Originally Published: Monday, 2 July 2001 Author: Edmund Humenberger
Published to: opinion_articles/opinion Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Call for Open Document/Data Formats

Humenberger appeals for help to the open source community. Forget open source, let's concentrate on open data formats! Y'know what? Edmund Humenberger has a good point. What do you think?

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Dear Open Source fans!

One of the bigger problems Linux (e.g. Gnome or KDE) faces today on the Desktop is interaction with Windows users.

Projects like KOffice or Abiword try to write import and export filters for their products, but will always be behind Microsoft as Staroffice found out with their filters.

The reason is that Microsoft can change to format as often as they want and the import filters will always be less then perfect. So why should any user switch from using MS-Word to different software package when he will be only able to read 95% of the documents and those he can read are only 90% correct? (I can tell you this is true from first hand experience, as I am a four year veteran of Staroffice.)

Open Source Word Processor Format

From my point of view it might be much better that all open Source Word processor projects agree on one document format so that they have an interchange format all people can base their communication on (lets call it XMLdoc for now). There is strength in numbers.

(The document format could be in permanent development progress, with different versions, as long as an old format could be converted to the new one)

Then the Open Source advocates could write an import and export filter for MS-Word (Office) to XMLdoc so that all people using open source word processors could read MS Office and other proprietary document formats. Likewise, if an MS-Office user complains about not being able to read a document send to him by an Open Source fan, the Open Source fan could point him to a web page where the MS-Office user could download and install the import and export filter for MS-Word.

The needed MS-Word Filters could even be installed automagically when a MS-Office user opens the email with the attached Document (thanks to VBS).

If a MS-Word users would send an Open Source fan a .doc document, the open source fan could ask him to use the new freely available XMLdoc export filter of his MS-Word so that he can read it too.

Governments and large organizations would be willing to ask all their administrators to no longer store documents in a propriety format like .doc but in the XMLdoc file format (because of the advantage of later conversion to newer formats, or for storage or content retrieval, for longevity of documents, to be able to read the documents with other software than the propriety word-processor.)

Administrators would be able to continue to use all the MS-Office software they already have bought and also convert files to other Open-Source options.

To be able to achieve this, the new XMLdoc format needs to have the same feature set as the old .doc format. People wont buy into a new format when it delivers only inferior functions.

Donīt let Microsoft write the export filter! They will have "additional features" which will make it impossible to share data with other Programs. People have to realize not that MS-Word (with all its features) allows Microsoft to continue as dominant software seller, but the propriety document format. In this case it's really about open formats, not open source!

So please, dear open source hackers and fans: liberate users from the dictatorship of .doc! Unite and lead us (and all users of MS-Word) into the land of open data formats.

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