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ODF Alliance, Jeremy Allison and Others Tell Microsoft to Fix Its Broken ODF Implementation

Posted in Google, IBM, Microsoft, OpenDocument, Samba, Standard at 10:17 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Gray Knowlton

Summary: The pressure is rising for Microsoft to stop vandalising interoperability while keeping disingenuous

WE KNEW that the ODF Alliance would issue such a statement and eventually, as promised, it did. Here is their document [PDF] and also the press release, which they have channeled further via PRNewsWire.

The OpenDocument Format (ODF) Alliance today cautioned that serious deficiencies in Microsoft’s support for ODF needed to be addressed to ensure greater interoperability with other ODF-supporting software.

Groklaw has already elaborated on it:

ODF Alliance Tests Microsoft Office 2007 SP2 ODF Support – Finds Serious Shortcomings

The ODF Alliance has prepared a Fact Sheet [PDF; also available as text on their website, if you scroll down] for governments and others interested in how Microsoft’s SP2 for Office 2007 handles ODF. The ODF Allliance says their testing revealed “serious shortcomings that, left unaddressed, would break the open standards based interoperability that the marketplace, especially governments, is demanding”. The Fact Sheet itemizes the major problems testing revealed. Marino Marcich, managing director of ODF Alliance, points to one huge shortcoming:

“For example, even the most basic spreadsheet functions, such as adding the numbers contained in two cells, were simply stripped in an ODF file when opened and re-saved in Microsoft Office 2007. A document created in one ODF-supporting application, when re-saved in Microsoft Office 2007, rendered differently – missing bullets, page numbers, charts and other objects, changed fonts – making collaboration on an ODF file with Office 2007 very difficult. Indeed, some of the so-called ‘plug-ins’ were revealed to provide better support for ODF than the recently released Microsoft Office 2007 SP2. This is no way to achieve the interoperability around ODF that the marketplace is demanding.”

For context, see:

For those who think that only the ODF Alliance was disappointed with Microsoft’s work, here are some more new examples of opposition. Rob Weir from IBM writes:

Last year, when I was socializing the idea of creating the OASIS ODF Interoperability and Conformance TC, I gave a presentation I called “ODF Interoperability: The Price of Success”. The observation was that standards that fail never need to deal with interoperability. The creation of test suites, convening of multi-vendor interoperability workshops and plugfests is a sign of a successful standard, one which is implemented by many vendors, one which is adopted by many users, one which has vendor-neutral venues for testing implementations and iteratively refining the standard itself.


The pretty words have been shown to be hollow words. Microsoft has not enabled choice. Their implementation is not robust. They have, in effect, taken your ODF document, written by you by your choice in an interoperable format, with demonstrated interoperability among several implementations, and corrupted it, without your knowledge or consent.

Stephane writes:

Once again they did it. Microsoft is telling the world that they are improving interoperability across existing office formats and applications thanks to their native support for the ODF file format, a leading office file format based on existing ISO standards. But it could not be further from the truth.

Microsoft are actually killing ODF, like the digital nazis that they are. Kissinger is proud of their spiritual sons.

What kind of white phosphorus are they using ?

First they don’t write to ODF but to a canada dry version that we shall call MS-ODF, a variant filled with countless exploding mines, thrown from the air like any coward would do. Namely they are implanting the proprietary Excel formula syntax right inside files expecting the ODF formula syntax as exposed by all the ODF compatible applications out there. Since formulas are used in many elements such as charts, conditional formattings and so on, it wrecks any serious spreadsheet.

The SolidOffice team was apparently angry as well:

While Microsoft Office 2007’s latest service pack purports ODF support, it’s not complete, nor does it appear designed to provide usable interoperabilty with other ODF-capable applications.

For users of MS Office who need better compatibility, the solution is the Sun ODF Plugin for Microsoft Office:

* The Sun ODF Plugin for Microsoft Office gives users of Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint the ability to read, edit and save to the ISO-standard Open Document Format (ODF).
* The plugin works with Microsoft Office 2007 (Service Pack 1 or higher), Microsoft Office 2003, XP and Microsoft Office 2000.

Jeremy Allison (Google) denounces Microsoft too, despite being one who works with Microsoft on so-called “interoperability” (Microsoft promised to assist Samba):

Yet Microsoft Office SP2 claims to have a fully compliant version of ODF, and that’s probably true, as defined by the specification. It’s just completely useless at interoperating with other vendors products. This is not interoperability, it’s an attack on the very concept.

This discussion can be also seen in ZDNet where Microsoft is claimed to be sending employees to spin (based on a whistle-blowing Microsoft employee). Here is a collection of links criticising Microsoft’s ODF approach. There is also related coverage in non-English languages.

“Microsoft is already propagating fluffy press releases about “interoperability”. It talks about ODF, so maybe they try to drown out the many critics.”Microsoft is already propagating fluffy press releases about “interoperability”. It talks about ODF, so maybe they try to drown out the many critics. Matthew Broersma parroted Microsoft at ZDNet and Elizabeth Montalbano, who is focused on Microsoft at IDG, did the same thing. This means that the real news about Microsoft destroying interoperability will be washed away by its PR. Microsoft employees and their partners twitter in harmony about a Patrick Durusau writing a letter on MSODF. He has not been reliable ever since his trip to Microsoft [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7].

As someone who is close to the process (Jomar Silva) put it (in two parts), “Microsoft is always supported by independent consultants (as Patrick Durusau, Rick Jelliffee, and Alex Brown)… Strange, isn’t it ? [...] If the[ir] partners supports them, ok, but always being supported by the same group of independent folks is, at least, weird.”

The same guy also wrote this:

As most of you already know, I spent the month of October in a marathon of speeches about ODF. During the marathon, I had the opportunity to attend some presentations about Microsoft Interoperability and would like to share with you here some information about that cool experience (the post is long but worth a read).

The first opportunity to see our friends from Redmond featuring the theme was at the rally held by them at the end of Latinoware 2008. I do not call that a presentation, because they did not allow questions from the audience, as a rally. Luckily the audience was not that big and I was on that room just be able to “write the facts” about the speech.

Another notorious Microsoft booster, Wouter van Vugt, is prodding the Microsoft line. They all pretend to be innocent, as though they are the poor victim in forking of ODF. They mess about with ODF while smiling and pretending nothing they do is ever wrong. As Microsoft’s Vice President Jim Allchin once explained it, “We need to slaughter Novell before they get stronger….If you’re going to kill someone, there isn’t much reason to get all worked up about it and angry. You just pull the trigger. Any discussions beforehand are a waste of time. We need to smile at Novell while we pull the trigger.” To twist this quote a little, Microsoft realises that it needs to slaughter ODF before it gets stronger….If they are going to kill something, there isn’t much reason to get all worked up about it and angry. They just pull the trigger. Any discussions beforehand are a waste of time. Microsoft needs to smile at ODF while it pulls the trigger.

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