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OpenDocument Voted In By ISO 179

cduffy writes "OpenDocument has been voted in as ISO/IEC 26300, with no dissenting votes and a small number of abstentions. There are still several formalities to take place before final issuance. Now the question: Will OpenXML get the same treatment, despite its technical weaknesses? There's also coverage on Groklaw."
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OpenDocument Voted In By ISO

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  • Wasn't this the one that Microsoft was going to sabatoge? What happenned to that?
    • Re:Sabatoge? (Score:4, Informative)

      by XiQ ( 776289 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @11:21AM (#15254135)
      As far as I know ISO only has standard organisations as members, which represent a country (ANSI for the United States). As I remember Microsoft took place in a workgroup, which only makes minor edits (IANASG). See http://www.iso.org/iso/en/aboutiso/isomembers/Memb erCountryList.MemberCountryList [iso.org]
    • Maybe they figured that questioning an honest man's integrity, costing him his job, and risking his mental wellbeing when he's not used to media pressure was enough for a little while. Don't worry, Microsoft will be back to playing hardball on this soon though.
    • They then said they weren't going to sabotage it, and that they were only on that committee because they were going to push for acceptance of their format. A number of ODF-related organizations had representatives on the committee, and it's common for interested organizations to be members, because they can actually explain the reasoning behind the specification.

      Of course, it's hard to say whether the MS rep would be caused problems if the potential hadn't been pointed out, and MS hadn't been forced to prom
  • Hopefully not... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by albalbo ( 33890 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @11:08AM (#15254027) Homepage
    Although ODF is a bit nicer standard from a human point of view, and builds on existing standards, I hope OpenXML isn't accepted simply because having two standards doing the exact same thing is nonsense. They're much more similar than they are different at many levels.

    ECMA are welcome to OpenXML, I don't think ISO should accept it.
    • Re:Hopefully not... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @11:49AM (#15254368)
      Nicer from a human point of view means less bugs down the line. I just spent a week trying to get an .wsdl to parse through Axis AND .NET's wsdl.exe. Any format that is less opaque, less verbose and more understandable gets my vote.
    • It's not just nicer from a "human point of view"; it's simply more appropriate, technically, for the data it contains. Microsoft's half-hearted attempt at an XML format is like storing cars on a keyring with more keyrings attached: you can put all the parts on there, if you try hard enough, but it just makes no sense, for man OR machine.
    • Same thing? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      So did ODF folks finally decide how to store formulas? Currently every single spreadsheet that supports ODF (not that there are many) stores those as they wish with no defined standard.
      • Not yet, but it is being worked on: http://www.oasis-open.org/archives/office/200602/m sg00030.html [oasis-open.org]
    • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:11PM (#15254567) Homepage
      Well, the day Microsoft accepts ODF as their standard is the day pigs are flying in a snowstorm through hell. From what I can tell, it seems anyone looking for a standard is looking at ODF, not the "Microsoft Office 2007"-standard. The MS shops will continue to run MS-only if it's binary or xml, standard or not. If they want to open it up and call it OpenXML so we can get proper documentation to migrate away from it, I really don't think that's going to hurt ODF. At any rate, if they really do the same one would think excellent ODF/OpenXML convertors could be made to make this a non issue. Same way I really don't care if an image has gone from BMP to PNG to TIFF and back again.
      • Maybe, but don't forget that Microsoft is in an Anti-Trust investigation in Europe. Suppose the EU decided that the only way MS Word would be available is if MS Word support the ODF file format and saved files *by default* in ODF format. That would pretty much level the Word Processing playing field and allow Microsoft to "innovate" freely since the only reason for chosing Microsoft the would be that you like their software.
      • Here is the draft of ECMA standard, enjoy its 2000+ pages [ecma-international.org] of detailed info.
    • by moochfish ( 822730 )
      I thought the point of standardizing something is to keep there from being 100 "official" ways to do it. What's the point of having fifteen approved "standard" document formats? I'd say this getting approved is the nail in the coffin for Microsoft's precious standard. There can only one standard and ODF is now it.
  • Comparison (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 2.7182 ( 819680 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @11:10AM (#15254047)
    If you look at the history of standards, such as done at NIST, usually people try to choose the best thing, but it is hard to forsee what is the best. A good example are the standards associated with how to quantify vibrations in static structures, such as bridges. Looked good in 1948, turned out bad (Tacoma bridge).
    • Re:Comparison (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @11:17AM (#15254108) Homepage Journal
      [What] looked good in 1948, turned out bad (Tacoma bridge).

      There's a huge difference between construction engineering and software engineering. In construction engineering, poorly understood physics and unforeseen weather patterns can create unpredictable situations and stresses. In software engineering, the rules of the system are predefined and well understood. While a lot of research goes into ways of doing specific tasks "better", the tradeoffs to each design are usually well understood.

      The result is that standardized computer algorithms and formats are rarely incorrect. However, they do become obsolete in relatively short periods of time due to increases in computing power and informational storage/transmission requirements.
      • Specifically based on this sentence: In software engineering, the rules of the system are predefined and well understood.

        1) Many projects are hacked together without good requirements. There are even methodologies which minimize requirments, see RAD or Agile Development. In some cases the users often are unsure of the requirements and they are discovered by accident, if at all.

        2) Most requirements have a strong temporal association. Meaning what is a requirements in May may not be a requirment in August du
      • Re:Comparison (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ThePhilips ( 752041 )

        The result is that standardized computer algorithms and formats are rarely incorrect. However, they do become obsolete in relatively short periods of time due to increases in computing power and informational storage/transmission requirements.

        In engineering, building blocks are developped probably once per decade. How old concept of building houses of bricks? of wood? etc. You can't do much with physics, which describes the laws of the world we see around us.

        In software engineering, earth gets reinve

      • I think microsoft office integration is a perfect counter-example to your point.

        Integration was wonderful until your computer was networked- then the "storm" of pressure from outside forces caused many unforseen failures.

        There are others. If software is -only- used in a static manner then your point holds. But in the real world, only dead software is used that way. Living software is constantly reused in unforeseen ways due to changing circumstances, legalalities, competition, etc.
      • Re:Comparison (Score:4, Insightful)

        by guet ( 525509 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:13PM (#15254586)
        In software engineering, the rules of the system are predefined and well understood.

        Until you give it to the users, or ask it to interact with another program, then it's a different story. The actions of users/other programs are often poorly understood and unforseen, and I'd argue they are analogous to the weather in this situation - they introduce inputs that the programmer would dismiss as impossible or garbage, and promptly crash that 'perfect' program. I'd agree there is a huge difference between contruction and software engineering, but which profession is more rigourous?

        The result is that standardized computer algorithms and formats are rarely incorrect.

        Algorithms and formats are often incorrect when they actually come to be used because of a misunderstood or misstated problem. Look at the language used to present these pages - HTML, hardly an elegant format. I suppose you could call it correct for some very sloppy values of correct, but really, given the purpose it's being used for (presentation of complex styled text) it is woefully inadequate, and also overengineered in some ways. This problem is inherent in any complex system used by many people, things simply can't be 'correct' for all uses, and often they're not even close. I wonder if that's why the phrase 'Broken as designed' originated in computer programming?

        Lastly, formats usually become obsolete because companies want you to buy their new program, not for technical reasons (see Photoshop, Illustrator, Word etc etc). You're trying to factor the human out of programming, and thus ignoring all that is good and bad about it.
      • Re:Comparison (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ediron2 ( 246908 ) *

        [What] looked good in 1948, turned out bad (Tacoma bridge).

        There's a huge difference between construction engineering and software engineering. In construction engineering, poorly understood physics and unforeseen weather patterns can create unpredictable situations and stresses. In software engineering, the rules of the system are predefined and well understood.

        (busts into laughter)
        rules... well defined...
        (roars with laughter)

        I don't know which is funnier, you

      • If that was true, software would be more reliable and robust than the Forth Bridge. Yet it is not, for any non-trivial control program (or operating system).

        Why? Engineers understad the beams of steel at least as well as the software engineer understands the computer, if not moreso. The civil engineer understands the force of wind often better than the software engineer understands the force of data entry error. And most importantly, the civil engineer understands the use requirements better than the so
      • What about the year 2000 bug?
    • Looked good in 1948, turned out bad (Tacoma bridge).

      And here I always thought that that bridge collapsed in 1940.

    • I read recently that the Tacoma bridge failure was due to a characteristic of suspended structures that could only have been modelled using chaos theory.

      In other words, you're right that the engineering standards in place at the time were not entirely adequate, but there was no adequate alternative either. One would not emerge for about thirty years, at which point engineering practice would be revised.

      It seems to me that this pattern of progress is mostly okay. It should give us a big dose of humilit

      • There is a lot of hype in the news about chaos theory, but as an applied mathematician I don't see many applications of it. There are a lot of theories as to why it fell, but, in my opinion, chaos theory is neither useful in such a case, or even applicable. If you ask people concrete questions like "what would you actually calculate using chaos theory to show this", I never get an answer.

        By definition, chaotic systems are sensitive to initial conditions, so small changes in the intial states make big lon
        • by Fred_A ( 10934 )
          There is a lot of hype in the news about chaos theory, but as an applied mathematician I don't see many applications of it.

          Maybe mathematicians don't use it, but I use it daily, from the filing of my papers on my desk to the files in my $HOME, chaos is everywhere !
    • Well, that's if time was running backwards - the Tacoma Bridge collapsed 8 years before the 1948 standard...
      • Obviously it did not collapse because of chaos theory then! It collapsed because of the time-dilation pressure caused by it going backwards in time!

    • But let's be honest, it's pretty obvious to anyone that the MS XML format is shit now. Forget the far future; I don't want to use that today!
  • by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @11:27AM (#15254184)
    This vote will certainly give folks like me more amunition to take on companies like Microsoft at home. With this development, I can push for the following line:

    ..."The software must be able to read and write the OpenDocument format approved by ISO/IEC"...

    The parties involved I believe will be in the knowledge that this standard ie free for all to implement. Kudos to ODF.

    • Why is that a troll? He's 100% correct. That ODF is certified gives people more of an impetus to support it. This will mean that OpenOffice/KOffice have a feature that MS Office doesn't, potentially fueling adoption.
    • Definitely didn't deserve a troll. But I think what you're going to end up seeing is Microsoft will simply support ODF in Office. Yes, yes, they've said they won't. But if they start losing customers to OpenOffice, KOffice, StarOffice, and other competitors that support ODF, you can bet your ass that Microsoft will add support for ODF, and put one of those little "Would you like to save this in the Microsoft Office Default Format, which offers significant advantages over the original ODF specification,"
      • But I think what you're going to end up seeing is Microsoft will simply support ODF in Office.

        Good. Then OOo/KOffice/etc can stop fighting to keep up everytime MS releasing a new Office and changes the format slightly. They can then focus on something important.
      • That's free market competition... and that's good for us lowly consumers in the long run. Microsoft cannot "kill" ODF, unless it release a clearly superior competing technical standard.

        I think Microsoft can quite easily "kill" ODF just by their sheer market dominance. If their ODF import and export filters are broken enough such that ODF documents imported into Office are all rendered wrong and/or print garbled.... And then all they have to do is not fix it for years until ODF is dead. All the while, they

        • No, Microsoft's position is actually pretty weak. All it takes is for one
          governmental agency to add "ISO standard file format" as a checkbox on their
          requirements list and suddenly MS is forced to either support ODF or go
    • And then the CEO replies:

      "ISO? But I think my Nero program can burn MS Word documents into ISOs..."
    • I wouldn't even mention ODF. Just say the format for storage of documents must be ISO/IEC 26300.
  • OpenDocument is a good format, both from a user standpoint and a technical one. How you feel about OpenXML is another matter entirely, but it's not the one that just got voted in as an ISO standard.
    • Hey -- how was I supposed to get the editors' attention without some offtopic comment? When in Rome, and all that.

      (More seriously, though... how big of an advantage being an ISO standard is to OpenDocument in terms of adoption is likely to vary with whether OpenXML ends up being ratified as well).
      • Personally, I'm not going to worry about that until it actually looks like there's a possibility of it happening... But I completely agree on getting the editors' attention. :)

        Gotta wonder why I was modded -1 Troll though, since I was only pointing out that the existence of OpenXML shouldn't dampen what is actually good news.
  • Good news (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spectrumCoder ( 944322 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @11:45AM (#15254330) Homepage
    If Microsoft implements OpenDocument (or anything like it) in Office 2007 it will make a lot of people very happy.

    A blank Word document takes up eleven kilobytes, and a one page document takes up about forty. If this becomes the de facto standard for documents rather than the Word document format, then document file sizes will shrink significantly, and a lot of bandwidth and disk space on office networks will be saved as a result.

    • Re:Good news (Score:2, Interesting)

      by tomstdenis ( 446163 )
      I'm writing a book in Word [yeah I know, shudder] and my 57 page 2nd chapter is about 340KB on disk. It sports 10 figures, lots of styles (from normal paragraphs, to emphasis to source code etc...)

      Maybe you put high res graphics and are using tracked changes?

      • Re:Good news (Score:5, Informative)

        by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @01:09PM (#15255117) Homepage
        I just tried it. MS Word 2002. New document no text, 20 KB. 500 Words from Lorem Ipsum, 23 K. 300 pages of that same first page repeated. 1,128 KB. OpenOffice.org 2.0. New Document no text, 6 KB. Same 500 words from lorem ipsum, 10 KB. 300 Pages of repeated text, 22 KB. Wow, too easily compressed. Lets try 300 pages of non repeated text. 329 KB. You save quite a bit. I find that once you start adding images and other things like that, you end up saving even more space.
        • Re:Good news (Score:2, Insightful)

          by xygorn ( 632847 )
          Okay, so far so good. Now corrupt the first 300 bytes of the file. See which one allows you to get the data back. If you are really committed, you might be able to get some back from the Word document, by going in and copying out small sections of contiguous text. From OO, you probably can't. From a plain text file, it is easiest.

          Remember, there are tradeoffs to almost every design decision, compression included.
          • Maybe you can run PKZipfix on the document. I'm sure there's ways to recover it. Most users if the file doesn't open, then it's lost. If you aren't most users, then you could probably find a way to recover the data. If you're really concerned about losing your data you'll keep backups. Rellying on which format lets you recover the most is a bad way of ensuring you can recover you data. What happens if the whole file gets corrupt? Yeah, you should have had backups.
      • You think that's bad? I have a template that all of our meeting minutes gets typed into; this is a text-only (no embedded graphics) Word document. It has a bunch of tables and some formatting in it, but no tracked changes or anything. It's a very simple template.

        It weighs in at (drumroll, please) ... 275 KB.

        This is for two pages, mostly consisting of blank space. I am absolutely at a loss as to why it's so huge; but it's a standard template that we have to use, long predating me, and I'm not going to rebuil
        • It probably has a lot of meta data in it like changes, styles, fonts, etc.

          I'm not defending word. I just made a blank document, e.g. CTRL+N CTRL+S test.doc [enter]. It's 23KB on disk. On the NTFS drive it's compressed to less than 4KB. So it's probably a whole bunch of reudndant crap. That said it's not super bad.

          Like I said my text is less than 400KB for nearly 60 pages.

          Of course there is a boat load of things Word does poorly [typesetting, formulas, etc] which it tries to make up with by having a hal
          • The spooky thing is, if you load your MS document into OpenOffice.org and then re-save it out (Save As) as an MS Word .doc, the resulting file will be smaller.

            That said, you should be careful if the document is important as there can sometimes be some undesirable formatting changes. YMMV but I've found there is often no visible change to the document, just a smaller file, which for a template that is used a lot can result in a huge space saving over time.

            Same applies for Excel spreadies.
  • I joined the OpenDocument Format Alliance (http://www.odfalliance.org/) recently - partly to keep connected with what they are doing and partly to support a good cause.

    I understand how entrenched Microsoft Office is in many organizations but hopefully common sense will prevail - want permanent free access to your data? Then use ODF.

    Although I am a 'programming language junky' (I am happily coding away in Ruby and Common Lisp this morning on a new long term AI engagement :-) I always think of systems as data
    • Because nobody builds around MS Office formats. That would be foolish.

      What is built around is is COM/DCOM and MS Office components. At which point the underlying representation becomes irrelevant (and can be changed frequently to churn the user base or disrupt competition or introduce new features).

      The object interface published (or privately supplied) become the thing that other vendors are beholden to. Supplying speech i/o, integration, reporting, and whatever else. It has to be (relatively) sanctioned by
      • I could really agree with you except for one thing: what guarentee do you have that a Word or Excel file that you create today and archive will be readable in 10 years? I suppose that an archive strategy could include exporting the original documents to test, CSV, etc., and archiving the original and text copies.

        A little funny that you should mention owning Microsoft stock: last year I got so fed up with Microsoft's file formats, that I actually sold the bit of Microsoft stock that I had.

        Try writing a few c
  • Formulas? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Makzu ( 868112 )
    I just hope that OpenDocument gets its formula standards in order. I've read in a few places that there is very little documentation in the standard proper about how formulas (for spreadsheets) should be stored and used, which could in time cause some compatibility problems. That being said, I'm glad that it was approved by the ISO... maybe in a few years I'll not have to worry about converting from one office format to another ad absurdum.
  • by Numen ( 244707 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:38PM (#15254818)
    When comparisons between formats remark upon mixed content models compared to non-mixed asking "which would you rather transform" expecting the answer of "mixed" you know a lot of people throwing opinions around on this issue have never actually worked transforming XML.

    If you're wanting a human readable document format you have XHTML. Use it and enjoy. If you're producing an interchange format for word processing applications I'll take unambiguous and explicit over ambiguous and implicit even if that is at the expense of human readability.

    The MS model uses a manifest to resolve link references, the ODF uses absolute references... this is criticised by Groklaw on the basis of human readability. Not maintainablity, application use, refactoring or normalisation of data.

    There are valid problems that can be cited for both formats (I wish for instance MS had stuck with XLink), but this is quickly resolving into another round of MS bad, anything else good. It's emotive and is in most cases prejudged before technical merits are weighed.

    I guess I just resent being asked whether I'd prefer to transform a mixed content model by somebody I know has never done so.
    • Funnily enough, I know a couple of the authors do these kind of transformations all the time - your ad hominem argument just doesn't cut it.

      The use of an external manifest to resolve links was criticised because it's harder to get at the data. With xlink, everything is right there in the tag - with the MS system, you have to take the ID, open up the manifest, find the tag with matching ID and then get the data off that. It's more complex for no good reason.

      The mixed content model is a valid point. Look at t

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