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

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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