ODF: Never Mind ... We Have the Plugin

by Kurt Cagle

It's been a few months since I've addressed the issue of the Massachusetts IT Department's decision to consider the OASIS Open Document Format as their primary format for interoperability and generation of documents. The last couple of weeks has seen a number of significant new developments that all seem to point to the very real likelihood that ODF will in fact win the day.

According to a series of articles on Groklaw MA Asks: Can Anybody Out There Make MS Office Interoperate with ODF? and OpenDocument Foundation to MA: We Have a Plugin, the Massachusetts IT committee raised the question about whether Microsoft could produce some form of plug-in that could be added to the current version of Office to open, display and save ODF content. They hemmed and hawed, arguing (as they had before the EU) that they were missing critical documentation that needed to be available in order to generate such a plug-in and that it would take an undue burden of developer time during a period where they were moving close to the full release of the next version of Office.


Peter Sefton
2006-05-11 03:45:02
I have not seen this plugin from 'The OpenDocument Foundation'. Has anyone else? As an all-too experienced developer working with OpenDocument, OpenOffice.org and Word I can't see how one would build a plugin that Just Works.

And just what is this foundation? Their website is not finished and not even residing at their own domain, and there's nothing on it about plugins that I can find.

I had just finished my own, more cynical post about this when this one appeared.

M. David Peterson
2006-05-11 05:44:53
>> The coming software age is moving out of the shadow of vendor lock-in. The irony here is that in the short term the ODF decision might actually help Microsoft, as companies that were thinking about migrating to Open Office might decide that it would be better to stay with their existing infrastructure if this gives them the same benefits.<<

Oooohhh.... you just snuck that in at the last second...

Which is what I was going to follow-up with. While I agree that, to a point, Microsoft could control some of their customer base with the notion "we need Word because this is format that all of our existing documents are in", the fact of the matter is that they could import any of those .doc files into ANY word processor product, including MS Word, and then output into any existing supported format, which was anything from HTML to RDF and pretty much everything in between.

In fact, you've been able to save to raw HTML markup since Office 97, and via a plugin for versions before this. So the notion of "vendor lock-in" hasn't existed now for almost 10 years.

Sounds like it might be time for another podcast on the topic... :D

Kurt Cagle
2006-05-11 08:25:49
This may very well be a case of FUD (ironic if it is - I thought Microsoft had the patent on FUD ;-) I'm curious myself to see the plug-in and the degree to which is does provide interop between the formats, though I have to admit that the whole has a singular dramatic flair. Let's see how the reality shapes up.

The argument about RTF and HTML both being document interop formats is somewhat valid, though it should be pointed out that RTF exists in several flavors and is not, as far as I know, formally proposed anywhere as an open standard. It's also not XML based - while you could of course parse RTF, it gets to be a fairly significant undertaking and I've not seen many RTF converters that handle round-trip well. Ditto on MS HTML, which is HTML 4.0 compliant, rather than XML compliant. Moreover, the HTML formats general do not retain page metadata, such as page dimensions, in anything but a non-standard format.

Mike Lackey
2006-11-23 00:15:39
The Red Hot Chili Peppers are leading the way at this years MTV Europe music awards with four nominations...
Mike Lackey
2006-11-23 00:18:26
The Red Hot Chili Peppers are leading the way at this years MTV Europe music awards with four nominations...
Johan de Man
2007-12-17 07:06:06
Can you tell me where to find such a plugin? Or mail the link where to download the plug in for word 97.