Archive for the ‘Standard’ Category

January

22

by Kaj Kandler

I just discovered Tomahawk Gold from Native Winds of Montana. It looks like an attractive software package to print booklets from a variety of formats such as ODF, OOXML, txt, RTF, and XML.

This application does include its own editor to correct potential import glitches and reformatted files ready for printing in various formats, such as 1up, 2up (booklet) and 4up so proof your layout while saving paper. It allows you as well to produce PDF files directly for electronic distribution and printing by the end-user. The product sells for $36, download only.

The same company also produces a document converter from MS-OOXML or ODF to RTF. This is a freeware program, just to download from their website. Freeware Genius thinks the Converter is worth its money

October

31

by Kaj Kandler

OpenDocument Format (ODF), the standard accepted as ISO 26300 norm, has been mired in some controversy. The OpenDocument Foundation, a group formed to promote the standard format across different applications and platforms, has now denounced its support for ODF. The reasons cited is that Sun Microsystems, in control of OpenOffice.org/StarOffice the largest application supporting ODF, does not allow more compatibility to legacy formats such as .doc or MS OOXML. Sun favors supporting legacy document formats in the application, with appropriate import/export filters, while the ODF Foundation thinks it should become part of the format itself.

Recently, Sun has come under scrutiny for its policies surrounding OpenOffice.org and ODF. Some have even speculated if Novel instituted a fork of the OpenOffice.org project. It should come at no surprise that standards, as open as they may be, are a business tool. The ODF standard and the fact that it offers transparency which enables safety in archiving documents and having access centuries into the future forced Microsoft to rethink its own document formats. Now the ODF Foundation is surprised that Sun does want to keep out direct compatibility with the rival format(s).

However, having witnessed the discussions of ODFoundation members on some mailing lists, there also seem to be some strong personalities at work. Or is it the rivalry between MS Office Plug-in developments from the ODFoundation and Sun Microsystems that is causing all the bad blood?

The sad fallout of this is that the ODFoundation wants to morph itself into a CDF Foundation, CDF being another document format proposed by the influential standard body W3C. It will stop developing its MS Office plugin to seemlessly read and write ODF documents.

October

26

by Kaj Kandler

Apple releases tomorrow its latest version of Mac OS X called Leopard. It’s build-in text editor TextEdit now supports ODF and MS OOXML. This means it can exchange text documents with OpenOffice.org Writer, NeoOffice Writer and also with MS Word 2007.

Many Mac OS X fans now hope that Apple will soon support the ISO standard ODF in the iApplications such as iWork.

September

18

by Kaj Kandler

Today, IBM released Lotus Symphony, its version of OpenOffice.org as a free offering to business, government and consumer users.

The productivity suite is free to download. Interestingly the website only presents three applications, “Documents”, “Presentations” and “Spreadsheets.” The Database functionality of OpenOffice.org is apparently missing. The Suite supports Windows XP or Vista and Linux RedHat or Novell SuSE. A discussion about MAC OS X support has already started in the support forums.

Lotus Symphony does naturally support ODF and also can read and write the Microsoft Office formats most of the time. The latest MS OOXML is not yet supported.

Unfortunately this is another species in the jungle called Open Office eco-system.

P.S.: If you are PC veteran, you might remember the Lotus Symphony for DOS, which included Lotus 1-2-3. This is not the same!

September

14

by Kaj Kandler

Really, what would Dan Heintzman, the director of strategy at Lotus, say about IBM joining the OpenOffice.org community? Andy Undergrove wondered too and interviewed Dan Heintzman from Lotus. Dan makes some interesting points, including:

  • IBM hopes to signal its commitment to ODF and the OpenOffice.org to IT managers that are not sure how long this technology will last. he mentions the $1 Billion invetment tha tIBM announced for Linux way back. However, I must have missed an announcement that impressive or any direct number at all.
  • He acknowledges that there have been tensions between Sun Microsystems and IBM over community governance and that IBM’s announcement means IBM will help to make change in the governance structure of the OpenOffice community happen.
  • Dan’s vision of a document is a container that brings elements toghether, but retains their source. It is more a collage of text, graphics, data then the coherent print form we often think of. He thinks ODF is a viable platform to start this transformation.
  • Dan dodges the speculation if IBM would add an e-mail/calendar program to the Open Office suite.

September

10

by Kaj Kandler

Most users know that Sun Microsystems is the main force behind OpenOffice.org and its development community. Historically they did buy StarDivision and release Open Office as open source. Today, IBM announced to commit to the OpenOffice.org development community with a team of 35 developers in China working full time on the project. IBM also contributed today a chunk of code making the open source office suite more accessible for users with disabilities.

While IBM has developed the accessibility interface called iAccessible2 for a while and also supported ODF (ISO 26300) in its Lotus Notes products, this announcement is a long term commitment to develop OpenOffice.org as a competitive suite.

September

06

by Kaj Kandler

I blogged yesterday that ISO rejected the MS OOXML application for fast tracking this proprietarily developed format as an ISO standard. The Electronic Frontier Finnland has an interesting article on their website, stating a strong correlation between the ‘YES’ vote for MS-OOXML approval and the Corruption Perception Index (CPI).

While not all correlation can be interpreted as a causal relationship, all causal relationships should show near perfect correlation.

Interesting in this context is also recent research into why “myth” are hard to defeat. It states that ignoring the myth gives it a stamp of approval, because nobody does claim its falsehood. However, correcting a myth does often reinforce the false statement in the human mind instead of reversing it.

I leave it to the reader to draw their own conclusions.

September

06

by Kaj Kandler

Yesterday, the International Standard Organization rejected the wholesale acceptance of MS OOXML also known as ECMA-376 as a new ISO standard.

The relevant comittee did not reach the 2/3 approval rate nor did it stay below the 25% objection threshold. This is not a final decision but a request to study the matter in more detail. The 26% “No” votes of participating committee members have mandatory comments attached and these will be discussed at an assembly February 2008. Presumably then remedies will be worked out and the standard draft will be improved and voted on again.

Approving MS OOXML as a second ISO standard for Office documents, after ODF (ISO 26300) has increased interest in such matters dramatically. Many countries did upgrade their membership in the relevant comittee from observes to participants in oder to have an actual vote. Many obeservers of the process allege that Microsoft is lobbying with such countries as Cote d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Ecuador, Jamaica, Lebanon, Malta, Pakistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uruguay and Venezuela to become participating and voting members. Interestingly, all new participating members did vote in Microsoft’s favor for fast tracking the approval.

August

28

by Kaj Kandler

NeoOffice just announced its latest release 2.2.1. All over the net is praise for NeoOffice’s new features, such as

  • Support for the native Mac OS X spellchecker
  • Support for the native Mac OS X address book
  • Support for high resolution printing
  • Reading and writing many Microsoft OOXML (Office 2007) Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents
  • The latest features from OpenOffice.org 2.2.1

While OpenOffice.org announced a native version for the Mac OS X and its user interface, and Sun Microsystems committed two full time developers to the project, NeoOffice has obviously worked hard to stay ahead. The integration of native features such as the address book and spell checker are certainly welcome. It makes working on a Mac much more consistent.

However, some report issues with this version of NeoOffice 2.2.1. I have no way to verify that.

The competing effort from the mother project seems to make good progress with frequent OOo Mac OS X port developer snapshots. However, I don’t think the upcoming release as part of OOo release 2.3 will be as comprehensive as NeoOffice yet. I guess competition does improve the product(s) for consumers. I applaud both efforts.

August

25

by Kaj Kandler

Jim Rapoza makes in interesting argument at eWeek, saying that the ODF Alliance focuses too much on convincing governments to adopt Open Document Format (ODF also known as ISO 26300). Jim argues that he didn’t see a real adoption of ODF before Google did support it with its Docs and Spreadsheet applications. He procalims that states are usually behind the curve of technologies and the ODF Alliance would be better spend their resources in finding more compelling uses for ODF.

I think Jim, a self confessed Open Office user, repeats sterotypes, such as a government is behind the curve of technology adoption. I think there is no real basis for the assumption that government agencies do not to use leading technology. As a matter of fact, some of the most advanced technology is developed for or by the government, weather it is for military purposes or for medical and health purposes, minting coins or printing money that is hard to counter fit.

I also think Jim has not given propper thought to why the state of Massachusetts did want to use ODF. It is not for the purpose of being hip and advanced. The state of Massachusetts did realize that it needs a reliable way to retrieve documents long after they have been created and archived and the formats they are stored in and the applications that created them, are out of favor and often not produced or supported anymore. This is an important function for a government to collect and archive material that has historical significance, such as protocols about procedings, deciscions, laws and documents that can proof guilt, innocence or ownership of property, family relationships, marriage or devorce. So, when the state’s IT people realized that a perfect digital copy of a document is not enough, they acted on their duty to find ways to archive documents in a way that they will be accessible in the foreseeable future. I think ODF was one of the few formats available that fulfilled the criteria required. In that respect the ODF alliance did help the state of Massachusetts and other governments rather than outright lobby them.

I’m not naive and do believe the ODF alliance does lobby governments for the use of their format and that the mostly companies behind it hope to gain with their applications. However, the history of Microsoft’s multiple steps to accomodate the real and vital requirements the state of Massachusetts layed out, shows that they didn’t just promote their competing format. They offered a better product that did fulfill a need that the widely used proprietary formats did not.

I would agree with Jim, that the ODF Alliance should spend more resources to explain to private organizations and individuals that this storage issue is not only relevant for government documents. It starts with every citizen’s interest of having access to the records of their government and it goes further with history as recorded in business contracts, news papers and correspodence. And it continues into our personal lives with e-mail, blogs, notes, contracts, letters, poems, and photographs or home videos.

Ask yourself which documents from your current live do you want to re-read when you are sitting in a nursing home and look back on your live, may be collecting the memories for a book for your grand children. You will understand how important it is you can still share them.