[gnulinuxinasia] CHINA: An open document standard for China

  • From: "Frederick Noronha [फ़रेदरिक नोरोनया]" <fred@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: gnulinuxinasia@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 9 Aug 2007 01:02:09 +0530

An open document standard for China

By Peter Junge
Wednesday, August 01 2007 12:44 PM

 Currently Microsoft is driving a big campaign to get its latest
document format Office Open XML (OOXML) approved as an ISO standard.

However, there is already an existing ISO document standard called
OpenDocument Format (ODF). This standard was first approved by  OASIS
in May 2005. It derived from the XML file format of the OpenOffice.org
project and was created for exactly the same purpose which, nowadays,
Microsoft is trying to serve. So, why does the world need two similar

Microsoft states, that the customer needs diversity and choice. But is
this really true?

Let's have a look at a simple example. Every frequent traveler knows
the annoying issue of having different electricity sockets--or power
adapters--all over the world. Because there are different national
standards for the same purpose, one always has to carry or buy
universal adapters to get this problem fixed.

In China the issue about the document format standard is even more
complicated, because there's also the national standard UOF.
Consequently, Chinese standardization organizations have to think what
they need to do to proceed. Should they support a third standard, or
not? How about unifying UOF with one or both of these standards?

Well, I had a look at the OOXML specification and the ongoing
discussions about it. I was really surprised by how many unresolved
issues left behind by Microsoft, although the specification is written
on more than 6,000 pages.

First of all, Microsoft doesn't really seem to consider that the
specification has to consider implementations on various platforms,
other than Windows. There are similar occurrences of old file format
legacies that can cause major trouble for free software
implementations. For example the specification contains functions
like: "useWord97LineBreakRules", "footnoteLayoutLikeWW8",
"autoSpaceLikeWord95", "useWord2002TableStyleRules", etc.

This kind of legacy is full of pitfalls for the open source developer.
Firstly, he has to find a way to implement functionality that is
derived from proprietary software package, and that might not be
openly documented. Secondly, he has to be mindful about obstacles
which might be caused by patent and licensing issues this proprietary
non-standard includes.

In the end it's likely that resulting implementation will not be
compliant with software licensed under the GPL (General Public
License) and therefore cannot be shipped with Linux systems.

Another thing the designers of OOXML did not consider is the reuse of
existing standards, even though this is a best practice in
standardization. For example, SVG is the common XML standard for
describing vector graphics for quite a few years now. Nevertheless,
OOXML uses its own proprietary extension called VML, an embedded
sub-specification--described over some 600 pages--used for the same

Despite the undesirable redundancy of approaching the same thing,
Microsoft again puts extra workload on the developers of its
competitors because existing code and libraries, e.g. on Linux, cannot
be reused, too.

Engineers have to start from scratch. Besides, there are other
embedded sub-specifications, such as WordprocessingML, SpreadsheetML,
PresentationML and DrawingML. That's a lot of work to do for the
competing businesses.

Another standard that Microsoft does not support, is the RFC 3987
specification, which defines UTF-8 capable Internet addresses.
Consequently, OOXML does not support the use of Chinese characters
within a Web address.

Microsoft also did a bad job in creating a document format for the
whole world, which is an important requirement for an ISO standard.
Considerations for users in Israel and many Muslim countries were
excluded in the specification of OOXML. For any locale, the function
'Networkdays()' will always return Saturday and Sunday as the weekend.
However, this is wrong for Iraq, Algeria, Sudan, Bahrain, Qatar,
Bangladesh, Israel, Jordan, Libya, Pakistan, Syria and the United Arab
Emirates. ODF handles this correctly.

There are many more examples why OOXML isn't a suitable candidate for
an ISO standard yet. From my point of view, Microsoft should stop, as
soon as possible, bringing more redundancy into office document

It would be much better if Microsoft takes the good ideas and
technologies from OOXML, and tries to join an effort to unify ODF, UOF
and OOXML. For those interested, the blog of IBM's Robert Weir, is a
good source to get informed about the issues of OOXML.

I hope China will not support OOXML in its ISO voting, but force
Microsoft to consider talks for one harmonized office document
standard for the whole world.

Frederick Noronha  Journalist http://fn.goa-india.org
E: fred@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx or fredericknoronha@xxxxxxxxx
P: +91-832-2409490 M: +91-9970157402
Yahoo: fredericknoronha Skype: fredericknoronha GTalk: fredericknoronha
784, Sonarbhat, Near Lourdes Convent, Saligao 403511 Goa India

Other related posts:

  • » [gnulinuxinasia] CHINA: An open document standard for China