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15 July 2010, 15:13

OpenDocument 1.2 available for review for 60 days

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The complete draft of version 1.2 of the OpenDocument (ODF) standard was made publicly available at the end of last week. Developers, potential users and other interested parties are invited to submit their comments on the draft before the 6th of September. Before the end of the fourth quarter of 2010, the members of the OASIS working group lead by Rob Weir, followed by the entire OASIS (Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) membership, will vote on whether to adopt the draft as an official OASIS standard.

If it goes through, the standard will then be presented to the interdisciplinary ISO (International Standardisation Organisation) to be ratified as the current version of the ISO 26300 standard. OASIS is in charge of maintaining this standard, and its stated aim is to promote the interoperability, that is the ability to exchange documents, between different office suites. OASIS Logo

Version 1.2 of the ODF has been particularly improved in terms of mathematical formulae. Having been split up into three parts, the draft standard now dedicates its entire part 2 to OpenFormula, which is the definition of mathematical instructions in spreadsheets. According to a blog post by Rob Weir, OpenFormula is not just designed to be used as a part of ODF, but also as a stand alone syntax for other applications such as a separate equation parser.

Microsoft in particular had repeatedly criticised the previously only rudimentary definition of mathematical formulae in ODF spreadsheets as an interoperability flaw of the OpenDocument standard. The competing OOXML standard, driven by MS, describes every mathematical function that may appear as part of a formula in an Excel spreadsheet cell in great detail – which is one of the reasons why the Microsoft standard in turn has been heavily criticised for its more than 6,000 printed pages. The ODF 1.2 specification including OpenFormula comprises 1,100 pages.

It remains unclear what impact the progress at OASIS will have on the implementation of traditional office suites. The most important exponent of OpenDocument characteristics is the free OpenOffice suite, which already promised to save ODF 1.2-compliant documents when version 3.1 was released over a year ago. It doesn't require special visionary powers to realise that the version of OpenOffice released at the time can't be fully compliant with the current draft of ODF 1.2. Of course, Microsoft has to deal with similar problems. It is just as impossible for Microsoft to claim that the default formats of its Office 2007 and Office 2010 office suites are exactly compliant with ISO standard 29500 for the OOXML document format.

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