and how to make it co
    • by kebes (861706) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @10:02AM (#21894436) Journal

      By owning the 'standard' and developing it in secret, in an Ecma rubber-stamp process, Microsoft rigs the system so they can author an ISO standard with which they are effortlessly compatible
      I wouldn't say this is entirely true (effortless) on Microsoft's part. Any user of any Microsoft product is well aware of how difficult it is to work in and out of various new vs. old formats
      I think the "accusation" of it being effortless for Microsoft was not in relation to backwards-compatibility, but rather that Microsoft's new products are effortlessly compatible with Microsoft's new standards, for the simple reason that they become the definition of the standard.

      If, for instance, Office 2009 has several bugs with respect to how it renders OOXML, then these bugs will actually become part of the de facto OOXML standard. Anyone who wants to implement the "standard" will have to reproduce those bugs in order to appear to be "the same as MS Office." This is the same problem the Wine team has when re-implementing the Windows API: they actually have to deviate from the established API documentation and reproduce Windows bugs since Windows applications rely on these bugs.

      If you let a "standard" (like OOXML) be tied to a specific implementation of the standard, then anyone who wants to re-implement the standard must make the tough choice between being true to the letter of the standard (as written) or the de facto standard as embodied in the dominant implementation. We saw with IE's buggy implementation of HTML the problems this can cause, and are only now pulling ourselves out of that particular mess.

      The problem is that Microsoft can alter the OOXML "standard" to their heart's content simply by changing the way MS Office works in future versions. Documented or not, those changes will effortlessly become "the new standard" by virtue of their dominant market position.
    • Up front disclaimer: This article has a tangible odor of troll, so don't blame me and
      the other posters for responding in kind (flamebait, troll, offtopic,
      etc.)

      I wouldn't call it completely a troll. It's more like calling a spade a spade.

      Open standards should be things that are discussed in open before they are finalized.

      OOXML and RTF are documentation of the habits of an office suite. And habits can be broken.
      • I didn't realise RTF was a Microsoft product.. for some reason I had considered it open just because I've seen it in most applications I've used. I recently told someone to use it when she got a new laptop that didnt have office on it, and needed to write an essay at short notice. Her teacher then added notes to it which didnt show up in Wordpad, but showed up when I opened the document in Word (which I then saved as HTML so that she could see the notes..!). Anyway, since I don't use any stuff like tracking
    • Yes, even Microsoft has a difficult time being compatible and interoperable with Microsoft


      And this is supposed to indicate the difficulty of adhering to principles of backward compatibility? Or the flaws of the design process used by Microsoft?
    • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @11:43AM (#21896020)
      That's really not the case.

      In fact, look up how it went down for Word95 and Windows 98.
      Word violated the api standards but was given the "approved" mark anyway.
      Corel which followed the standards was much slower.

      Microsoft cheats all the time. They are commensurate scammers.

      Sometimes, it feels like the world is crazy because no one seems to recall things like
      1) specifically checking if DR Dos was installed- and if so give a hard installation failure.
      2) "Dos isn't done until Lotus won't run"
      3) Doublestac
      4) The entire "95" certification scandal.
      5) The *numerous* partnerships where they robbed every bit of technology from the technology partner and then brought out a competing product.
      6) The numerous times that they added a 50 to 60% functional but "free" version of something of a competitor's product to the operating system.

      and so many more examples like this.

      They are extremely competitive scammers. Which is okay if you own their stock. But not okay if you want to do something for the common good like standard.
      • by spectecjr (31235)
        Doublestac

        I remember Doublestac! That was the one where the USPTO gave out two patents for the same technology - and Microsoft held one, and Doublestac held the other. Microsoft having deliberately searched for compression technology that wouldn't infringe on Doublestac's patents, found this one, bought it, and then found out that "oh no they di'n't".

        You might want to stop using that one as an example. It's a great one of the ineffectiveness of the US Patent Office, and how software patents suck. It's a lou
        • I think you need to read my other post linked to this one.

          Microsoft pretended to be a technology partner to Stac and pillaged them for IP.

          Then Stac sued Microsoft and won.

          Then Microsoft simply bought Stac for it's market value which was less than the penalty of the lawsuit.

          I did do the research- current information on the web (in the other post) backs this position up.

          So you might want to do the same before spouting off without providing references.

          • by spectecjr (31235)
            Sure... here's my research:

            http://www.ross.net/compression/introduction.html [ross.net]
            "Unfortunately, during this happy rollout, some patents popped out of
            the US patent system that cast a shadow over the LZRW series algorithms,
            and they became effectively unuseable in any practical application. If
            you want to use them in any product (whether free or commercial), you
            will have to do some in-depth patent homework and algorithm
            development/modification so as to avoid infringement. If you think
            that's easy, then you should be
            • I'm confused. You seem to be agreeing with me.
              And your post doesn't contradict the fact that Microsoft pretended to be a technology partner to Stac and pillaged them for IP. A practice which they used many times with other small companies that had new technology ideas.

              From here: http://www.vcnet.com/bms/departments/catalog/catalog.shtml [vcnet.com]

              Stac
              Developer of Stacker file compression software.
              After a failed attempt to license Stacker for DOS 6.0, Microsoft developed a similar product which infringed on Stac's pa
    • by lysse (516445)

      ...don't blame me and the other posters for responding in kind (flamebait, troll, offtopic, etc.)

      I damned well will. You're entirely responsible to how you reply to someone, no matter how much of a provocation you believe they were presenting. You don't magically become less of an ass because someone else was an ass first.
  • by oahazmatt (868057) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @09:29AM (#21894052) Journal
    It's official, I've been on the internet way too much. I saw "RTF Vs. OOXML" with just a quick glance and read it as some new, bizarre acronym like "ROFLCOPTOR".
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
    • by jag7720 (685739)
      RTF = Ralphing On Floor
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by nschubach (922175)
      High on some illegal substance you might think:
      Raid The Fucking Vorgon[s] Or Orangutan Xylophones Might Laugh!

      Or when you go to start one of them high end raids and you see it it means:
      Raiding The Fridge, Voices Off, Oreo Kisses My Lovely.

      Slashdot browsing:
      Really Taco, Fucking View Stories Or Old Xerces Maky Love

      I had another one, but it was really cruel, began with Rape, the V was well related to that and it ended disturbingly.
    • funny, I thought, "Read the f-ing OOXML?"
  • by jafoc (1151405) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @09:29AM (#21894058) Homepage
    Is this how an open standard is developed?

    No.

    Here's a copy of the draft OpenISO.org [openiso.org] "Problem Report" entry for this issue:

    Microsoft's attempt to essentially unilaterally dictate office document standards is an abuse of their dominant position

    Problem description:

    Normally standardization is conducted by means all interested parties participating in a discussion of the desired features, so that all interested parties have an essentially equal opportunity to develop products implementing the standard.

    By contrast, OOXML is simply documentation of the document format that Microsoft's products already use, and there is no indication that Microsoft would intend to make the details about future versions of OOXML available to competitors before Microsoft is ready to release their own implementation of the new features for public beta testing.

    Expected impact:

    To the extent that OOXML is accepted as a standard, all of Microsoft's competitors will be encumbered with a permanent economic disadvantage.

    Possible solution:

    Reject all claims about OOXML in some way being a standard, and take legal action, on the basis of national and international competition law, against Microsoft as well as against Ecma and all other organizations which are guilty of aiding and abetting Microsoft's anticompetitive actions.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      To be fair, ODF started out as a documentation of the 'StarOffice XML' format. And it still pretty much is, although changes were made late in the process to further ensure document portability and to improve multilingual support. OTOH, OOo will always follow the standard rather than define the standard. A standard isn't defined by one product, it is something that products follow.

      I don't understand why this is so hard for people to understand.
      • by jafoc (1151405)
        To be fair, ODF started out as a documentation of the 'StarOffice XML' format.

        True. And that is in fact a legitimate starting point for the process of developing a standard. Of course back when it was just the 'StarOffice XML' format, no-one insisted on pushing it down everyone's throat as an international standard. Rather, Sun got all interested parties together, and a real standard was developed by means of requesting and taking under consideration everyone's input on needed changes.

        OOo will always

      • by DrYak (748999) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @11:08AM (#21895436) Homepage

        To be fair, ODF started out as a documentation of the 'StarOffice XML' format. And it still pretty much is, although changes were made late in the process to further ensure document portability and to improve multilingual support.


        But the key point is that the whole process was open.
        The ODF standard was designed by an comitee (OASIS), where several of the various office suite maker collaborate.
        The procedure has been openly documented and everyone was able to know what was being done.
        The standard was available "in advance" of the products, not the other way around. The standard will be followed by the various maker as you said.

        The critics made to microsoft in TFA are that Microsoft is designing the standard alone without consulting the concurrence or even letting them know what they are doing.
        The next iteration of OOXML is probably going to be made available "afterward" : they're going to first build MSOffice 14 and then publish "What we've done new in MSOffice 2010" or some other king of list of modification they did (notice past tense) to the standart. As you say, it's the product which will define de standard.

        Yes, in both case the standard are published.
        Yes, in both case they started life as internal representation of specific softwares.

        BUT, OOXML is still an internal representation of word, and is best defined as "whatever the next version of word spills when you hit "Save" ", if Office change, OOXML will change with nobody knowing it in advance and being able to take part into the process. Want to make cross-operating software ? Please wait until Microsoft takes their next product to the market and makes it mind about what they'll throw next into it. Too bad that this will introduce delays into your own product.

        The "standard" is still a moving target, the only difference with reverse engineering is that nobody needs to decypher cryptic binary data but only read 1700 pages, appart from that it's the same "play catch up".

        WHEREAS ODF has been beated into a standard by a body where different vendors/makers could give their opinion and everyone can be informed of potential modification of the standard as it's a public procedure.
        Want to take part in the development of the next standard ? You can !
        Want to write software compatible with it ? Just stick to what is published in the ISO standard no need to track a single specific vendor and it's proprietary product.

        ODF may be a bad standard for some people but it's still an OPEN standard, as in "the procedure of the creation of this standard was open".
        OOXML is just a "we let you read the text we print to document what we've thrown in Office 2010" closed standard.

        I don't understand why this is so hard for people to understand.


        Yup. I agree with you.
        Must probably all the noise comming from Microsoft's marketing department "But see, our is a standard too : we publish the specs too !!!"
    • by velen (1198819)
      Microsoft is the market leader in the office suite applications arena for a good reason. Their creativity cannot be stifled by a standards committee. However, this also means that they can't pretend to have an open standard as a file format when they aren't.

      The only thing that needs to happen is to reject the idea of OOXML as a standard until Microsoft is able to demonstrate transparency and consistency across at least three or so releases of their office suite. PDF didn't become a standard overnight.
    • The real question is how did "O Penis O" ever seem like a good name for a site?
  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @09:30AM (#21894068) Homepage Journal
    I think I could beat OOXML, if I took a few weeks to train up with some old kung fu movies beforehand.

    -- RTF
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's definitely important that those who agree that OOXML is not a good standard should help organize a list of problems that can be easily seen by the members of the upcoming ISO OOXML ballot meeting in February 2008 and all the Internet in general.

    OpenISO.org [openiso.org], an independent open organization much inspired by slashdot, is planning to include the issue of this post [openiso.org] in the problem report document produces in its OpenISO.org Review of OOXML. [openiso.org] OpenISO.org is asking for help [openiso.org] to organize the comments of your

    • by TeknoHog (164938)

      One of my employers used a naming scheme for documents, so that the filename could tell about the intent, creation date, etc. of the text. Everything was saved as RTF to improve future compatibility.

      Oddly, my proposal to name product manuals with .RTFM never took off.

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @09:49AM (#21894272)
    The headline says "RTF vs OOXML" so one would think that the writer is outlining the weaknesses and strengths of the two. But the linked article appears to show how the RTF failed to solve interoperability problems or concerns in its time.

    My suggestion: Get a better title for the slashdot piece. How about "OOXML will not work just like RTF failed."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by $RANDOMLUSER (804576)
      Not exactly. TFA is saying that RTF was the de facto "format of file exchange" between word processors like Word and Word Perfect; and that if OOXML becomes the new medium of exchange that we have another generation of Microsoft-format-change-whim to look forward to.
  • RTF What? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Shinmizu (725298) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @10:00AM (#21894412)
    RTF? RTF what? What am I supposed to be reading to eliminate my ignorance of some set of operations?
    • by kvezach (1199717)
      The abbreviation's actually short for "Raze the F...er", since that's about the only thing you can do with the format.
  • by Marcion (876801) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @10:01AM (#21894424) Homepage Journal
    While making a new standards body like OpenISO sounds like a good idea, I don't want to rain on that parade.

    However, I think there is also a problem with the national standards bodies. They can vary from a formal technical committees answerable to democratically elected governments according to what their country needs, through to a ragtag bunch of nobodies who can dictate whatever they want according to their specific corporate interests. I think ISO needs to start with itself and standardise how national bodies work.

    Also I think that if you are unhappy with the decision your national body made, then you need to either seek to get on it (or make a group that raises funds to get one of you on it), or setup a competing national standards organisation, get to work, and then try to replace the old one as ISO's National standards body for your country.
    • > I think ISO needs to start with itself and standardise how national bodies work.

      Wow, I think that might be the most insightful comment I've read on slashdot all year!

      Wes
  • by Bayesela (1151523) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @10:04AM (#21894462)
    On top of OOXML being developed in a closed environment, MS Office is not even using the proposed ECMA or ISO spec, they including all types of tie-ins. This article explains more: not even compliant [fanaticattack.com]
  • Computers do Input, Output, Processing and Storage. Its been that way for more than a half centuy.
    At some point people thought it would be cool if that wasn't the case and dreamed up lots of crud to put in text books sold to college students and they made lots of money but hasn't changed a thing.

    It still doesn't fix the problem that a word processor has an internal model of what the user typed. Its job is to output that in a way that is consistent with what it's showing the user and what the user told it
    • There's more than one input and output.

      The input and output on the screen and keyboard are part of the processing from the point of view of the storage.

      The input and output of the file storage are part of the processing from the point of view of the user.

      User - I/O - Processing - I/O - Storage

      In addition there's a third I/O interface for printing, and a forth for online publishing.

      There's no reason that the storage format needs to be tightly coupled to the display format. And, also, an editor doesn't have a
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by thogard (43403)
        Output on different devices is what a word processor does. Other wise its "process" step wouldn't be anything at all. And the 1950's model doesn't consider "storage" part of the I/O model but modern sanity sort of would imply it unless its direct memory or object dump.

        Words storage model is odd. It doesn't match the input model but is sort of based on the output model assuming line printers with loads of hacks to make it work with modern printers. As far as I know its been that way since I was using Wor
        • by argent (18001)
          Output on different devices is what a word processor does. Other wise its "process" step wouldn't be anything at all.

          A word processor is an editor, what it primarily does is modify a structured document according to the user's commands. A given document may never be output in a printed form, anywhere. What you seem to be describing is a text processor, like *roff or TeX, which really does convert user input containing markup commands directly to formatted output.

          Personally I prefer the text processor approa
    • > Now for some odd reason a large group of people come along and say "we want magic" and expect the input/output and storage models to be disassociated. How is that supposed to work?

      So you saying that standards can not possibly work? That people want "magic?"

      Hate to break it to you, but standards already work. Consider ASCII. Also ODF is already incorporated in several word processors.

      Of course input/output and storage models can be disassociated, it's done all of the time.
      • by thogard (43403)
        Standards don't work universally. Thats why there are so many of them. ASCII worked so well in the early days. And then there are the hacks.

        ODF only works for a majority of documents but most people involved with that standard can create something that is legal but won't render the same way on many platforms. You can repeat that for HTML, PDF, GIF, JPG etc.

        With a word process you can store either the input, output, memory or processing. Word Perfect up to 5.1 stored input (with hacks for specific p
      • by huge (52607)

        Hate to break it to you, but standards already work. Consider ASCII.

        Indeed, consider ASCII. Let's not forget ASCII "extensions" like CP437, CP850, Windows-1252 and others. Some of them are more compatible than others. And let's not get into other encodings like EBCDIC, which are still more common than most people think.

        Standard part of ASCII only defines 95 printable characters and 33 control characters. That said, it has provided good foundation for others to embrace-and-extend.

    • we need a document format that is both simple and open so that documents can easily be exchanged

      clearly this CANNOT be trusted to a corporation; it has to be owned publicly.

      HTML might be used, but while HTML is fine for browser documents it lacks some features needed for print format.

      PDF is the exact opposite, it prints perfect but browses poorly and requires specialized compilers to build documents.

      and so at least for now there is still a place for something like .rtf

      but we need an open standard for .rtf
      • so that documents can easily be exchanged


        Remember: we need to exchange across time as well as between vendors' systems

        I see this as the role of .RTF .rtf should be a sort of frozen format: unchanging from vendor to vendor and from year to year
    • Just not Word.

      Ask anyone in publishing or anyone who writes for a living what tool they use and there's little chance that they're going to tout the advantages of Word. Word is borked in so many ways, from a writer's point of view, that it's hard to know where the start when cataloging the problems. You can begin with the broken tokening used in lists, move to the Master Documents "feature" and finish up with the fact that what's displayed on the screen not only differs depending on which computer you're vi
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Dude, read up on typesetting. I can write a TeX [or LaTeX] document using syntax that is decades old, and it will render the way I want on any platform that has the open source freely available tools installed.

      The fact that Office [and OO.o] are worthless for consistent looking documents doesn't mean that computers as a whole can't do the job. Just use better tools.

      Office suites are meant for quick and flashy documents [e.g. clipart havens]. Typesetting tools are meant for consistent reproducible profess
      • by thogard (43403)
        I have TeX documents from 1985 that still render the same way. LaTeX documents from then do not always render the same way they used to.
    • by PPH (736903)

      It still doesn't fix the problem that a word processor has an internal model of what the user typed. Its job is to output that in a way that is consistent with what it's showing the user and what the user told it to do.

      That would be nice. But it would be even better if the word processor generated the same output each time the user entered the same thing. Or, at leat give the user a heads up that this is going to change. Microsoft doesn't meet this simple requirement.

      The days of PCs being stand-alone bo

  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @10:10AM (#21894540) Homepage Journal
    I have worked on industry standards before. Writing spec is just half the battle. You then have the problem with implementation. Every company will implement it in slightly different ways. You would be surprised on how many ways there are to read a spec! Then you get in a yelling match over who is actually doing it correctly.
    When you have a reference application to test with then you have less yelling.
    • comma delimited data, for example

      as i noted in the other post we need ISO and ANSI to write the spec and set up the acceptance test

      how many foos i have falling over commas and or quotes that are enclosed within quoted text -- or who cannot write a number properly

      AGGRAVATING! these foos need to get a big fat F on their report card and join Hillary in re-hab
    • The problem usually is that spec is not complite. I admit that it is very hard if not impossible to think all alternatives. That is why the system must be as public as possible.

      And I agree that it is a good idea to implement a reference implementation for the spec.
      • by Fred_A (10934)

        The problem usually is that spec is not complite. I admit that it is very hard if not impossible to think all alternatives. That is why the system must be as public as possible.

        And I agree that it is a good idea to implement a reference implementation for the spec.

        Beyond completeness, there is also legibility. For anyone who has worked in telecommunications, the CCITT (now called something else) docs were absolutely horrible to read. At the time discovering the RFCs was real a breath of fresh air. They were sooo much clearer.
        They both had the same problem of sometimes not covering all cases but at least it was easy to parse most RFCs.

        A lot of the ISO docs I've seen (admittedly I haven't seen many) were also quite horrible to read.

        So IMO if you want a clean implement

      • by LWATCDR (28044)
        I agree but you wouldn't believe how people interpret specs!
        An example was when a type of document data was made "optional" in the spec I was working on. One of the vendors programs locked up if the data file had that data in it! They thought that optional they didn't need to handle it at all instead of just ignoreing it or not using it their export.
        Yes it was stupid on their part but without any reference program it become he said she said.
  • we must have ISO or ANSI write the standard and set up compliance tests for RTF and without input from Ms because Ms needs to take a good licking for their nasty behavior
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      So .doc and an XML walk into a bar, they scoped out the scene... they saw a hot RTF and OOXML by themselves. .doc walks over to the OOXML and says... ASL? OOXML was like.. "WTF? Get away from me... As... If"
  • There are two kinds of vendor standards -- the one in which the vendor publishes what they've done, and the other in which the vendor publishes what they will do. This article contends it's the first. Is OOXML the first or the second? We'll see.
    • And the one that Microsoft typically uses: the standard which is never published.

      MS-Office has been called a "standard" for so long, people believe it. And they conflate a "standard" piece of software with a document "standard."

      In any kind of engineering, there is only one true standard-- that which is agreed-upon by the manufacturers and/or engineers themselves. Bridge architects will never use a non-standard size bolt, nor a non-standard metal. Why? Because the weld strength is too important. Because the
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jopsen (885607)

      the one in which the vendor publishes what they've done,

      This type of document is not a standard it called a documentation. OOXML is not a standard it's a documentation of MS office's default format...
      You can also find a documentation of HTML on MSDN, this is not a standard either it's a documentation of the HTML implementation in Internet Explorer.

      and the other in which the vendor publishes what they will do

      This type of document is usually called a standard. While it's true that ODF started as a documen

  • Having been involved in two standards bodies, those bodies found enormous benefit to having reference implementations being built at the same time the standards were being developed. It certainly helps drive out issues during the standardization process that would otherwise/sometimes make the standard unusable.

    Granted, what Microsoft is doing may not be a 'reference implementation' but still... there are benefits to doing *some* implementation in parallel with standardization.
  • by fermion (181285) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @10:53AM (#21895156) Homepage Journal
    I wish that MS would come up with some format that was standard, easily implemented, and provided some level of predictability. It would mean that I might start using their office products again. The problem is that every version has radical changes in design, and even similar versions can cause problems. Then then there is the issue of the formats holding active content, so MS then limits what can be done with the files. It is way to limiting. I suppose that if I just wrote memos, or had a spreadsheet I needed to work on everyday, or needed to fool people with a presentation, MS OOXML would be fine. But I need to have reliably get access to stuff a from a couple years ago, work on any machine I happen to find, and put book chapters together. With RTF, ODF and TeX I can always download and install what I need within 10 minutes. I had a case the other day where a file was brought in using the latest format, and the only way to deal with it was to upgrade the license for hundreds of dollars. If OOXML was open, I would at least be able to download something that would allow some level of functionality.

    But given the MS of embrace and extend, I must resign myself to a world in which MS products are just too unreliable to use for real work of any significant magnitude. I know that RTF is not sufficient to make the fancy memos people like, but it does seem to work.

    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      That was thoroughly torn apart last time it was posted here. One example of a fatal problem with it: the author edits the XML of a spreadsheet and breaks it, and then tries to blame this on OOXML. News flash: the exact same problem happens with ODF, and with every other XML format in the world when you edit it so as to make it no longer follow the schema for whatever type of document it is. Make the by-hand edit actually following the spec, and it works fine.

      If OOXML is so bad, how come opponents have

      • by belmolis (702863) <billposer AT alum DOT mit DOT edu> on Friday January 04, 2008 @02:27AM (#21906724) Homepage

        That's not an accurate description. The point that article makes about the spreadsheet is that OOXML distributes information all over the place so that to make the simple change of replacing a formula in a cell with a constant it is necessary to edit multiple files. The problem is not that you can't make changes inconsistent with the schema - it is that the schema is poorly designed.

        Furthermore, the spreadsheet example is only one of several cases discussed, so even if you were to rebut it successfully the article would still contain a valid critique.

  • I'd rather have a rubber stamped version of Microsoft's office formats than no version at all: pathetic as ECMA may be, ECMA does force some additional disclosures and documentation, and it fixes a version for a while.

    Of course, people need to keep in mind that an ECMA rubber stamp isn't the same as a traditional ISO/ANSI standard and it doesn't make the format "open". But with that caveat in mind, it's still better than nothing.
  • Food for thought: I was hoping someone would come out with one document type to rule them all. It would be kind of nice if web pages could run from 'integrated' document like a PDF which, would adjust itself based on screen res. You still have your master document, and have your app do all the background code (but there could be add-ons for the language like Latex so you can add technical fonts for math).

    If this were to become standard, we could have simpler web-pages, a standard document type with WYSIWYG
  • Is this how an open standard is developed?

    I couldn't say for sure what is the norm for open standards development, but just about all _good_ standards are merely a codification of existing technology and implementations. Standards that are ratified before the real-world working experience exists are usually hell to work, or never get off the ground at all. Commonly they are hodegepodges of compromise between conflicting interests serving none of them well, are impossible to implement correctly, implementat

: is not an identifier

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