First impressions of Open XML

by Rick Jelliffe

A new draft of Open XML came out on my birthday. 4081 pages of PDF, and very impressive for anyone who has worked on specification and standards. Two things stick out: first how horrible XML Schema fragments are when stuck inline to document structure; second, how the implementation-neutral tone of the introduction is at odds with the elements for various kinds of Active X embedded objects. I suspect people would be a lot more comfortable if the elements for Active X embedded objects were in a different namespace, and gathered into an appendix of some kind. Antiques and curios. It will be interesting to see what the extensibility strategy will be (it hasnt been released in this draft.)

On the technical merits, well actually I dont know if they matter much. I say potato. Exporting to HTML or XHTML gives people base-level interoperability for most documents, which neither ODF nor Open XML will challenge; at the high end the solution is exporting to XML using a domain-specific schema (e.g. S1000D for military & aerospace) and not ODF or Open XML at all; in the casual middle we will have ISO ODF available, perhaps as the interchange format of choice, as well as ISO Open XML (if it is accepted) for when you need to track MS Offices capabilities closely. I think there is substantial value in a standard XML format for MS Office documents even within organizations that will mandate ODF for interchange and archiving. The availability of the alternatives reduces the need for ODF or Open XML to be the one true interchange format.

Probably coming from the industrial publishing background biases me here: the need for dumbed down interchange formats is real sure enough, but the need for intricate close-to-the-metal feature-exposing typesetting feature access is also important for different contexts. Words binary formats and RTFs weaknesses have long held Microsofts applications back from being happily usable in serious industrial publishing systems (or, at least, have often held back the people who adopted them.)

4 Comments

M. David Peterson
2006-05-26 04:46:11
>> The availability of the alternatives reduces the need for ODF or Open XML to be the one true interchange format. <<


That statement in and of itself I believe may be the most significant statement I have heard during all of the debates that have taken place since this all began. If OpenDocument were to accomplish nothing else from here on out, they will have accomplished something of great significance. I believe that it will accomplish more, I'm just putting emphasis on the notion that if it does or does not, it's the very fact that there is more than one choice, that matters most.


The notion that ODF, or OpenXML, or any other past, present, or future format should become the base standard that we all build everything else against obviously doesn't provide a whole lot of incentive to software developers to push the envelope any further than they have to, as if the excuse is "I'd like to, but that would require a need to break off into an area that the "XDocBase" just wasn't designed to handle as no one knew that ten years later this technology would come along and..."


Obviously you know where I was headed, so I'll cut myself off and save us both from any more time being wasted stating/reading the obvious.


None-the-less... Your statement is something of significant value, and provides exactly what is needed to bring this to the correct level of simple understanding...


One party systems just don't make sense in a free market economy :D

Lisa Westveld
2006-06-06 00:09:18
I'm a bit confused here. Is this about the Microsoft Office Open XML standard or about the OpenXML library for Borland Delphi? :-)


Anyway, is there a link to this PDF file somewhere? I'm interested.


Blessed Be(e),
Lisa Westveld.

Rick Jelliffe
2006-06-06 03:58:26
I mean Ecma Office Open XML, see http://www.ecma-international.org/news/TC45_current_work/TC45-2006-50.htm but note that this is a draft and it will evolve.
Waleed
2007-06-26 23:46:02
>> as if the excuse is "I'd like to, but that would require a need to break off into an area that the "XDocBase" just wasn't designed to handle as no one knew that ten years later this technology would come along and..." <<


I think this will not solve this issue at all, as both OXML and ODF will need to be updated in the future (may be after 10 years as you mentioned) so I don't think it's a point that give any advantage, We can maintain the open capability for future enhancements and this doesn't contradict with one standards that can be updated in the future and extended. This will make life easier and user trusts in ISO will not be impacted for give them two choices that end up with one better than the other instead of providing one standard that can be enhanced and take all users safely to the next version expected in the future. I believe that some wise man said: don't invent the wheel again! What I see now is that we are trying to invent another wheel instead of improve the current one and this mean that we need to through out one. Isn't better to focus on improve the current wheel and provide to the wide users trusted wheel?