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My thoughts about ODF

I think I blogged about this more than a couple of time in my old blog, but I won’t be listing them here, because I don’t really want to go searching for those posts, or I’d find a lot of stuff I said last year that might make me cry because I wasn’t able to do what I was planning (or simply because it would show me how much time passed and I’m still doing the same stuff), and also because the more I link them around, the more spam comment they attire and the more junk mails I receive on my inbox (yes, I still receive Planet’s comments by mail).

Today’s hot topic among a lot of Planets seems to be the support of OpenDocument by Microsoft, although only in some extra stuff and likely crippled. There is who asks for more, for a proper complete support of ODF in Microsoft Office, there is who tells that this is just an economic or political move, and so forth.

What I think, is that the support cannot be complete, and this is not because Microsoft does not really want it. Yes it was a political move for sure, as they had political pressures to support that. But when the problem is political is likely to make the development to be complete as much as possible to show that they are actually doing what requested.

The problem is that ODF is not ready for prime time. The current implementations are different and distant one to the other. The format that should be the simple one (ODF) is not compatible between KWord and OpenOffice 2, that are the first two applications supporting ODF and the main ones by all means. Bugs in KWord and bugs in OpenOffice are the cause, they both don’t implement the specific in their completeness, so when one relies to one way to record something, the other prefer a different method. Don’t even let me started on spreadsheets and presentations, that goes worse and worse.

So the result is that ODF is hardly a working solution right now. If I want to write something that I’m sure I can read in two years from now, my best bet would be LaTeX rather than ODF. Because two years from now maybe a new spec of ODF is implemented and used by both KWord and OpenOffice, and the current one not being supported anymore would make it difficult for me to open the old file.

So, once you stop all the hype about ODF itself, and look at the real world situation, you can see that Microsoft has hardly reasons to try to hinder open formats by ditching ODF for their OpenXML. From one point of view, it might make a better open format with OpenXML than ODF is now, because they would be the ones writing the reference implementation, and the others should simply follow that, without implementing their own ideas and thus making the format incompatible with others implementations… tyrannical, yes, but would be better than the current anarchical situation.

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