Bonum Certa Men Certa

OOXML a Descent Into Dark Ages in Today's Age of Collaboration

Knightly helmet



Summary: Microsoft's OOXML is proving to be more of a farce now that people in Australia respond to absurd suggestions; Novell influence in LibreOffice is poisonous (promotes OOXML); some businesses may choose hosted spreadsheets that can render the formats debate less relevant

SOME days ago we wrote about Australia making a fatal mistake (post available in Spanish too) by assuming that Microsoft's proprietary formats will help ensure compatibility. The stupidity surrounding this assertion has been noted just about everywhere by now. Rob Weir from IBM wrote:



Australia has rejected the ISO version of OOXML and gone with the Ecma version that ISO rejected. Is everything upside down there?


Later he added:

@homembit It is a slap in the face for the OOXML efforts in SC34. With PDF they specified the ISO version, for example.


Microsoft's 'fox' Alex Brown already spins it in Twitter and in his blog. How appalling. And other OOXML drones like Jesper Lund Stocholm are there as well, as expected. But anyway, the subject has been covered extensively by now (if not here then elsewhere) and we are a lot more concerned about Novell's influence inside LibreOffice. It continues to cause problems, based on this LWN report which has just been made publicly available. It says:

Just before the end of the year, Larry Gusaas called on the LibreOffice community to refuse to support the writing of OOXML files. Standard OpenOffice.org is able to read such files, but will not write them; that is, according to Larry, how things should be. But LibreOffice is based on the Go-oo project, which is the version of OpenOffice.org which has actually been shipped by most Linux distributions. This version does have the ability to write OOXML files; thus, LibreOffice does as well.

Quite a few people supported Larry's desire for read-only OOXML support in LibreOffice; one could easily peruse the thread and come to the conclusion that the LibreOffice community is overwhelming opposed to the idea of writing in that format. Even so, a number of LibreOffice developers have made it clear (repeatedly) that they have no intention of removing the ability to write OOXML files. There is, thus, no need to worry that we might have to go on using Go-oo after all.


We wrote about this before [1, 2]. Just a day or so ago it was a Novell employee who announced the latest release/build of LibreOffice, so there is room for concern. Novell was paid by Microsoft to support OOXML and LibreOffice should stay true to its promise of avoiding OOXML.

As one last bit of news, consider as food for thought the fact that more companies choose collaboration with SaaS, including wikis for example. Google Apps is one example of it, but there are more. The IDG article "Why some companies are ditching their spreadsheets" sheds some more light about what may become a trend, especially now that spreadsheets become ever more massive and sometimes require compute clusters to work with.

Cohen's frustration with spreadsheets is not unique. As decision-making becomes more collaborative and workforces grow more distributed and global, the days of compiling a spreadsheet, mailing or e-mailing it to colleagues, then manually inputting updates and re-sending it seem antiquated.


A transition to the back end (server) for large operations on massive databases may lead to further distancing from Microsoft Office/OOXML. Maybe it is time to rethink the relevance of interchange formats that mostly apply to desktop computing.

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