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Return to original subject: The Nuclear Option
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 28 2007 @ 04:06 PM CDT

> Please, could you put in writing that OOXML describes all MS' earlier formats, that it faithfully describes MS Office 07 output to such an extend
> that ALL of it can be read and written by other applications and that MS will make sure future versions of Office will indeed use this format or its
> later versions as their default format. Also we would like a declaration that MS will follow future versions of ISO OOXML in their office suits.

That OOXML can carry the same information as earlier binary formats can be verified by whether old files can be imported into Office: after about 10 months or more of release, there has only been a couple of shortfalls that I have heard of, but these seem to be Office 2007 bugs rather than file format issues AFAICS. Whether it is 99.999% or 99.9% of the information from the binaries, I cannot say. No-one needs to trust my word or your word, they can look for articles saying that Office 2007 cannot handle feature X (since OOXML is the native format.)

That DIS 29500 describes all the output: it is clear that it does describe in enormous detail and that people have had no trouble implementing it, except for a handful of edge cases where there are flags to say that the document may have been affected by a bug from a particular version of Word, but not describing the bug in much detail. These include incredibly trivial things: the most common example cited concerns formating full-width spaces like Word 95: however full-width spaces are only used in conjunction with ideographic characters, and this only really effects some kinds of CJK text (probably just the Japanese) and is not even implemented in recent version of Word (on my testing.) Even more telling, the Japanese National Body's comments on this issue do not make a big fuss about it: they have an admirable sense of proportion: it is extraordinary that the parrot nations who don't use ideographic characters should think that bugs relating to zenkaku spaces are so important, while Japan Standards Association thinks it is so minor. 

But, all that being said, Ecma have said they will get documentation describing the flags better for FDIS 29500. All drafts have incomplete sections. Big deal.

Of course, OOXML is no different from HTML or ODF in being extensible, so they all can contain media files or other binaries in any arbitrary type.  That is not an issue of DIS29500 but of extensibility.

On the issue of what MS will do, it is important. If  FDIS29500 does not get accepted as a standard, what is there to stop them arbitrarily changing Office's format?  It plays directly into their hands to have OOXML non-standard, and you should not fool yourself that their enthusiasm for standards is not a cost of doing business that they would rather do without.  They are standardizing because the anti-trust writing is on the wall, so they are trying to get the best result they can, given that, IMHO.  Having MS open up, document, clarify their IP, get review, put a process where other stakeholders get some kind of input, all these are wins for users including the Open Source community.

As for commitments to IS29500, when it is finalized at the BRM then everyone will be able to see whether they can live with it. It is no different from ISO PDF: if the ISO committees tinkered with it to make the ISO version of PDF incompatible, then they would stroy its value.

> And you work closely with MS people. If you don;t know, why should we trust anyone else.

Well, I have done maybe four or five weeks work  for them as a client (schema conversion, training courses, editing, seminars) in my life (excluding travel time), and I have never even signed a non-disclosure agreement.  I don't know if that counts as "working closely"...  

Or is it just that anyone who disagrees with you must be in the thrall of the enemy?

Rick
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