Archive for the ‘ODF’ Category

Has ODF just won the format wars?

May 22, 2008

Microsoft Office 2007 SP2 in 2009 will support ODF (1.1) natively and users will (probably) get to set that as the default ‘Save As’ format.

Oh my :-)


ODF vs MSXML adoption

March 30, 2008

On the eve of what may well be an ‘ends justify the means’ victory for MS at the ISO [Update March 31: I note the latest Slashdot headline regarding the matter, “OOXML Will Pass Amid Massive Irregularities” Update April 2: See here for an overview of the ‘irregularities‘; the sneaky trick MS used: “if you can pick the moderator, you win” Update April 6: See also this article.], I did a little experiment to compare the rate of ODF format documents vs MS’ XML document format ala this page (though don’t ask me why some of the numbers are so different; I might be doing something completely different) by typing queries like ‘filetype:doc’ into a Google search:

about 35,000,000
about 29,400 from (<0.1%)

about 30,700
about 741 from (~2.4%)

about 55,700 (~181.4% DOCX)

about 6,930,000
about 872 from (<<0.1%)

about 6,330
about 32 from (~0.5%)

about 12,800 (~202.2% XLSX)

about 4,880,000
about 13,700 from (~0.3%)

about 12,600
about 1,440 from (~11.4%)

about 18,600 (~147.6% PPTX)

sum old MS Office: ~46.81 M
sum new MS Office: ~49.63 K (~0.1% old)
sum ODF: ~87.1 K (~175.5% new MS Office, ~0.2% old MS Office)
sum XML: ~136.73 K (~0.3% old MS Office)

What I take from this is that although ODF usage (as posted online) is ~1.5-2X the new MS XML formats, it still is a drop in the bucket compared to the old MS Office formats.  If MS gets OOXML (not quite the same as what Office 2007 outputs (what I’ve been calling MSXML [Update April 21: see this article]), but close enough that they can gloss over the discrepancies [Update April 2: “[Tom Robertson, general manager of Microsoft interoperability and standards] said that Microsoft will begin work on an Open XML implementation road map for implementation at an as yet unknown time. He noted that the ISO is now responsible for the file format and must finalize the standard specifications. He expected the organization’s work to be complete by the end of this year.”  So minimum 2009 before there is even a finalized OOXML!]) made into an ISO standard, they’ll maintain most of their Office profits for the time being and maximize their suppression of ODF. However, even so, given that MS Office is NOT free of cost, the free alternatives do save as ODF and there will be translators available (even if imperfect), I cannot see ODF dying out.  In fact, MS may only have bought itself some time; instead of MSXML facing irrelevance now, they may still face extinction at a later date.  And there will certainly be anti-trust issues raised…  What to watch for will be the curve of adoption of the two XML formats and the rate at which the old MS Office ones are abandoned. Much as MS faces IE7 adoption issues vs Firefox AND IE6, they will face the biggest hurdle from getting people to abandon old versions of Office.  If you want to help ODF, simply save in that format, even if from inside MSOffice with Sun’s Plugin.

Update April 7: I just noticed an article with Mark Shuttleworth’s reaction to the ISO fiasco. I suspect that projects such as probably won’t bother implementing the ISO ‘standard’ OOXML, but rather do what they’ve always done: attempt to match the output of MS Office (so, instead of the old DOC, the new DOCX MSXML)

Update April 21: An article: Critics brand OOXML a Microsoft ‘marketing tool’

Don’t hold your breath waiting for MS Office to output valid OOXML (so literally, AFAIK, there are ZERO apps which produce valid OOXML.  And yet ODF is out there with several implementations…)

Is Office for Mac worth the cost to you?

January 28, 2008

A letter I sent to the editors of The StarPhoenix here in Saskatoon:

Regarding Murray Hill’s “Office for Mac worth every penny” I think that there are a few things that readers should note:

First, even if we put aside all other arguments about Microsoft Office for Mac, the pricing is simply unfair to Canadians; if you search for ‘office mac 2008’ on and and compare the “list price” for the five editions, the equivalent exchange rate ranges from about 1.25 to 1.35. The Canadian dollar has not been that weak since 2004. Consider that the standard edition that lists (rounded to the nearest dollar) for $540 CN here is $400 US in the US. Is the Canadian version really worth $140 more than the almost identical US version? It looks as if Microsoft is intentionally pricing the 2008 edition the same as the 2004 edition; do they think that Canadians won’t notice that they’re being gouged? Further, it is curious that Amazon discounts the Canadian versions so little (it sells the standard edition for the full $540 CN here, but discounts it to $353 US in the states; an equivalent exchange of about 1.53!)

Second, how many people (businesses included) really even need Office for Mac? Would a given person’s usage needs be met by Apple’s iWork software? (with a parity price of $79 in CN or US) Would a given person’s needs be met by which is FREE? It may be somewhat philosophical to mention this, but what software is “worth” and what is “costs” are two very different things.

Third, the article glosses over the serious vendor lock-in issue that Office 2008 presents, regardless of platform. The new “docx/xlsx/pptx” formats are really only properly read in Microsoft’s software. If everyone is forced to buy into their Office format monopoly then yes, there will be file format compatibility until Microsoft changes the file again in a few years and you (again) have to spend a large chunk of money to upgrade to the latest version. is attempting to help break this cycle by supporting the Open Document Format (ODF) in addition to the old DOC/XLS/PPT ones. ODF is free for anyone to implement, even Microsoft, and is an ISO standard. But Microsoft doesn’t support it in Office as they consider it a threat to their file format lock-in. If you must use Office 2008, avoid saving in the new format.

For Mr. Hill, the price is worth it. Others should consider the alternatives first.

10 Billion reasons Microsoft opposes a real document standard

September 14, 2007

I read about how Microsoft held a conference in Malaysia and had some Q&A about their so-called “OpenXML” file format. When asked “Why did Microsoft push OOXML through the “Fast Track” process instead of the standard ISO process? Wouldn’t they get less resistance than faced now?” the response began:

Office is a USD$10 billion revenue generator for the company. When ODF was made an ISO standard, Microsoft had to react quickly as certain governments have procurement policies which prefer ISO standards. Ecma and OASIS are “international standards”, but ISO is the international “Gold Standard”.

Now, any normal vendor would have ‘reacted quickly’ by implementing ODF quickly. But no, this is Microsoft; digital drug dealers interested in addicting their clients through vendor lock-in rather than generating real demand by creating first-rate products. So to finish the quote:

Microsoft therefore had to rush this standard [OOXML] through. Its a simple matter of commercial interests!

Not in the interest of computer users though; just say NO to OOXML. ODF is the way to go.

[Update 9/27: Even more amazing: Microsoft ITSELF refuses “to commit” to adhere to future versions of the official OOXML ‘standard’. Ugh; its like they aren’t even trying to pretend they’re in favor of interoperability anymore…]

Speaking of, I have a nice little story to share :) Sun has released a plugin for MS Office to allow it to read and write the various ODF file types. A friend of mine works in a small office where some computers run and the others run MS Office (possibly more than one version). They were saving files in DOC format to share but a file produced on one computer might not open right (or even open at all!) on another. I suggested the plugin and that problem is now solved :)

(minor update Oct. 4: version 1.1 of the plugin is now out)
Update 2: As an amusement, an image from this article which appears to be Steve Ballmer doing his Lord Voldemort impression… a little too well ^_-

I’m going to fucking kill Harry Pott… er… ODF.