Master Blaster

By Rick Jelliffe
March 20, 2009 | Comments: 1

Peter Sefton has had a great series of blog entries in which he has managed to blast almost everyone in the office document space: (some are a little terse or part of larger threads, but Peter is always worth a read and he gets good quality comments:)

We're not realizing the potential of the web for eLearning and eResearch when lots of academic work is happening in anti-web systems like MS Office. The path to developer happiness: Beyond PDF
Why are we pissing around with twitter and building repository infrastructure while thousands of PhD candidates aren't using styles to structure their thesis? The path to developer happiness: Beyond PDF
Word processor vendors largely gave up on HTML export years ago. The path to developer happiness: Beyond PDF
Last year I dashed off an excited blog post when I discovered that [Lotus Symphony] had avoided all the problems its competition had with web export by leaving that feature out altogether...A year on and web export has remained on the cutting room floor..Seems like Sun and IBM might be onto some new post-web wave of applications where all the action is in an offline cloud. Still no sympathy for IBM Lotus Symphony
This is actually old news, but did you know that in Writer the Save as HTML is completely stupid? is bad for the planet
Maybe Sun's Tim Bray could give the OOo team a call to explain that there should be a way for people using Writer to publish their documents to the web? In Tim's (2004) terms Writer is 'just broken' cos it doesn't have a 'Blog This' button. is bad for the planet
As I've covered here many times ODF interoperability between applications is basically non-existent except between Microsoft Office and and its derivatives where some things work quite well. Bottom line is, ODF doesn't have any formal notion of what's conformant - it's up to application developers to implement the bits they feel like implementing. Embedding XML in word processing documents (if you really must)
I'm happy for people to use whichever tools they like, but I can't see LaTeX rolling out into disciplines which it has not already conquered without a lot of evangelistic work. If we could find a generic LaTeX to HTML converter that worked we'd plug that into ICE in a second. Developer happiness and associated meetings
The product (eg a document) of the code must be interoperable with open software. In our case this means Word must produce stuff that can be used in and round tripped with and with earlier versions, and Mac versions of Microsoft's products. (This is not as simple as it could be when we have to deal with stuff like Sun refusing to implement import and preservation for data stored in Word fields as used by applications like EndNote.) Opening up Microsoft
What does promote interoperability is the approach that Microsoft itself used to use with OLE embedding. We saw this in action with Peter Murray-Rust last year. He brought a Word document with embedded ChemDraw chemistry pictures in it. Guess what? When you open them in Writer you can view the rendered image, even if you don't have ChemDraw. Even better, when you crack open the ODT file the original ChemDraw binary is there - we were able to feed that to some open source software that PMR and team were involved in writing and extract data. The result of using OLE was: workable interoperability. That's because OLE objects are embedded using standard interfaces not vague hand-wavy whatever-you-like Custom XML. More on Microsoft Word and non-interoperable standards compliance
I think that the XML format under Microsoft Office is being used as a distraction from real practical issues of interoperability. More on Microsoft Word and non-interoperable standards compliance

Dennis Hamilton over at the ODF TC made an interesting point recently about floors and ceilings and interoperability: both are needed. I think one of Peter's main points is this issue of having an adequate floor: that HTML should be this floor but its support by desktop vendors in their applications continues to be ratty. Vendors would serve their users better by taking full advantage of HTML's capabilities.

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1 Comment

I do use an extension with OOo that allows me to publish to my blog. However, it is not ideal. I'm much happier writing with Flock or a Firefox extension.

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