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Office 2007SP2 ODF Interoperability Very Bad 627

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the are-you-really-surprised dept.
David Gerard writes "Microsoft Office 2007 SP2 claims support for ODF 1.1. With hard work and careful thinking, they have successfully achieved technical compliance but zero interoperability! MSO 2007sp2 won't read ODF 1.1 from any other existing application, and its ODF is only readable by the CleverAge plugin. The post goes into detail as to how it manages this so thoroughly."
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Office 2007SP2 ODF Interoperability Very Bad

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  • by TechForensics (944258) on Monday May 04, 2009 @08:57AM (#27814579) Homepage Journal

    I mean, really?

    • by Vanders (110092) on Monday May 04, 2009 @08:59AM (#27814601) Homepage
      Yes but Microsoft said that it'd be different this time and they've changed, they really have, and they don't mean to hurt you but baby you just don't understand that when you can't keep your pretty little mouth shut then sometimes need a slap for your own good.

      I might be confusing Microsoft with a wife beater, but the mentality is roughly the same it seems.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:12AM (#27814713)

        Say what you will about Microsoft, but I'll start using Linux on my production machines when I want to start losing money. Get the facts [getthefacts.com], people.

      • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:20AM (#27814789) Homepage Journal

        I might be confusing Microsoft with a wife beater, but the mentality is roughly the same it seems.

        What do you tell a user with two black eyes?

        (I propose that the answer is "Did you really think Apple was different from Microsoft?" but that might not win me too many points around here. The converse would work almost as well, but nobody would have believed that Microsoft was the good guys.)

        • by Vanders (110092) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:29AM (#27814871) Homepage

          Did you really think Apple was different from Microsoft?

          That's unfair. Apple have never made an iWorks product intentionally produce a broken ODF document! *cough*

        • by EvilAlphonso (809413) <meushi@slashdot.gmail@com> on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:41AM (#27814975) Journal

          nobody would have believed that Microsoft was the good guys.

          Actually there was a time when Microsoft was hailed as the white knight in the shiny armor freeing us from the evil IBM empire.

          • by just_another_sean (919159) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:33AM (#27815557) Homepage Journal

            Actually there was a time when Microsoft was hailed as the white knight in the shiny armor freeing us from the evil IBM empire.

            Yeah but that was ~twenty years ago, which is like two hundred in do^H^H computer years.

            Since then Lancelot has screwed the king's wife and is off in the wilderness slowly going insane.

          • by mevets (322601) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:37AM (#27815615)

            | Actually there was a time when Microsoft was hailed as the white knight in the shiny armor freeing us from the evil IBM empire.

            I've heard this said, but somehow I managed to miss it. I started work in the industry in 87, and had first encountered microsoft probably in 84. Outside of ziff-davis style vanity press, everything about MS was about what crap they were technically and ethically. The white knights were DEC, BSD, Borland, Commodore, ...

            • by Locutus (9039) on Monday May 04, 2009 @12:21PM (#27816929)

              Actually there was a time when Microsoft was hailed as the white knight in the shiny armor freeing us from the evil IBM empire.

              I've heard this said, but somehow I managed to miss it. I started work in the industry in 87, and had first encountered microsoft probably in 84. Outside of ziff-davis style vanity press, everything about MS was about what crap they were technically and ethically. The white knights were DEC, BSD, Borland, Commodore, ...

              It was pretty obvious to many techies by the early 90s that Microsoft software was crap. The printed press was one of its tools and perpetuated the myth that companies would be better off with Microsoft. By 1995 it was getting out to a more general crowd how bad Microsoft was but these people still required having their eyes and minds open. Considering where they are today, it's obvious many are still pretty ignorant to their business practices and technology in general. By 1995, even the author, Douglas Adams saw this:

              Microsofthttp://www.gksoft.com/a/fun/dna-on-microsoft.html

              Here's a quote from the end of that short article:
              "The idea that Bill Gates has appeared like a knight in shining armour to lead all his customers out of a mire of technological chaos neatly ignores the fact that it was he who by peddling second-hand, second-rate technology, led them all into it in the first place."

              Over $200 million in marketing spent on Window 95 and about the same amount the following year pushing NT as _the_ server OS suckered in enough to seal their position in the market. That seal is leaking now but unfortunately, the general population of computer users and IT execs are mostly just as naive as they were in the early 1990s. It's the OEM's who are driving the market now because of very low margins and the high relative cost of Microsoft software.

              LoB

            • by Vegard (11855) on Monday May 04, 2009 @05:24PM (#27821599)

              Yah. The real heros bringing us the PC revolution was the guys reverse engineering the hardware/BIOS, and made cheap clones. The OS was just what became the de facto standard.

              As we all know, DOS won over CP/M. CP/M was technically superior at the time, but lost for political and/or contract reasons, whatever.

              Digital Research then went on to create a better DOS to compete. MS fought it with all means it could, and it went into oblivition.

              At early stages, MS Windows was just a graphical shell on top of DOS. It wasn't particulary good either. There were competing graphical shells, for example Digital Research' GEM. Digital Research lost the patent lawsuit that MS essentially won, and GEM was limited to have only two windows simultaneously...who knows what it could have been.

              MS has not had the technical best/superior solutions at any time. It was just better at legal and marketing stuff than anyone else.

              The PC revolution would have come with or without MS. We'll never know how much innovation MS have killed on its way where it is, so to hail it as a savior is just plain stupid.

          • by jbengt (874751) on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:22AM (#27816133)

            Actually there was a time when Microsoft was hailed as the white knight in the shiny armor freeing us from the evil IBM empire.

            While I certainly remember thinking of IBM as the evil monopolistic overlords in the '80s, I thought of Microsoft as more of the black knight working with IBM, then stabbing them in the back as soon as they got a chance in order to become the new evil overlords.

          • by Atzanteol (99067) on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:52AM (#27816541) Homepage
            And a time when Hitler was the savior of Germany.

            Godwin'd!

        • by Phreakiture (547094) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:47AM (#27815025) Homepage

          What do you tell a user with two black eyes?

          Nothing. He's already been told twice.

      • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:23AM (#27815421)

        Hey, it is different. Hence not compatible.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Well, Microsoft did enough to keep the lawyers away.

      Not likely that they'll embrace a competing standard antytime soon.
      • by lorenlal (164133) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:49AM (#27815047)

        Well, that depends on who you talk to. Here in the US, that's probably true. Pretty much it's up to Europe to send the lawyers back in.

        But, there is a comment at the end of the article to check for an obvious abuse:

        The only way for Microsoft to make their legacy ODF documents work and to exclude other vendors would be to specifically look in the document for the name of the application that created the documentThis should be simple to test with a text editor, change the name of the application to match one that works and test that.

        Since I don't have access to Office 2007 until I get home tonight, I can't try this out. But if someone feels compelled in the meantime, I'd love to see the results. If the document "magically" works after changing the header, then Microsoft did *not* do enough to keep the lawyers at bay.

      • by MrHanky (141717) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:51AM (#27815065) Homepage Journal

        You really think so? The EU will probably slap them with a hefty fine yet again. This is just another example of Microsoft being deliberately anti-competitive.

        • by JohnBailey (1092697) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:34AM (#27815563)

          You really think so? The EU will probably slap them with a hefty fine yet again. This is just another example of Microsoft being deliberately anti-competitive.

          Except if you look a little closer, the EU doesn't just fine them. The fine is trivial, and does nothing but make the news in the computer press. Just money. A fine is like a parking ticket. And if you are rich enough, you can theoretically see a parking ticket as a parking fee.

          Forcing them to correct the problem to the satisfaction of a neutral third party acting as a technical "expert witness" however, is a worthwhile activity. And this can really sting. This is more like taking away their car, or revoking their license. Way more than a slap on the wrist and a stern look.

    • by impaledsunset (1337701) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:11AM (#27814711)

      If it achieves 100% technical compliance with the standard, but zero interoperability, this is certainly a problem with the standard itself.

      And the problem in this case is the missing formula specification. It's not in ODF 1.1, and ODF 1.2 is still a draft. While this is Microsoft and we all "know" that this was intentional, ODF is what should be fixed first. We were all bashing OOXML specifications, but ODF 1.1's far from perfect, as we can see.

      Did the author of the article test with anything else than a spreadsheet with formulas? Formula breakage was expected and mentioned in the comments to the previous article. The interesting part is are there other flaws with ODF 1.1, are they addressed by 1.2?

      • by makomk (752139) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:31AM (#27814891) Journal

        And the problem in this case is the missing formula specification. It's not in ODF 1.1, and ODF 1.2 is still a draft. While this is Microsoft and we all "know" that this was intentional, ODF is what should be fixed first. We were all bashing OOXML specifications, but ODF 1.1's far from perfect, as we can see.

        That is, curiously, not quite true. ODF 1.1 doesn't fully specify formulas, but it does specify the general syntax that should be used for them, and Microsoft seems to have ignored this. (Also, in practice, the major spreadsheets are quite similar in terms of what expressions they accept in formulas. This makes it relatively simple to convert between MS Office formulas and OpenOffice.org ones, which are what most ODF-based apps use.)

      • by mR.bRiGhTsId3 (1196765) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:20AM (#27815369)
        People like to continue to whine about how MS must be evil. As you said, ODF 1.2 isn't finished. Who wants to target a moving standard? On the other hand, I've found that SP2's ODT support is quite good, to the point that I find I no longer need OpenOffice to open older files I have in that format. Even some complicated ones with equations and images.
      • by mhesd (698429) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:49AM (#27815757)

        From the article:

        The irony here is that the formula language used by OpenOffice (and by other vendors) is based on that used by Excel, which itself was not fully documented when OpenOffice implemented it. So an argument, by Microsoft, not to support that language because it is not documented is rather hypocritical. Excel supports 1-2-3 files and formulas and legacy Excel versions (back to Excel 4.0) neither of which have standardized formula languages. Why are these supported? Also, the fact that the Microsoft/CleverAge add-in correctly reads and writes the legacy ODF formula syntax shows not only that it can be done, but that Microsoft already has the code to do it. The inexplicably thing is why that code never made it into Excel 2007 SP2.

    • by golodh (893453) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:14AM (#27814739)
      Seriously, Microsoft has a huge cash-cow to protect in MS Office. And the first layer of defense is lock-in. If MS Office were truly inter-operable, then that would remove an enormous barrier against the introduction of Open Office.

      Clearly Microsoft's best interests are served by denying their customers interoperability.

      That's what drives Microsoft's policy: cash. Everything else is PR. Which is duly born out by their actions.

      • by theaveng (1243528) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:54AM (#27815093)

        Oh course. This has always been true with Microsoft, where in the late 80s/early 90s they advertised they could read WordPerfect files from Amigas or Macs, but all it did was strip all the formatting to leave-behind plain text. Yuck. Even later when Word was released for early PowerMacs, I found that Windows Word could not read the Word documents from my Macintosh.

        Microsoft does not want interchanging of information. They want everybody using MS Word on an MS operating system. The end.

        • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:11AM (#27815999)

          Microsoft does not want interchanging of information. They want everybody using MS Word on an MS operating system. The end.

          Every major vendor would probably like their own product to dominate. The difference is not the motivation, but the methods. Some vendors honestly try to make the best product and win customers by so doing. MS prefers to leverage monopolies to artificially break competing products and prevent users from being able to choose based upon the individual merits of the products in question.

          I have no problem with MS wanting their OS and office suite to dominate. I have a problem with their breaking the law and hurting the industry, innovation, and end users to make that happen.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by badpazzword (991691)
        Ok, let's assume they were malicious and all they worried about was lock-in. Then it would make sense to bork the ODF writing part.

        But being able to correctly read ODF files would just be a big plus in an already great product like Excel. Why break the reading part?
        • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:21AM (#27816111)

          But being able to correctly read ODF files would just be a big plus in an already great product like Excel. Why break the reading part?

          Because they don't want to discourage just other products that use ODF, they want to slow and discourage adoption of ODF as a format. Anything that makes more users stick with MS proprietary formats longer, makes MS money. Every user who sends an ODF file from Google docs to an Excel user, then finds it doesn't work is discouraged from using Google docs and encouraged to buy a license for MSOffice so they can interoperate easily with that other person.

        • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:21AM (#27816113) Homepage

          "Ok, let's assume they were malicious and all they worried about was lock-in."

          To really add flavor to the discussion, let us further assume that planet Earth is spherical, and space is pretty big.

          "Why break the reading part?"

          Because you look ridiculous claiming you were able to follow the standard for reading documents, but unable to do so when writing them?

      • by Narpak (961733) on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:26AM (#27816169)
        From the First of January 2009 all Norwegian Government or Education related sites and services are using the "Open Formats" ODF, PDF and HTML. Also all schools and government institutions are required to accept documents submitted in ODF.

        Åpne dokumentstandarder blir obligatoriske i staten. [regjeringen.no]
        My rough translation from Norwegian:

        - Norway has so far lacked a policy regarding the area of software. This have now changed. This Cabinet has decided that IT-development in the public sector shall be based upon Open Standards. In the future we will not accept that State activities locks users of public information to Locked Formats. - Heidi Grande Røys [wikipedia.org] (Minister of Government Administration and Reform).

        Microsoft might play their games to hinder development as much as they can, but at least in this country the turn towards Open Standards seems inevitable.

  • by dyfet (154716) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:00AM (#27814609) Homepage

    As they also claim Microsoft Windows is Posix compliant! It is simply to be able to tic a "mandated" requirement in some government procurement, not as something one would actually use or deploy.

    • by Z34107 (925136) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:12AM (#27814721)

      Well, Windows is at least somewhat POSIX compliant.

      A few semesters ago I took an Operating Systems class; our labs were simple programs involving forking processes, named pipes, sockets, and file I/O, which we were to develop on an old Solaris box.

      Not much of a Pico fan, I developed my programs on Vista using Visual Studio 2005. They all compiled and ran on Vista, and then also compiled and ran on gcc and Solaris. These were simple programs, mind you, but it worked.

      Now ODF... TFA only looks at spreadsheet compatibility, and evidently there is no way documented in the ODF standard to store spreadsheet formulas. Article claims that they should have reverse engineered it or reused code from some other plug-in, but really I'm surprised they included any ODF support at all - "new markets" be damned.

      But, if no-one's satisfied, they also introduced a whole new API for writing file format converters. Go write your own plug-in!

    • by wild_quinine (998562) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:17AM (#27814759) Homepage

      As they also claim Microsoft Windows is Posix compliant! It is simply to be able to tic a "mandated" requirement in some government procurement, not as something one would actually use or deploy.

      Ah, I think you might have misread that one. The latest version of Windows is fully compliant with the ISO's 'Piece of Shit v9' standard. POS IX, not POSIX.

    • Microsoft Windows is POSIX.1 compliant, which will not help anyone today but which is nonetheless true.

    • by OrangeTide (124937) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:43AM (#27815001) Homepage Journal

      Well if you just go for the basic level of posix support, then yes it does support it. So does 100 other OSes, including weird embedded OSes that can't even run executables. Everything has to be compiled in, but they are "POSIX" too.

      To be far UNIX Services for Windows is pretty decent and gives you a very complete POSIX environment on Windows.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:01AM (#27814615)

    So, this is either a problem with the specification or a problem with other implementations. If MS has made a compliant program, who are we to complain?

    • Good point! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:24AM (#27814823)

      I was thinking exactly the same thing. If MS have made a compliant implementation but it isn't compatible with anyone else's, doesn't that mean that ODF is broken? Isn't this exactly the sort of complaint certain people around here have made against Microsoft's own formats in the past: just because there's a standard that officially states what the document format is, it's no use if other people can't realistically implement it and then trust that interoperability will work?

  • by syousef (465911) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:01AM (#27814619) Journal

    ...which is probably the point of this. The only reason to use ODF instead of MS native formats is for interoperability. When people don't use it, MS can point and say "see people don't want or need it and didn't care when we put it in". Useful at all manner of legal proceeding (antitrust anyone) to show that it's not important.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:02AM (#27814621)
    MS, a for-profit company, refuses to embrace a format that gives an advantage to their open-source free competitors? Surely not!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:06AM (#27814657)

    The article speaks about spreadsheets, which the slashdot blurb neglected to mention.

    • by Sockatume (732728) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:23AM (#27814813)
      Yes, it's worth noting that the article only addresses that one filetype. On the other hand, it removes the formulas from spreadsheets when loading them, and writes formulas back out in an Excel-only syntax that nothing else can read. If that's MS's idea of shippable, consumer-ready interoperability I don't hold out much hope for its compatability with other file types. Its behavior reads like a half-assed homework assignment from a student who didn't give a shit.
  • Unfinished sayings (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bogtha (906264) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:07AM (#27814661)

    This is the trouble with people saying the first half of a saying and then trailing off. The people who know the saying get the point, and the people who don't remember a fragment and repeat it even though it makes no sense on its own.

    To the people tagging this "embraceandextend". Embracing and extending is not a particularly bad thing to do. Many formats, including XML (upon which ODF is based), are built with this in mind. The complete saying that is referred to with "embrace and extend" is embrace, extend and extinguish [wikipedia.org]. The extinguishing is the goal here, the former two are merely tools to help them achieve this.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:08AM (#27814673)

    Now that'll be good for some fun calls to customer support.

  • Still no OOXML!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jkrise (535370) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:08AM (#27814679) Journal

    Surprisingly MS has decided to implement ODF in their own strange way, but OOXML is still not available.... why??

  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:10AM (#27814691)

    In the meantime, how the HELL is it possible the spec is so bad that you can be technically-compliant with it, and yet not be read by (almost) any existing implementation?

    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:15AM (#27814741) Homepage Journal

      this is how [wikipedia.org]

      Kind of looks like the whole thing was a farce to begin with given how they created a bad spec and then went on to support a worse one before imploding.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Blakey Rat (99501)

        And from the article, the format version 1.1 doesn't even define how spreadsheet formulas should be stored! Which is why Microsoft's implementation, which doesn't bother to store the formulas at all, is compliant with the standard. This is a joke. Gee, I wonder why Microsoft fought a bunch of non-technical government offices from forcing them to use a file format that's woefully insufficient for their (both Microsoft's and the government offices') needs?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by makomk (752139)
          No, it defines exactly how spreadsheet formulas should be stored. The trouble is, it doesn't standardise them - in particular, there's no standard list of spreadsheet functions and what they should do. The reason for this is that it's a hard problem [robweir.com] - so much of what Excel and other spreadsheet software already does is known to be wrong, or makes bad assumptions.
          • The reason for this is that it's a hard problem

            I don't think you can really use that blog post for that citation, because it's the same source as TFA [robweir.com] which is both more relevant, and substantially newer... and which says:

            We might [also] hear concerns that supporting other vendors' ODF spreadsheet formulas cannot be done because this formula language is undocumented. The irony here is that the formula language used by OpenOffice (and by other vendors) is based on that used by Excel, which itself was not fully documented when OpenOffice implemented it. So an argument, by Microsoft, not to support that language because it is not documented is rather hypocritical. Also, the fact that the Microsoft/CleverAge add-in correctly reads and writes that legacy formula syntax shows not only that it can be done, but that Microsoft already has the code to do it. The inexplicably (sic) thing is why that code never made it into Excel 2007 SP2.

            Editorial [brackets] and note mine.

            In summary: Your source, the same person who wrote the article which explains why it isn't hard also says Ecma dropped the ball. (in your link.) Another particular gem, this time from the current FA again: Everyone knows what TODAY() means. Everyone knows what =A1+A2 means. To get this wrong requires more effort than getting it right. So to say "The trouble is, it doesn't standardise them - in particular, there's no standard list of spreadsheet functions and what they should do." is just crazy talk which actually apologizes for Microsoft. In fact, there is such a list; the list documents what Excel does, since there was nothing else available; Microsoft itself had this functionality in a previous version, and now it is gone. Therefore the trouble is that Microsoft has deliberately broken spreadsheet compatibility in Office 2007 SP2. There is really no other way to look at it. It might not have been the goal (an alternate excuse might be to take advantage of another, newer codebase in order to eliminate some old code which is otherwise unnecessary) but it was trivially testable and therefore is inexcusable.

    • by Vanders (110092) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:23AM (#27814815) Homepage
      The current spec doesn't cover spreadsheet formulas: it has a big whole and basically says "Do what OpenOffice.org does for now". ODF 1.2 will cover spreadsheet formulas but it isn't finished yet. So yes, it is valid to say "Well the spec doesn't cover formulas, not Microsofts fault".

      Except...Microsoft already have a perfectly good plugin that can read & write ODF documents. It appears they've gone out of their way to break that existing code and do things differently to how everyone else (including themselves) are already doing things. As the author of the blog says "If your business model requires only conformance and not actually achieving interoperability, then I wish you well.".

      If Microsoft have put all that effort into adding ODF support without actually achieving interoperability then it's a thinly veiled paper exercise on their part.
      • by Culture20 (968837) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:56AM (#27815113)

        The current spec doesn't cover spreadsheet formulas: it has a big whole and basically says "Do what OpenOffice.org does for now".

        The problem with MS's specs saying "Do what Word 97 does" is that no one other than MS knows what Word 97 does. But OpenOffice's source code is... open. Anyone can know what OpenOffice does, and if MS is afraid of GPL, they're big enough for proper cleanroom approach.

    • by hal9000(jr) (316943) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:23AM (#27814817)
      In the meantime, how the HELL is it possible the spec is so bad that you can be technically-compliant with it, and yet not be read by (almost) any existing implementation?

      Because specifications are written by people and then read and interpreted by others. While specification creators try to be as complete and thorough as possible, there are still gaps. In something as complex as a document format like spreadsheets, I'd imagine it's an impossible task. Bake-offs where all the stakeholders get into a room, try to get this shit to interoperate, and then decided the proper interpretation, is where the interoperation work gets done. All of the Internet protocols went through a similar cycle. Then, when there is consensus on the interpretations, guidance and reference implementations can be written.
    • by Sockatume (732728) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:28AM (#27814857)
      If those following the standard act in good faith and cooperate outwith the standard to ensure compatability, a flexible standard allows for innovation and invention. You can always pin things down further as the standard evolves, but you can't really undo excessive constraints further down the line. If one of the players decides to act in bad faith, then it falls apart. In this instance, MS is either only supporting ODF in the most box-checking token manner (as they have a long history of doing with important features), they're deliberately, or they're pulling the old "embrace, extend, extinguish". They're morons or assholes.
  • by seeker_1us (1203072) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:11AM (#27814703)
    Some more enlightened governments are realizing that their electronic documents need to be in an open format so that they don't have to be chained to a vendor, or so that those documents don't die if the single vendor stops supporting it.

    Even if MS fails all interoperability (which I would bet they do), at least someone could use ODF with office 2007 and 10-20 years later be able to use the spec to develop an app to recover the documents.

  • EXCELLENT article (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:12AM (#27814715) Homepage Journal

    This is one of the best-written articles submitted to slashdot in a long time. Not only is it well-written (at least, it didn't make my brain hurt) but it gives you the technical background AND it tells you in advance how to debunk the stupid arguments which will certainly by coming from M$ trolls and astroturfers. Scrapbook this one, kids. You're going to be referring back to it for months, if not years.

    • Hypocrisy (Score:4, Insightful)

      by benjymouse (756774) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:34AM (#27815577)

      I'd say that it had a bad smell of Hypocrisy. If the standard doesn't cover important(I dare say) areas such as the friggin formula language, what good is the standard?

      No, the author is trying to preempt the obvious and very valid argument that if the standard didn't cover this and implementers need to reverse engineer a specific implementation (OpenOffice), maybe the standard wasn't good enough?

      The author is making silly analogies with someone willfully going through hoops (investing time) to sabotage interoperability with an implementation in which the implementor has chosen not to invest time and effort reverse engineering and testing functionality which is clearly outside the specification.

  • by MrKaos (858439) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:13AM (#27814725) Journal
    Sun's ODF plugin for Office. [sun.com]
  • by backwardMechanic (959818) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:14AM (#27814737) Homepage
    No surprise that MS has done this. What it does show, however, is that the ODF standard is incomplete. If MS can write out an ODF compliant file that no-one lese can read, ODF has a problem. In an odd sort of a way, MS are doing us a favour here by shaking out the holes. Role on ODF 1.2.
  • by hal9000(jr) (316943) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:17AM (#27814769)
    TFN talks ONLY about spread sheet interoperability. It's important to note that. Has interoperability testing been done with documents?
  • Bullshit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:20AM (#27814783)

    This article focuses very specifically on formula support in OpenDocument Spreadsheet. The problem with that is that ODF 1.x does not provide ANY specification for formulas whatsoever. This article claims that the standard be damned and that Microsoft should go and reverse engineer the implementation by OpenOffice. This is only demonstrative of how incomplete and irrelevant the ODF specification really is. There are massive gaping holes in it that implementers are filling on their own which will invariably lead to incompatibilities. The ISO OOXML specification may be absolutely massive, but that's because it's complete, and very specific (I'm referring specifically to the one that did pass ISO, not the first few iterations).

    This is like bitching that Internet Explorer can't be CSS compliant because it doesn't implement the moz-* CSS extensions.

    Either fix the spec, or get used to this.

  • by characterZer0 (138196) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:21AM (#27814795)

    ODF does not specify the a language for formulas. Everybody but MS uses one language, MS uses another. Of course there are incompatibilities.

    Why did ODF not specify a spreadsheet formula language?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:54AM (#27816557)

      Because it's bloody hard to do.

      Microsoft's spreadsheet formula language in OOXML is actually a copy-and-paste job from the Excel help files. It doesn't provide nearly enough information to re-implement. It was only added as an afterthought, when Microsoft started complaining that ODF didn't have a spec for spreadsheet formulas, made a big deal about it, and then realised that OOXML didn't either.

      ODF does have a formula language specification. It specifies something like 400 functions in precise detail, loosely based on what OOo, Gnumeric, and others (including Excel) already do. This has been a work-in-progress since 2005 (before Microsoft started complaining about ODF), and is basically finished (for now). It's to be included in OpenDocument 1.2 (the next version), but most other OpenDocument-capable spreadsheet apps already use these formula specifications on OpenDocument 1.1 documents.

      Microsoft just chose to ignore it, and roll their own. As usual.

  • by SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) on Monday May 04, 2009 @09:35AM (#27814931)
    If you have a standard where there are implementations that are 100% compliant and yet are totally non-interoperable then you have a badly specified standard.
  • Pigs (Score:4, Funny)

    by xouumalperxe (815707) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:12AM (#27815295)
    Seems the pigs took a trip to the airport, but then failed to achieve take off
  • by IGnatius T Foobar (4328) on Monday May 04, 2009 @10:20AM (#27815375) Homepage Journal
    Almost overnight, Microsoft becomes the market leader in ODF-compliant office suites. So now, OracleOffice.org and KOffice will have to code up all sorts of ugly hacks and reverse engineering tricks to maintain compatibility with Microsoft Office ODF documents. Exactly as they had to do to get compatible with .doc and .xls documents.

    Microsoft plays dirty. All the time. This was totally expected, of course.

    It's ok though; we're still in better shape than we were just a few years ago. A Microsoft ODF document, or even a Microsoft OOXML document, is still at least roughly following a standard that has some documentation somewhere. The free world can develop Microsoft Office compatibility in this space a lot easier than in the .doc and .xls space.
  • by thethibs (882667) on Monday May 04, 2009 @11:18AM (#27816093) Homepage

    It looks like Microsoft has learned from its IE experience. Instead of chasing an "anything but Microsoft" standard put together by a community that's actively hostile to Microsoft, they've decided to wait them out. Microsoft is refusing to give them a target and telling them to get off the pot.

    What Microsoft has done should speed up the ODF standards process. We should thank them for that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 04, 2009 @01:09PM (#27817675)

    Microsoft's supposed ODF 1.1 spreadsheet output is not compliant with the ODF 1.1 specification.

    From 8.1.3 (emphasis mine):

    Typically, the formula itself begins with an equal (=) sign and can include the following components:
    [...]
    Addresses of cells that contain numbers. The addresses can be relative or absolute, see section 8.3.1. Addresses in formulas start with a "[" and end with a "]".

    From 8.3.1 Referencing Table Cells (emphasis mine):

    For example, in a table with the name SampleTable the cell in column 34 and row 16 is referenced by the cell address SampleTable.AH16. In some cases it is not necessary to provide the name of the table. However, the dot must be present. When the table name is not required, the address in the previous example is .AH16.

    Now look at a Microsoft formula in their ODF 1.1 spreadsheets. You'll see a formula attribute value of "msoxl:=B4-B3". For that to be correct per the ODF 1.1 specification, that should be "msoxl:=[.B4]-[.B3]". Compare this to the OpenOffice.org and OpenFormula syntax:

    msoxl:=[.B4]-[.B3]
      oooc:=[.B4]-[.B3]
          of:=[.B4]-[.B3]

    Ignoring the prefix, they're identical. Furthermore, the formula functions used by OpenOffice.org are generally based on the functions in Excel to begin with (such as "TODAY", for example), so I can only conclude that Microsoft is intentionally sabotaging interoperability to keep people from using ODF while still claiming conformance.

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