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OpenDocument, Microsoft Office, and Novell’s Open Source Presentation

Posted in Formats, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Standard at 8:33 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell is responsible for delivering a keynote talk on Open Source. Fortunately, no intellectual property is mentioned in the following article, unlike others.

Faigen is Novell’s vice president and general manager for Linux, which is an open source operating system. “Open source” is a type of computer program where the code is open for all to see, rewrite and improve upon. Open source programs, such as the Web browser Firefox, are generally free to download, although companies such as Novell charge a fee to provide support for open source systems.

More interesting, nonetheless, is the following short article. It shows that, despite Microsoft’s claims that ODF support would make Office unstable, supporting it should actually be trivial. This post even makes recommendations.

Even though it is true that the ODF Plugin for MS Office does only exist in advanced proof-of-concept form, this kind of reaction disappoints and sorely rankles on the personal level (not when coming from Microsoft .Net programmers, for example, but when coming from the open source or ODF communities who should better ken the levers of oppression; and, for example, the pro-open source companies who are either AWOL completely if not actively derrogatory of the Foundation’s plugin solution either out of fear, greed, ignorance or a potent cocktail of all three). We would expect — and I say here, damand — more flexibility of imagination under the circumstances that a good, working solution for Massachusetts and Europe would help significantly to turn the tide against entrenched bad habits that are very hard to change.

A lot more was said about ODF support in Microsoft Office just several days ago. To demonstrate the poor state of Microsoft’s ODF plugin, have a look at the following two items.

Taking Microsoft’s ODF Plugin for a Spin… Splat

If you were thinking that Microsoft’s newly announced ODF plugin means you could just stay with Microsoft and still easily save documents as ODF, which is I’m sure what they hope you are thinking, you need to see this.


So the question to ask is why Microsoft integrates ODF in a way which treats it as a 2nd class citizen, treated less favorably than even Plain Text?

Mind you, Microsoft built this plugin using some free software which it had grabbed from SourceForge. Also see the following confession of a ‘test dummy’.

I created a .doc in Word 2007. I used a variety of fonts and sizes of fonts to create it. I saved it as .doc, .rtf and .docx. I then opened, or tried to, the resultant files in OpenOffice Writer. The .doc opened fine and displayed the document with the formatting as I had made it on Word. The .rtf file opened as expected and the .docx wouldn’t open at all. I expected this to be the case.

I then saved the .doc as an .odt file in OOWriter and transferred it to the Windows machine and opened it via the Word2007 odt addon. After Word had converted it, it opened in Word and looked exactly the same as when I created it. I then saved it back to .doc (save as .odt is not working (at present?). I then transferred the saved .doc back to the Linux box and opened it in OOWriter and all the formatting had gone.

This is a stupid dirty trick (as far as I can tell). It basically means that Word (as it stands now) is deliberately stripping away the formatting in .odt files when it saves them to .doc (currently the only format that OOWriter can work with from Word). It’s not that Word can’t render the formatting from an odt file, just that it strips it away when saving back to .doc. Bear in mind that this part of the process does not require the odt addon.

This pretty much covers the state of OpenDocument support in Microsoft Office, although some references may be out of date.

A lot has been happening on the OOXML front in the post week, so here’s a good summary of events. Novell will, as expected, proabably follow Microsoft’s lead on the issue of formats and standards (or ‘standards’), although the promise was to make ODF the default format.

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  1. Stephane Rodriguez said,

    January 28, 2007 at 2:38 am


    Sorry to rain on your parade, but you need to do a little more work in regards to the DOCX ==> ODT limitations.

    First, you may see that both articles you refer to were written on July 2006, while the CleverAge project has been running full speed since approximately that period (as it became sponsored by Microsoft and officially announced). So you need to do the test right now with the latest ODF addon for your comment to have any merit.

    While you are at it, why not start crying foul about the poor support for XLSX ==> ODS spreadsheet conversion ? If you read the mission statement from CleverAge, you know they have not made any work in this area so far, and that it is supposed to happen once the work with Word documents is complete. Wishful thinking I know, but that’s it.

    Second, it is true that CleverAge has prioritized the ODT ==> DOCX conversion over the opposite way. Sorry again to have to tell you that this was clearly written in their agenda that they would do the work like this. If I am not wrong the work the other way has only begun since December 2006. I guess it would be fair right now, two months after, to take a fair look at where it is.

    Third, there are real round-trip limitations in the conversion, and this was pointed out by a number of people including the CleverAge guy himself, Jean Goffinet. This is, in my view, worth pointing out because it means their work will never achieve 100% round-trip. If 100% round-trip is required for government requirement purposes, then THIS is a show-stopper.

    Disclaimer : I don’t work for Microsoft, and am not part of CleverAge team either. I have even posted objections against OOXML so you get an idea where I am at. Just want to disambiguate true information from FUD.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 28, 2007 at 5:48 am


    Thanks, Stephane, and many apologies for the misinterpretation. :-) Your input is a very valuable one.

  3. Bayerischer Wald said,

    November 10, 2007 at 4:28 pm


    I think these blog is really useful for new comers and Excellent resource list.
    It´s a very interesting Blog and simple answer of many questions.
    Keep up the good work!
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