Tag Archives: odf

MS OFfice 2007 SP2 and ODF interoperability

I’ve waited a few days to blog on this particular issue so there would be time for those in the know to test how the new ODF format in Office 2007 SP2 works. Initial reports were that things were ( just ) ok but since then, it’s all gone downhill. One of the gurus in this area, Rob Weir, has done a lot of testing over the last few months with a wide variety of office applications. In his latest round of test, Office 2007 SP2’s support for spreadsheets is the worst by a large margin. Excel apparently strips out formulas when reading in an ODF spreadsheet!!! What?!?!?! To top this, when writing out spreadsheets in ODF format, Excel keeps the formulas but puts them into an Excel name space – different to what OpenOffice, other ODF apps and the spec itself says.

What is interesting here is that the Microsoft-sponsored CleverAge plugin for Office works quite well; in fact this plugin has upped the ante by fixing a lot of issues in their earlier code. Question: why can CleverAge with Microsoft support get it right when MS themselves can’t?

A few possiblities:

1. this is a first try for MS in Office ( however they have a lot of resources to lean on so this doesn’t quite ring true )

2. ODF 1.1 does not define spreadsheet formulas ( sure but conformance and interoperability are not mutually exclusive )

3. MS is trying to deliberately do a poor implementation of ODF to infer the ODF is poor

Whatever the issue, you may want to assume the position that Office still has no ODF support otherwise you may run into issue. Herewith some links from PJ at Groklaw and Rob Weir’s page on the issue.

Microsoft’s AstroTurfing

Microsoft’s bullying tactics in the IT field are well known but one would have thought that they might have stopped with the AstroTurfing by now, seeing as many are wise to their tactics. But not according to one of their Technology Evangelists, James Plamondon.  For those unfamiliar with the term, AstroTurfing means that you, through covert means, attack opposition for gain ( ie. to mask that it has not come from you ) or through invalid advertising ( and now blogging ) inject false information about your opposition into the wider net. Examples include sending ‘gifts’ to bloggers for favorable reviews, or attacking journalists writing unfavorable reviews, though alternate media.

For those not used to the lengths that Microsoft will go or has gone to, take a look at the following post regarding the OOXML standards process and how MS seeks to monopolise the system.  And of course the now famous Massachusetts ODF issue. Microsoft essentially steamrolled and bullied the controllers of the decision using political influence to the point that people lost their jobs and resigned. Another example is Microsoft’s touting of ( non-existent? ) patents being exceeded by OpenSource projects,  similar to SCO’s farcical legal challenge against IBM and others. SCO never could provide evidence surrounding this so called smoking gun – something which should’ve been easy considering the data retention abilities of the internet. In fact the opposite occurred and this is possibly why Microsoft has never gone after any OSS projects as they likely would end up the loser as well. It seems that nothing is sacred to Microsoft.

And still, the number of people using commercially developed software from disreputable companies like Microsoft, is astonishing. The fact that there are well-suited, authored and freely available solutions available seems to slip them by. Why?

An acquaintance recently asked me to look into their dual PC which failed to boot the Windows XP partition correctly. The Ubuntu partition was used on occasion and contained a number of documents and pictures. They asked me to fix the Windows partition and move the documents from the working Ubuntu partition to the broken Windows partition, once it was fixed. Reason? There were a few document types they couldn’t ( or didn’t know how to ) open from their email client. Astonishing – why would someone suffer issues just because they were afraid to ask a question on usage?

Many questions and few answers. Is this ignorance? Is it MS’ hold on people due to stature? Due to an inbred resistance to anything else? To change? Advertising?

The fact is that change is coming whether you like it or not. FOSS has changed the landscape of more that just development ideologies and methodologies. It’s touching politics, social convention, standardisation and policy making. It’s time to get on the bandwagon or get left behind. Just like Microsoft is.

OOXML Documentation available online now

at the Boycott Novell forum and that’s causing a bit of an uproar in the ISO community. Even though their own processes indicate the docs were supposed to be made publicly available 30 days after the standard was sealed. It’s now a couple of months after the fact and we’re all still waiting so why not put this stuff out there – it’s the right thing to do according to ISO’s own policies and procedures.

But Alex Brown, exponent of the OOXML process at ISO, says this is a copyright issue and is throwing threats around: “brazen act of copyright violation” according to the Linux Mag site. … Hold on, aren’t ISO standards supposed to be for everyone? Well I’m confused Alex – is it or isn’t it?

ISO issues generate more discent

13 members of the Norwegian standards body, Standards Norway, have left the organisation citing  issues relating to the OOXML standards process debacle. Reasons are as follows:

* The administration of Standard Norway trust 37 identical letters from Microsoft partners more than their own technical committee.
* The process within Standard Norway has been unpredictable and the administration has changed the rules along the way.
* Standard Norway and ISO have committed a series of violations of their own rules and other irregularities in the OOXML process.

So the fallout from the OOXML ISO process is starting to build. First there was an appeal from 4 participating countries, the stalled appeals process thereafter, the CONSEGI declaration and now this. If Microsoft sought to sow division, they’ve done a great job – pity the ISO can’t see further than their local Microsoft representative.

ODF and the Microsoft-sponsored SC34

SC34, possible right-hand Microsoft lapdog and current ISO/IEC committee responsible for OOXML, appears to be trying for a takeover of ODF as a standard. Yes, I know, it’s madness. But apparently, the fact that the whole world knows that ISO is now useless, has escaped the SC34 guys completely. They’re indicating that they would like to take over ‘maintenance’ of the JTC1 spec ( ODF ) in the interest of synchronisation of maintenance. And it’s called: “Request to JTC 1 for alignment of OASIS and JTC 1 Maintenance Procedures.” Yep, you read that right, alignment!!!

I believe they think that they can do a better job than OASIS  on managing the ODF spec. Considering that us mere mortals can’t even put forward a defect report regarding OOXML (  only member bodies can do this ), what will be the outcome W.R.T ODF then? There is already a technical committee set up to handle tech issues for ODF so why do ISO think they now need to get involved. Well maybe it’s because if they have control over ODF, they can then quietly shove it aside or let it fall to pieces. Surely this is Microsoft at their absolute best. EU Commission on anti-competitive behavior – you watching?

Microsoft ODF/OOXML

Well very interesting news that Microsoft is to support ODF in MS Office 2007 SP2 albeit the older 1.1 specification. But the most interesting is that this comes straight after Matusow’s visit to SA. I wonder if he got wind of the intended SABS appeal against the JTC1 OOXML process. MS will be shut out pending the outcome of the appeal so better to support a spec than none at all?

Open Document Standards

OOXML has gained ISO approval even though the process leading up to this was seriously flawed. I think the following points apply:

  1. ISO is no longer an open standards organisation and are in Big Business pockets
  2. There was not enough time to go through the changes that were requested in the last round of voting
  3. The standard is therefore incomplete and with issues
  4. There were voting irregularities ( again )

OOXML and what it means to you

What it means to you

A document format is not just a simple way of saving information. Rather, look at it as a means of preserving information for the short or long term. Applications come and go, but it’s always necessary to open documents no matter what was used to create them. If another party gives you a document, you’d like to be assured of being able to open it. Truly open formats are the only way to ensure this.

Microsoft has publicly shown it’s inability to deal with open formats and continues trying to lock its customers in through the use of proprietary methods and formats. There is no technical or other reason why Microsoft can’t support an existing open standard ( ODF ) except to hold its captive market to ransom.

The South African government, amongst many others, has made the move towards open standards and ODF as a document format – it specifically issued the MIOS policy document in December last year which indicates the Minimum Interoperability Standard for Information Systems in Government ( http://www.dpsa.gov.za/documents/egov/MIOSVer4_1_2007.pdf ). MIOS sets out government’s technical principles and standards for achieving interoperability and information systems coherence across the public sector. Armscor has started the process towards Open Source software and many others are converting everyday. Sun has a plugin filter for MS Office that provides full ODF compatibility and features, if you would like to continue using it for your general office documentation but there are a host of other applications which provide for the creation of general office documents that are using ODF as a format, some being free like OpenOffice.

So if you require maximum backwards compatiblity, stick with MS Office 2003 or earlier, or even better, change to an office suite that uses the ISO-endorsed standard ODF – most of these have low or even no cost associated with them. Bob Sutor sums it up well in his blog: http://www.sutor.com/newsite/blog-open/?p=2031