06 July 2007

Decoupling Software and Standards

As you may have noticed, there is a big bust-up over office file formats going on at the moment. On the one hand, we have ODF, which is a completely open, vendor-independent standard that is supported by multiple programs, and on the other, we have Microsoft's OOXML, which is a vendor-dependent standard of sorts, unlikely to be fully implemented by anyone other than Microsoft.

The only reason this debate is taking place is because of the huge installed base of Microsoft Office, which is naturally biased towards OOXML. But with the release of Sun's ODF Plug in 1.0 for Microsoft Office, things have changed:

The Sun ODF Plug in for Microsoft Office gives users of Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint the ability to read, edit and save to the ISO-standard Open Document Format. The ODF Plug in is available as a free download from the Sun Download Center (SDLC). Download the ODF Plug in.

The Plug in is easy to setup and use, the conversion happens transparently and the additional memory footprint is minimal. Microsoft Office users now can have seamless two-way conversion of Microsoft Office documents to and from Open Document. The ODF Plug in runs on Microsoft Windows and is available in English. More language support will be available in later releases.

This is important, because it decouples the file format from the program. Now anyone - including Microsoft Office users - can opt for a truly open format, not one that aspires to this condition.

We can only hope that the UK's National Archives, making an extraordinary amount of noise about solving a problem largely of Microsoft's making, will use the new plug-in to convert files stored in proprietary formats into the safest long-term solution - ODF.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

The new Sun Plugin only works for Office 2003 documents and before, not MS-OOXML documents as I understand. IBM might try, but I don't think Sun is going anywhere near MS-OOXML, nor do they need to.

I've urged anyone using Office 2007 to save their files in .doc/xls format, since as you say, MS-OOXML is a vendor specification of its own proprietary format, nothing more.

What is also nice is to see many of the online apps like Google and Zoho using ODF over MS-OOXML. In fact none of the Web 2.0 office apps use MS-OOXML yet. I'm still taking bets on whether they ever will!

glyn moody said...

I can't find any information detailing which formats it supports: do you have a link for this?