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Star/OpenOffice XML Format To Become ISO Standard? 509

Posted by Hemos
from the good-news-if-true dept.
Emil Brink writes "According to this entry in XML spec co-author Tim Bray's excellent blog, the European Commission has formally asked Sun to make the XML file format used in OpenOffice.org into a true ISO standard. Hopefully this will cut down on vendor lock-in and lure people from using Microsoft Office. "
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Star/OpenOffice XML Format To Become ISO Standard?

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  • by garcia (6573) * on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:41AM (#10361718)
    Why would it lure people from Microsoft? People don't just use Office because they are forced into it. They use it because the alternatives suck. Yeah, Abiword is smaller and faster and takes up a little bit less RAM but it doesn't work as well as Word. Yeah, StarOffice/OO are open-source and free but they don't have the features that Word does.

    People use MSFT because they are already locked in. Word does what they want it to do (and sometimes a lot more than they want it to). Just because Sun gets to set the standard in XML doesn't mean that Office users are going to give two shits... As long as their Word documents continue to open and they can continue to email DOC attachments to their email instead of just typing in the body of the email they are happy.

    What will lure people away from Office is something that is somehow BETTER than Office. It will be free, it will be marketed, and it will be seven levels above Office in functionality. Honestly, as great as the OSS alternatives seem they just aren't Office/Word. You have to create a superior product and then market it. That's where OSS falls behind.

    Everyone thinks that Firefox is so great. People weren't switching because they didn't know about it. Once IE vulnerabilities started showing up left and right they were alerted to the fact by mass media marketing. Sure, some people saw it and moved and even more didn't because they don't get their news from anything but the scrolling ticker below Survivor and The Apprentice...
    • by Alranor (472986) on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:47AM (#10361773)
      Yeah, StarOffice/OO are open-source and free but they don't have the features that Word does.

      Which features?

      And how many people actually use those features?
      • by Xoro (201854) on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:53AM (#10361837)

        Which features?

        And how many people actually use those features?

        Outline mode! That floating navigator is lame.

        And the problem with the "how many people use those features" argument is that while almost nobody uses all of them, many people use one or two of them. I make do with OOo, but if I did a lot more word processing, I'd probably spring for word and that crossover thing to run it.

        • by magefile (776388) on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:03AM (#10361928)
          I spend the majority of my "working time" on the computer word processing, and I actually prefer OO.o. Particularly because of it's UI (for example, double-space is two clicks, not six). And I can create my own outline, thank you very much. Better that way, too, since it gets you to think about what you've written rather than just pressing a button.
        • by dorward (129628) on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:17AM (#10362053) Homepage Journal

          Outline mode! That floating navigator is lame.

          The navigator is fantastic, I love it. (And it is only floating by default, it docks quite happily).

        • Features I use everyday that OO doesn't have:

          1. A spell checker that doesn't suck. I have found numerous REAL dictionary included words that OO doesn't recognize. Furthermore, OO has problems with spell checker word recommendations. Often it gives me horrible suggestions for my mispellings, MSFT WORD does much better under the same recommendations.

          2. NO GRAMMAR CHECK!!!

          I switched to OO because I hate supporting the MSFT, but when I started writing my documents in OO and then editing them in MSFT WORD I r
          • by Bertie (87778) on Monday September 27, 2004 @10:46AM (#10363014)
            1 It's a bad habit to get into, depending on a spell checker. You're much better off learning to spell and proofread things properly. And I don't mean that to sound like I'm trying to belittle your intelligence - I don't know whether you're any good at spelling or not. I'm just saying that spellcheckers are bad. I never, ever use them, mostly because I can spell, but partly because I don't trust them, since they can't spot correctly spelled words used in the wrong context.

            2 MS Word's grammar checker is useless. It's just plain wrong most of the time. I accept that a spellchecker can perform a useful function, namely making a first pass over a document to pick out obvious bloopers for those too lazy to take the time to type and read it properly. But if you follow your grammar checker's instructions to the letter, you'll end up producing stilted, formulaic prose, devoid of any kind of individual flair. There's absolutely no substitute for learning how to do it yourself, by simply reading a lot.

            If they didn't include spelling and grammar checkers, I wouldn't miss them a bit. And personally I think the grammar checker's a false friend which we'd all be better off without.
            • by schvenk (466484) * on Monday September 27, 2004 @11:53AM (#10363783) Homepage
              It's a bad habit to get into, depending on a spell checker.

              First of all, I disagree. My spelling is good but I rely heavily on spelling checkers to catch typos. They won't catch a typo that resulted in a valid word, but they sure help.

              Second of all, even if I agreed it wouldn't be relevant. You're not likely to convince people to switch applications by telling them they shouldn't rely on a feature they've come to expect.

              MS Word's grammar checker is useless. It's just plain wrong most of the time.

              I use the grammar checker much as I use the spelling checker: To catch typing mistakes. Sure, most of its suggestions aren't great, but it will catch sentences where, in the course of rewording something, I ended up with two "the"s in a row or something.

            • by Spoing (152917) on Monday September 27, 2004 @12:53PM (#10364393) Homepage
              1. There's absolutely no substitute for learning how to do it yourself, by simply reading a lot.

              The best 'trick' I can pass along:

              1. If you write something that is important,
              2. read it aloud. Correct anything that sounds wrong.
      • by mgkimsal2 (200677) on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:56AM (#10361865) Homepage
        And how many people actually use those features?

        Enough use individual features that it makes it impossible (or difficult) for those users to switch away. Each niche feature may only appeal to a small % of users, but taken collectively, there are a much larger number of those users who depend on those features too much to move away.

        Additionally, it's not even about features for many people - it's about compatibility. Many of my family members use MSOffice at their offices and won't switch because the cost of converting and testing their Excel macros is too much to justify the conversion. And that's being generous assuming that 100% of what needs to be achieved in Excel via macros *could* be accomplished via StarBasic or whatever it's called in ooo.
        • Most use it becuase it is what is familiar and they have heard that everyone else uses MS Office.

          Most people do not have any idea how to save in a format other than the default. I have seen people insist on using MS Office because they did not want to learn how to use "save as" to save an essay for class in .doc in MS Works. I have seen idiots refuse .rtf docs because they could not figure out how to open them in Word. They would open in Wordpad if they double clicked on them.
      • by krunk7 (748055) on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:11AM (#10362015)
        Excel, graphing. I'm a linux user and for chem. labs we had to plot data sets for our weekly lab reports. Using Excel this was a trivial task which required absolutely no knowledge of the inner workings of the spreadsheet to produce really nice looking reports.
        In Linux I tried Gnumeric (nice and coming along fast, but still not even up to par) and OpenOffice (not even close).
        And no, it had nothing to do with "being familar with the Excel way". I'd never needed to perform spreadsheet tasks before...it took me quite a while of reading docs to figure out how to even do a linear regression that looked nice in the GNU alternatives whereas it's a matter of 2 clicks of the mouse in Excel.

        Your preaching to the choir when it comes to me and open source, but MS has the best office suite around............period.

        • LaTeX (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Ardanwen (746930)
          For the people that want their documents to look good, latex is a very nice alternative to Word / OO.
        • wrong example (Score:4, Informative)

          by an_mo (175299) on Monday September 27, 2004 @10:08AM (#10362637) Journal
          Linear regression in excel:

          LINEST(y's range,x's range,1,1)

          Linear regression in open office:

          LINEST(y's range,x's range,1,1)

        • A lot of people say that and to be honest I never understood. I moved away from spreadsheet graphing back in the days when I was still using Excel. The graphs never worked the way I needed them to. At first I went for Grapher, and later to gnuplot. Batch graphing is way more useful.

          Reformatting 100+ graphs by changing a single file when your supervisor thinks that the graphs should look like "this" instead... o, no, let's make it "this" now... beats any other approach. Of course, when I have a bit
        • by Wolfbone (668810) on Monday September 27, 2004 @10:25AM (#10362784)
          Using Excel for school level science may be acceptable but as the UK NPL and others have found [csdassn.org], Excel is the one that is not up to par, Gnumeric is greatly superior and scientists should not blindly trust the software they use anyway - especially when the only way to verify it's reliability is to treat it to empirical scientific investigation itself, amusing though that may be.
      • by Aceto3for5 (806224) on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:37AM (#10362282)
        Microsoft Pricetag(tm) and Microsoft HardToOpenBox (tm). Those kinda features.
      • A couple of features at least my company loves...

        a) I know its a heavily debated topic, but my company LOVES the embedded DRM protections in documents - and all the federal customers we work with are also paying very close attention to it. Given the frequency with which you see a word doc accidentally posted online or forwarded to a non-company resource by accident... our management digs the ability to limit viewers of a file to our local network, and deny printing, editting, etc, to certain departments.
      • OLE (Score:4, Interesting)

        by 955301 (209856) on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:44AM (#10362350) Journal
        Here's one that isn't in OpenOffice, and probably won't ever be.

        It would enormously help my development process to be able to create a document whose tables are dynamically linked from a spreadsheet.

        In my case, the spreadsheet is a four column list of requirements (#, name, description, criteria to test). I'd like this to be the origin of all requirements, from which the SRS pulls line items and the build process checks source to confirm that every Req is represented in the object model, and no unaccounted for methods exist.

        I can't do it in OpenOffice. I can open the spreadsheet file and pull requirements in the build, but I can't keep the SRS in sync with the requirements spreadsheet automatically to avoid document cruft.
      • Which features?

        OpenOffice.org actually gets in your way more than Word by default, which is truly amazing. The main feature I wish it had is better Word compatibility. When I open a Word document, it should not:
        1. Dump core immediately
        2. Dump core later
        3. Get confused about where the cursor is and show it 3 words off from where my typing shows up
        4. Look different from the Word document
        5. Save in Word format in a way that will make Word show it differently than OpenOffice.org did

        I've had virtually all of thes

      • Outlook Calendar, for one. Sunbird just isn't there yet. Any other suggesstions for server based calendaring programs are welcome.
      • >> Yeah, StarOffice/OO are open-source and free but they don't have the features that Word does.
        > Which features?

        I prefer OO.org myself, but here's a short list of a few problems I've found

        - Word Art doesn't display or print correctly.
        - Table of Contents is cut off in an imported Word Doc.
        - No way to search for 2 consequitive enter/returns without some plugin that is slow, and doesn't work properly. (Find / Special Characters really needs to be implemented properly and natively.)
        - Copying format
      • And how many people actually use those features?

        Everyone uses all of them. You have to look at "everyone" as a group, and not as individuals. Not every individual is going to use every feature, but when you lump every individual into everyone, you'll see that every feature gets used by someone, somewhere at some times.

        MS does a lot of research into what people want in their word processors and spreadsheets. If the OO team did the same, OO would have at least as many as the Office suite. It doesn't ma
    • by Paulrothrock (685079) on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:48AM (#10361790) Homepage Journal
      I know it's early monday morning but...

      People don't just use Office because they are forced into it.

      And then...

      People use MSFT because they are already locked in.

      Preview button, people!

      As a web developer, I would prefer the XML document format to Word's format particularly because I can use different XSLT to display the data, meaning our clients would have greater control over their web sites without having to contact us for a lot of the changes. Just FTP the document to a specific directory and PHP can parse it out into a live page in a few minutes.

    • by mks113 (208282) <[mks] [at] [kijabe.org]> on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:51AM (#10361818) Homepage Journal
      I don't believe in your arguement. If there is an alternative standard, people could switch to say, abiword, knowing that they can easily move their documents to OpenOffice.org if it doesn't do all they want. It is also an iterative process. The software will become better developed once it is picks up a larger user base.

      An established standard will force microsoft to at least read it, though perhaps not write to it. I think that it would open a world of choice.

      It would be more like Linux distros. You can have a bunch of them, all competing, but they are standard enough to be interchangeable without a complete change in business practice.
    • by beh (4759) * on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:51AM (#10361820)
      Well, it depends on what happens afterwards. Government bodies usually request all electronic documents given to them to be in a standard format. If there actually WOULD be an ISO norm format for office documents, you can bet that government agencies (and large companies that exchange documents with them) will want to use such a format.
      This could possibly even force MS hand into complying with this format (or at least offer REALLY good import/export filters for these formats).

    • by gihan_ripper (785510) on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:52AM (#10361825) Homepage
      The main thing that stops me using OpenOffice is its poor interoperability with MS Office. Perhaps the European Union can twist Microsoft's arm to release details of MS Office file formats? This, above all else, would help to boost the number of OpenOffice users.
      • RTFA. They recommended that MS make their formats open by submitting them to standards bodies; stop using non-XML formats (only some stuff is currently XML); and (I think) read OO.o files. So they didn't twist MS's arm, but they did encourage the release of those formats.
    • Agreed. Anyone who thinks standards compliance is going materially affect anyone's market share should share what they're smoking.

      I would go your analysis one step further and say that people use Word, not because it does what people want it to do, but because so many other people use it. It is living proof of MSFT's continued reliance on being the "de facto standard" as opposed to an actual established standard.

      Market share is its own reward and its own enforcer. Any competitor to any of MSFT's establ
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:59AM (#10361892)
        But if the EU Commission decided that it will require all its office documents from 2007 onwards to be in the ISO standard format, then you can bet that Microsoft would come up with good support for the standard format, and that would be a real step towards levelling the playing field in office software.
        • by hwestiii (11787) on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:26AM (#10362147) Homepage
          That's a good point, but it relates to legislative compliance, not standards compliance. At least not directly.

          An EU mandate would represent a much larger stick than an ISO standard represents a carrot.
          • Once it's an ISO standard, I can easily imagine EU-wide legislation requiring that all government documents that (A) must be stored long-term, or (B) provided to the public, be provided in such a standard format.

            Actually, it's a bad idea to depend on ANY single vendor for the format of important records that have to be held long-term. We can still read the Magna Carta, no problem. Anyone tried to read Microsoft PowerPoint version 2 files? Or WordStar files? Even Word Perfect is increasingly complicat

    • I use OpenOffice on a daily basis. In short, it does all the things I need it to. If there are features in Microsoft Office that OpenOffice Does not support, I obviously don't need them. But maybe thats just me... I dont agree that shiny new features are whats needed to make people switch to another office suite. I would guess that most people use less than 20% of the features already available in Word (Or OO.o or whatever). Its really a hen and egg situation, people will use what everybody else is using,
    • by archeopterix (594938) * on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:54AM (#10361840) Journal
      Why would it lure people from Microsoft? People don't just use Office because they are forced into it.
      This, of course isn't true in case of people who must use Office because it's a part of their corporate desktop standard.

      People who actually create the standards like having buzzwords like "ISO standard" and "XML" somehow connected to what they pick - it looks good in reports.

    • by bigberk (547360) <bigberk@users.pc9.org> on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:54AM (#10361845)
      What will lure people away from Office is something that is somehow BETTER than Office.
      I use OO for everything because I think it is better than MS Office. Most importantly, it runs on several platforms - whether I'm on a Windows desktop, Linux desktop, or Sun UNIX station I can edit and print the same documents. Second (touching on the article's issue) I know that the data stored in OpenOffice's files will have superior longevity to any proprietary solution.

      I don't worry too much about proprietary software and closed source, but where data longevity is concerned I do care. Have you ever taken a look at those SXW word processor files? They're just ZIP archives containing several XML files, one for style, one for content, etc. Extracting the data from OO's data files is easy to do.
    • by mantera (685223) on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:09AM (#10361986)


      What are you talking about?!! I have office 2003 on this machine i'm working/typing on but what do I use as my office application? Opeonoffice/Staroffice. Why? because it's already BETTER!

      It will always be available to me, it uses smaller yet more reliable and open file format, it works faster than MS word and can even open word files that word itself chokes on, its autosave function is FAR more reliable than word's autorecovery, it never messes up formatting and especially outlines and bulleted lists the way word habitually does, i love the autocomplete feature, stylist and navigator are GREAT for accessibilty and ease of use, I like its templates/autotext/macros and the way they're implemented, I like the way its toolbars and keyboard shortcuts are customizable more than i like the way word does them.
    • by jeif1k (809151) on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:09AM (#10361988)
      Why would it lure people from Microsoft? People don't just use Office because they are forced into it. They use it because the alternatives suck.

      There are many different kinds of people. I'm sure there are a few MS Office users that, after careful evaluation of the alternatives, have come to the conclusion that MS Office is the best office suite for them, but I suspect that group is pretty small. There is also a group of people who, after careful evaluation of the alternatives, have concluded that MS Office sucks; when those people use MS Office, they do so because Microsoft controls the standard.

      And then there is the last, and probably by far largest, group of users: people who use MS Office not because they prefer it but because it is the only office suite they know and because switching to something else would be a big hassle. Part of that hassle is having to learn a new UI, and another part of that hassle is to try to convert documents in Microsoft's proprietary format.

      and it will be seven levels above Office in functionality.

      The needs of most users are more than adequately covered by versions of Microsoft Office that are several years old, as well as by Open Office. Offering more features is not going to make an open source office suite win against Microsoft Office.

      Quite to the contrary: an open source office suite probably can win away users by being more usable and offering fewer features than Microsoft Office.
      • I have never seen a company wanting to invest in OpenOffice because they just weren't approached by any sales guy. Managers who make purchasing decisions where they have to buy 20,000 licences have to think in terms of support. M$ office has support and sales guys, that's for sure. Whether it's a better product? It's questionable.

    • by spectrokid (660550) on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:27AM (#10362153) Homepage
      It's not all pointy haired bosses out there. In the pharma industry, you see software standards like CFR PART 11 being inforced top down. There are rules about documentation retention. All you need is a rule describing in which format they have to be retained... and if there is an ISO format available, then regulation-heavy industries like pharma, nuclear, etc. might jump on board faster then you think. Off course if MS makes a nice export filter....
    • by rseuhs (322520) on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:39AM (#10362298)
      Creating an ISO-Standard helps a lot:

      • First it offers a safe investment. If it's a good standard that is supported by several programs, even if your preferred program might not work or not be available or is discontinued, you can just use another.
      • One of the biggest problems with MS Office is the changing of formats. People are sick of it. When it's a standard, it will stay the same, maybe not forever, but a lot longer than if it were no standard
      • If for some reason or the other your favorite office program can't open a file, you can try another one.
      • And of course ISO-stuff is PHB-compatible
  • by provolt (54870) on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:41AM (#10361723)
    The best thing about standards, is that there are so many to choose from!
  • Patent Threat? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jobsagoodun (669748) on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:42AM (#10361726)
    Can the ISO standardize an MS-Patented way of saving documents??!!
  • I wonder.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Eriky (724600) on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:43AM (#10361736) Homepage
    I wonder if microsoft will support that format too. It would be childish not to, but I wouldn't be suprised if they would totally ignore it and continue using there own format in M$ Word
    • Re:I wonder.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Lord_Slepnir (585350) on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:07AM (#10361969) Journal
      Kind of how like how Microsoft (please, don't ever use 'M$') obeys ANSI C standards in VC, like how they oben the W3C html standards in Internet Explorer.

      How many microsoft engineers does it take to change a lightbulb? None. They just declare darkness to be the new standard.

      • > How many microsoft engineers does it take to change a lightbulb? None. They just declare darkness to be the new standard.

        No they don't. Microsoft never explicitely creates standards. Instead they would use their global monopoly to force darkness into being mainstream. Once it is done, all light sources become unused by the general public and slowly die from lack of user base, even though they were superior to darkness in the first place.
    • Re:I wonder.. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by antiMStroll (664213)
      Not only would they support it, they'd extend and enhance it!
    • they may have to (Score:3, Informative)

      by jeif1k (809151)
      There is a real chance that, if the OOo format becomes an ISO standard, organizations will put it onto their requirements checklist. In that case, Microsoft may not have much of a choice but to implement it.
  • by Exter-C (310390) on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:44AM (#10361744) Homepage
    To really lure people away from office Staroffice/OpenOffice really needs to have a better office document standard support. I have been having issues with trying to open excell spreadsheets that are password protected. I then have to ask the person to mail me them with the password removed. Thats the penalty for using FreeBSD/Linux and OpenSource office packages. However Im in love with them after using it and cant go back to windows and office.

    Its the small bugs that make a big difference to the end user. Especially when opposite products own such a large market share.
    • by MemoryDragon (544441) on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:52AM (#10361822)
      It is just that the Microsoft format ist not really a standard. Face it the MSO formats are all undocumented, the Star division did several manyears of reverse engineering of the formats to achieve the results which exist now. And there is no alternative office product currently in existence than the ones from Microsoft which are able to handle the undocumented Microsoft formats better. OOO sometimes handles these formats even better than various office versions in between, which are prone to crash if the document has an error or some weird ole stream within the document cannot be found. The whole file format situation of MSO is a huge mess which Microsoft tries to get away from as well. (hence the move to a documenten but with patents plastered xml baseds office format) Btw. yes I know there exists an official specification to the old office formats, but face it they are nothing more than a nice fairytale contentwise.
      • by Dr. Evil (3501) on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:13AM (#10362028)

        OOO sometimes handles these formats even better than various office versions in between

        This is a very important point which doesn't get stressed enough when people complain about MS office compatability.

        Even different version of MS Office has trouble reading MS Office documents consistently... or a more appropriate comparison... even the same version of MS Office, for MacOS v.s. Windows has trouble reading MS Office documents consistently.

        People also tend to rely heavily on the idiosyncracies of their local configuration (printer metrics, fonts, paper size) to align and layout their documents. An awful lot of people who write documents lack basic wordprocessing skills, yet they attempt complex desktop publishing tasks using a wordprocessor(!)

        When these documents are converted into a different wordprocessor, it is no wonder that OOO can't match the nonsense arbitrary document layout ... it can't possibly know the idosyncracies of Bob's Win2k machine with a Lexmark printer, although it can attempt to match the idosyncracies of Bob's wordprocessor.

    • by jeif1k (809151) on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:13AM (#10362030)
      When the OpenOffice file format becomes an ISO standard, Microsoft may be forced to support it, since organizations will likely put "ISO office document standard compliance" into their requirements.

      Staroffice/OpenOffice really needs to have a better office document standard support.

      The problem is: Microsoft Office formats are not a "standard"; they aren't even a "de-facto standard" or a "proprietary standard". They are simply whatever Microsoft's codebase happens to write into files this release. It's impossible to be fully compatible with that. Not even Microsoft manages to.

      That's why an ISO standard office document format would be so important.
  • by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79 @ g m ail.com> on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:44AM (#10361752) Homepage
    "Hopefully this will cut down on vendor lock-in and lure people from using Microsoft Office."

    I doubt that a lot of people will abandon what has been hammered into them for years in favor of an open standard. There's not a lot of perceived value in switching.... yet!

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:45AM (#10361756) Homepage
    This kind of move cuts down on vendor lock-in if and only if the dominant vendor (in this case m$) chooses to conform to the standard rather than do their own thing. So don't hold your breath.
  • by tgd (2822) on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:46AM (#10361767)
    Why? Businesses don't care about interoperability. They care about integration around business practices, workflow, rights management and collaboration.

    OpenOffice has a long ways to go before it offers the sort of functionality that real businesses need, not mom-n-pop or real small businesses that don't actually manage their best practices.

    I know I'm going to get modded into the toilet for saying it, but this is from years of experience in enterprise applications. OpenOffice might get there some day, but not until the people working on it and with applications around it are people who actually have made a living building advanced Fortune-50 caliber integrated information systems.
    • by julesh (229690) on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:55AM (#10361850)
      Businesses don't care about interoperability.

      Huh? I hear interoperability concerns cited as the number one reason that businesses still use Windows & MS Office. It has become standard practice in recent years for business documents (e.g. proposals, invoices, etc.) to be passed around as MS Word documents. People are nervous to move away from MS Word because they are concerned that they might not be able to open these documents in another system. They get worried about MS's FUD about OpenOffice not being able to open some huge percentage of MS documents.

      Sure, your Fortune 50 companies may need some features that OO doesn't provide, but the number of office suite users in those companies is a small minority compared to those in SMEs.

      An interesting point about OO's file format is that it is very conducive to being manipulated by external programs. And if it becomes ISO standardised, then that would provide some level of assurance that the format will be supported long term. This kind of thing can be important when it comes to building an information management system around the files.
      • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:18AM (#10362067) Homepage
        It has become standard practice in recent years for business documents (e.g. proposals, invoices, etc.) to be passed around as MS Word documents.

        not true. I rarely see a .DOC file in the company for ANY business documents, including files from outside the company.

        I see PDF files as the defacto standard for communication.

        PDF is the only file format that guarentees that anyone you send it to can read it.

        I have not seen .DOC sent around for a long time. Granted, some silly people in Marketing, specifically the new ones, try to use .PPT files as their preferred communication style and document. but they get flamed to crispy death by most of sales and the entire IT department when they do.
        • by Spoing (152917) on Monday September 27, 2004 @11:38AM (#10363610) Homepage
          1. not true. I rarely see a .DOC file in the company for ANY business documents, including files from outside the company.

          Not true ... for you. For me, it is quite different. I see MS Word .DOC files constantly...even for trivial memos that would be better done as normal text.

          PDFs mainly appear for external documents. Even policy manuals tend to be both created in MS Word and passed around as MS Word .DOC files.

          I've gotten no complaints from using OOo to create and save documents in MS Word .DOC format, though changing existing .DOC files in OOo has caused problems in the past -- usually with indented bullets. MS Word is supposedly to blaim for mangling bullets, though I don't have evidence either way.

          1. [...] Granted, some silly people in Marketing, specifically the new ones, try to use .PPT files as their preferred communication style and document. but they get flamed to crispy death by most of sales and the entire IT department when they do.

          I typically get "Can you give me that as a .DOC. I need to edit it." Editing usually consists of a logo change and having the person change or modify the attribution.

    • by ThogScully (589935) <neilsd@neilschelly.com> on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:01AM (#10361905) Homepage
      Your argument supports itself, but little else.

      I will lure lots of people from Office, potentially. It's at least a step in the wrong direction toward bigger things.

      Realistically, no big enterprise rollouts of Office are going to drop it in favor of OO.org just because of this, but those small mom'n'pop and small businesses out there that you conveniently ignore don't need Office. They mostly don't need even the bulk of OO.org's features really. They run Office because of lock-in and hopefully won't have to forever.

      Those large businesses by the way probably love ISO standards. What if ISO standards dictate that any ISO 9001 certified company must maintain all its data in open formats - it's a stretch just now, but I see a lot of huge companies who love to put banners on their buildings bragging of being ISO 9001 certified.

      This may have an influence enough that MS adds the ISO standard formats to Office, then OO.org really has no barriers to the majority of the Office market that doesn't need anything from Office but the file filters.
      -N
  • Yeah, right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by goofyheadedpunk (807517) <goofyheadedpunk AT gmail DOT com> on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:48AM (#10361788)
    Hopefully this will cut down on vendor lock-in and lure people from using Microsoft Office.

    Right, because all those office workers are going to think "Oh God, we're using non-standard XML?!"

    Call me a pessimist, but having a non Microsoft standard isn't going to matter much, what with Microsoft being able to make its own standard.

    Besides, how many times have you heard office workers say "Oh God, IE doesn't support CSS properly or render transparent PNGs?!"
  • Eh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NoInfo (247461) * on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:49AM (#10361802) Homepage Journal
    I don't see standardization as a method to draw end users to a new technology. Sometimes it will draw developers, but I'd be surprised if anything as minor as getting a new ISO standard would hurt the MS Office market.

  • OASIS standard too? (Score:5, Informative)

    by eGuy (545520) on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:50AM (#10361809) Homepage
    There exists a technical committee at OASIS [oasis-open.org] to make the OpenOffice format a standard (OASIS OpenOffice) [oasis-open.org]. How does this differ if it's a ISO standard as well?
    • a government contract will more likely refer to ISO standards..

      "the supplier will provide x computers with office software preinstalled. the office software has to fully support the features outlined in ISO 1234/56 and read and write files as specified there."

      microsoft can either stay away or support those formats - both is a win. with OASIS they might start to ligitate ("but OASIS is OOo centric, the specification for the contract is slanted for them!"), but ISO is pretty much regarded as being as indepe
  • I beg to differ (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Underholdning (758194) on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:50AM (#10361813) Homepage Journal
    "Hopefully this will cut down on vendor lock-in and lure people from using Microsoft Office."
    uhm - what planet have you been living on for the last decade? It's very simple. People use MS Office because people use MS Office. Not because of the file format. I'm forced to use MS Office at $DAYJOB because my customers use it. They don't know the first thing about what file format they save their drivel in. They just hit "send as email" and forget about it.
    I dislike MS Office as much as the next guy. If I had my way, LaTeX would be the standard. But if anyone thinks that an ISO label on a file format will lure anyone away from MS Office they're plain wrong. Period.
  • Settlement... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kaiwai (765866) on Monday September 27, 2004 @08:55AM (#10361851)
    This would be great! the EU *SHOULD* back this move by mandating that any Office Suite that is to be sold in the EU or used by any government within the EU MUST conform to that ISO specification.

    That would EXCLUDE extensions, meaning, the format, if embrassed by Microsoft would have to be 100% ISO XML compliant - No embrace and extend for you! (Microsoft)
  • Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PhoenixFlare (319467) on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:01AM (#10361908) Journal
    Hopefully this will cut down on vendor lock-in and lure people from using Microsoft Office. "

    Maybe for businesses, but not for the home users. The vast majority of them could care less about what file format things save in, assuming they even understand the concept of a file format in the first place - and really, why should they care about it?

    The way things stand right now, 99% of the people common user's going to send files to is going to have Office available.
  • by shoppa (464619) on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:04AM (#10361931)
    I send out flat text files to co-workers, and they complain that they cannot open them because they don't have the appropriate reader on their (Microsoft) E-mail system. Yes, I know that notepad and Word and probably other applications can "open" a text file, but none of the defaults are set to do this automagically.

    If it's an ISO standard it won't do a damn bit of good until the Microsoft OS's and Microsoft mail system and Microsoft Applications all know to do the right thing. Whad'ya think the chances of Microsoft cooperating are?

    • I send out flat text files to co-workers, and they complain that they cannot open them because they don't have the appropriate reader on their (Microsoft) E-mail system. Yes, I know that notepad and Word and probably other applications can "open" a text file, but none of the defaults are set to do this automagically.

      I don't know what your co-workers are using, but my copy of Win XP (and 2000, and 98, and 95 before that) and the various versions of Outlook i've used all opened text files just fine in Note
  • by georgep77 (97111) on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:07AM (#10361972) Homepage Journal
    Contrast this issue with that of the adoptation of IPV6. The ONLY way we will ever see IPV6 adoption is through a government mandate. IPV4 has way too much "inertia" for anything to supplant it. The same can be said of office applications. Try submitting your resume in anything but .txt or .doc (MS Word) format. NOBODY will be able to read it, believe me I tried sending mine in .pdf format and was told to "please send it in word". Once companies wishing to sell software to government are forced to support a common (and open) format then perhaps people will actually be able to choose the word processor they will use, otherwise they are locked in to what ever the dominate product (and it's proprietary format) are at the time.

    Cheers,
    _GP_
  • OOo Reader App! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thepoch (698396) on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:27AM (#10362156)
    I've said it once and I'll say it again... what OpenOffice.org needs is a lean-mean OOo Reader Application! By that, I mean not having to download an 80mb installer with everything but the kitchen sink, but maybe a small 2mb or less reader that uses standard widgets (MFC, GTK, etc.) to make the app smaller and faster. I've gotten a friend interested in actually looking at OOo code to make a no-nonsense reader, but due to lack of time, he can't start any open source projects.

    A reader app is all we need! Email a .sxw as an attachment to a friend. If he/she has broadband, point them to where to download the app. If not, maybe go over to their place and install it for them. If in another country, get them to download from someone who has broadband, snail mail them an installer CD with the reader and the full OOo app, or pester someone like IBM to include the said reader application with their desktops and laptops. See! I can already imagine the possibilities. If only I can program... I would be willing to test and help promote this stuff (preinstall on all PCs we sell).
  • by JessLeah (625838) on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:34AM (#10362238)
    "Hopefully this will cut down on vendor lock-in and lure people from using Microsoft Office."

    *steals rose-tinted spectacles* Yoink!
  • by Florian (2471) <cantsin@zedat.fu-berlin.de> on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:37AM (#10362275) Homepage
    In fact, the Openoffice XML format has already been submitted as the base of an open XML-based standard for office documents not to ISO, but to OASIS, see the coverage in Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]. A draft version of the OASIS Open Office XML format already exists, and once the official version 1.0 is out, both Openoffice (the program) and other free software office suites such as KOffice will switch to it as their native file format (as covered, for example, in this Linux Journal article [linuxjournal.com]).

    Making the OASIS Open Office XML format also an ISO standard would surely be nice and make it look better on paper to corporate and institutional IT managers. But for the EU, the current standardization process through OASIS should be good enough, since the question is whether controlling the format by two standards bodies at the same time will be technically feasible at all.

  • This would help me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NtroP (649992) on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:42AM (#10362331)
    We're still battling the WordPerfect -v- MS Office documnt format issue. Most people where I work now use MS Office, but we still have a few hold-outs that claim only WP will do what they want. This issue is exasserbated by the fact that we also have a lot of people still using AppleWorks as well.

    I've tried to get peole to realize that in a few years, you won't be able to read many of the documents we are currently archiving because the office formats will have changed or the app that was used to create it might not be available to open it. I've tried to get people to save their read-only documents as PDFs and their "collaberative editing" documents as RTF, but this has proven to be difficult.

    If I could go to my supervisors and point to an ISO standard format, I could more strongly argue for any "archivable" documents to be required to be stored in that format. From there it would me much easier to get people to save ALL their document that way.

    I use OOo exclusively at work and love it. I am trying to get it installed as the default office suite on ALL new installations, with MS Office only installed on the desktops of those who can demonstrate a need (show me a document that won't work that you can't live without.) Right now OOo's documnet format is "just another word processing format". If it was an ISO standard, it'd have something strong to stand on for the "buzzword-only", tech-impaired descision-makers at work.

  • by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2@eaRASPrthshod.co.uk minus berry> on Monday September 27, 2004 @09:47AM (#10362381)
    I've done some hacking with OpenOffice XML files and I have to say, they're nothing if not logical ..... Verbose, naturally, but that's offset by the ZIP compression, and anyway storage is cheap nowadays. What's impressive is the way you can break everything down into separate files {for a neater format} or not {easier to create}, as you think fit, and it all still makes sense. Beautiful.

    Migration of existing files from MS Office is still the big stumbling block to OpenOffice adoption, and one that needs to be addressed. It doesn't help that MS Office can't read or write OpenOffice.org files -- well, it wouldn't, would it? Putting in OpenOffice read-only compatibility would mean legitimising OpenOffice. Putting in read-write compatibility would mean suicide. So it seems as though OpenOffice will always be stuck playing catch-up over file formats ..... but not necessarily!

    It's my understanding that the MS Office macro language can access and modify every feature of a document, and can also read and write text files. Surely, then, it should be possible to write a suite of macros that would allow you, using just a single licenced copy of MS Office, to read any Office document and re-export it in OpenOffice.org XML format?

    Of course, in an ideal world, it would be illegal to lock up file specifications. Till then, we just have to run with the idea that if anything at all can read it, something else must be able to read it.
  • by Isldeur (125133) on Monday September 27, 2004 @11:54AM (#10363791)
    Well I don't know about everyone here, but I was suprised last night when I right clicked under windows on a sxw file in xp (with adobe acrobat 6.0 pro) installed and got a "convert to pdf" thing. And it worked perfectly. I would assume this didn't happen without some effort by someone at adobe...

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