Thursday, August 02, 2007

Australia to decide on OOXML Stanadard

Standards Australia are hosting a forum on the proposed Draft International Standard ISO/IEC 29500, "Information technology - Office Open XML file formats" on 9 August 2007 in Sydney. OOXML is European Ecma standard 376 and is based on the format used in Microsoft Office 2007. The Forum is limited to 30 persons and seats can be reserved by email to: michael.langdon (a) Comments on the standard can be sent to: alistair.tegart (a)

The British Standards Institute have taken the innovative step of using a Wiki to help prepare input on how the UK should vote on ISO ballot on Office Open XML/OOXML ( DIS 29500). There is a set of very carefully prepared detailed UK comments on the draft standard.

The UK comments typically are suggesting that proprietary and obsolete Microsoft features in the standard be replaced with non-proprietary and more up to date ones. An example is to replace an old hash algorithm from Excell with a more robust one.

The comments get a little cheeky at times, such as suggesting a "doWrongDateCalculationsLikeExcel" tag. But as far as I can see these changes are feasible and would make the standard better at the cost of causing some minor inconvenience to Microsoft.
However, if OOXML needs changes to make it suitable as an international standard, then its major feature (compatibility with Microsoft Office) is lost.

here is already an XML based international standard for office document formats: OpenDocument ISO/IEC 26300:2006. ODF has similar functionality to the proposed OOXML.

There is work already underway to provide translation between OOXML and ODF. When such a translation available, Microsoft Office users can then use the existing international standard format. There would therefore be no need top adopt OOXML as an international standard.

Both OOXML and ODF are derived from existing legacy proprietary software packages: OOXML from Microsoft Office and ODF from Sun Star Office (later adopted for OpenOffice.Org). ODF is based on newer software and so has fewer quirks. Both are based on XML formats, but neither is directly compatible with web browsers or other web software.

A better approach would be to base the word processor, which is the most used part of the office document format, on a modern web standard, such as XHTML 2.

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