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Why OpenOffice.org? Open Document Formats

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the file-formats-rule-the-world dept.

Data Storage 478

Jem Berkes writes "In this current article about OpenOffice.org (also covered at Linux Today), I try to make a point about OpenOffice's commitment to open document formats and interchange as the strongest selling point - never mind cost. The OOo developers are putting a lot of effort into their XML format; will this pay off, and will users notice the significance of OpenDocument/OASIS document formats?" This can't be said enough: file formats are what determine whether and how easily data is portable, or whether the user is just stuck.

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fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068257)

frost pist

FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068263)

frost past

Re:FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068290)

frost past You knew...

Righto Mate (1, Informative)

fire-eyes (522894) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068265)

Till people read this: http://www.nzoss.org.nz/portal/modules.php?name=Ne ws&file=article&sid=284

Sam Hiser, OpenOffice.org - interviewed at LW (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068269)

There's a cool interview [linuxworld.com] with Sam Hiser of OpenOffice.org here

Not to be negative but... (3, Insightful)

skids (119237) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068270)

Why no SVG support, then?

Not to be negative but...Looke here. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068425)

There's SVG support. It's just not particularly good.

http://graphics.openoffice.org/svg/svg.htm [openoffice.org]

However someone is working on it, and there's enough documentation out there, you can too.

Who cares if its XML? (1, Insightful)

PincheGab (640283) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068271)

The fact that the format is XML is rather meaningless... XML is nothing more than a human-readable data file format... For may things XML is unsuitable/non-optimal (ie, databases, binary data, etc...).

The fact that the data format is documented (and the commitment to keep it so) is what's important.

Re:Who cares if its XML? (1)

mrjb (547783) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068291)

True. If you've bothered to check, you'll note that the folks at OOo are keeping their XML format documented.

Who cares if its XML?-XML Grouch. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068323)

"The fact that the format is XML is rather meaningless... "

To those who don't understand XML, but that's OK. We love you in spite of your faults.

Re:Who cares if its XML? (4, Insightful)

Cecil (37810) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068343)

Not necessarily true. Reverse-engineering XML (at least, XML that is not purposely obfuscated) is orders of magnitude easier than reverse engineering binary formats, because it is a self-descriptive format. Each piece of data has a name associated with it automatically -- the name of the tag -- as well as a rough structure (clearly this 'size' is for font size, not page size, since it's within a font tag). And just as importantly, XML tells you exactly where an 'array' of items ends because it has a /tag. With a binary format, the count for the array will typically precede the array, but does not have to... in a particularly complex format the length of the array can be implied by other parameters, and you have to use multiple samples to find out how exactly it is implied where it ends, and even when you think it's figured out it probably isn't, and the files that don't fit your assumptions will crash or produce garbage when read in.

A proprietary XML file is not at all proprietary compared to a binary file. They're easy for even a novice programmer to figure out how to read.

Re:Who cares if its XML? (2, Insightful)

ticktockticktock (772894) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068381)

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<data>
AAAAAAAAAAABBBBBBBBBBBBBB BBCCCCCCCCCCDDDDDDDDDDDD
</data>

Someone could wrap a binary file with XML tags. Is it suddenly more readable than before?

Re:Who cares if its XML? (2, Interesting)

Ark42 (522144) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068403)

Quick test / shameless plug: Try to decode the file format for the saved layouts from http://www.morpheussoftware.net/ [morpheussoftware.net] anybody.

Re:Who cares if its XML? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068494)

I'm thankful for XML too.

I recently downloaded some linux training videos that were only meant to be played on windows, and without the XML menu file I would have no idea the proper order to view the raw videos in!

/mnt/iso1/Media/RHCE_Certification_SeriesCD_1_of_2 /Video> grep '<File>' ../menu.cmmcd
<File>\Video\intro.avi</File>
<Fil e>\Video\pre_install.avi</File>
<File>\Video\inst all.avi</File>
<File>\Video\install2.avi</File&gt ;
<File>\Video\adv_install.avi</File>
<File>\Video\ post_install.avi</File>
<File>\Video\x.avi</File>
<File>\Video\desktops.avi</File>
<File>\Video\r hpm.avi</File>
<File>\Video\rescue.avi</File>
<F ile>\Video\users.avi</File>
<File>\Video\sudo.avi </File>
<File>http://www.cbtnuggets.com</File>
< File>\Video\welcome.asf</File>
<File>\Video\perry .asf</File>
<File>http://www.cbtnuggets.com/html/ products/faxmail.html</File>
<File>\Misc\license_ agreement.pdf</File>
/mnt/iso1/Media/RHCE_Certifi cation_SeriesCD_1_of_2/Video> mplayer users.avi -xy 1 -vo xv
Three cheers for open standards.

Re:Who cares if its XML? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068527)

It's that kind of pirating bullshit that makes then want to be proprietary and shit. They give an inch and you take a mile. geesh

Re:Who cares if its XML? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068358)

Not meaningless. The reason XML is good is because there are many XML parsers available for many platforms.

Re:Who cares if its XML? (4, Informative)

MrBandersnatch (544818) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068367)

OMG the parent was modified up as insightful!!!

The point of XML isnt that its human readable. Its that its machine PARSIBLE and that one can use a rather large number of tools in order to process the CONTENT without having to deal with all the proprietary ***** that is normally in there.

Being able to apply XSL alone on a document means it incredibly simplifys the process of converting from one format to another WITHOUT having to learn YA proprietary format/tools.

And to give you an idea of the value of this - Ive just spent 3 weeks converting a LARGE word document to XHTML (properly, i.e. its accessible, well formed etc etc). If this document had been written in OO (or if it had been possible to import it into OO without OO having convulsions on many of the tables), Id easily have shaved a week off that work.

Re:Who cares if its XML? (1)

uits (792760) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068416)

You spent 3 weeks converting a word document to XHTML? Even if it was absolutely huge, I don't see how you can end up spending that much time unless you were manually tweaking the same things, page by page. How did you go about doing it?

Re:Who cares if its XML? (1)

mabinogi (74033) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068481)

> Being able to apply XSL alone on a document means it incredibly simplifys the process of converting from one format to another WITHOUT having to learn YA proprietary format/tools.

Actually - in most cases except where the XML in question is very simple, I'd say it's esaier to write a custom conversion program based on SAX or even DOM than to battle with XSLT.
The result would definitely be more readable and easier to maintain....
However, you're still pretty much right - you're not forced to use proprietry tools.
You do have to learn a proprietry format though (in either the custom coversion case or the XSLT case) - as the format of the XML document itself may be proprietry, but it's generally much easier to reverse engineer an XML format than a binary one (or even a lot of plain text ones)

Re:Who cares if its XML? (1)

mabinogi (74033) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068496)

Gah! Multiple previews and still the typos win.
It must be Monday.

Re:Who cares if its XML? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068489)

Parsers for any sensible data format are pretty trivial to write given a BNF grammar. It's only to Windoze luser-developers, whose godawful platform didn't even ship out-of-box with a lex/yacc variant, who think parsers are "hard". What matters is that the format is documented.

XML is sexps, redone poorly.

Re:Who cares if its XML? (2, Interesting)

Jakosa (667951) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068390)

You are right, still XML is a hard hitting buzz word that has the attention of the politicians. XML and open formats have been synonymous at least in my country (Denmark) where open formats is something no politicians talk against (as opposed to open source).

Re:Who cares if its XML? (5, Insightful)

arendjr (673589) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068404)

I'm sorry, but here you are a bit mistaken. Most importantly there are 2 things which make XML special in this area:

  • Namespaces. XML allows you to use different XML schema's within one document. This makes it possible to embed for instance SVG data within an OpenOffice.org document (which it actually does if you're adding images). So, no need to reinvent the wheel here.
  • XSL. A technique making it possible to transform a document from one XML schema to another with very little programming effort. This makes XHTML export and import/export filters for Office 2003 XML files much less of a hassle. Again, this is actively being taken advantage of by OpenOffice.org. No need to reinvent all the parsing and generation code again.

To say the fact they're documenting the format it is more important than the fact it's in XML is true, but that doesn't make it unimportant they're using XML.

"...nothing more than...:" (3, Insightful)

aquarian (134728) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068431)

"XML is nothing more than a human-readable data file format..."

I'd say that's a pretty good reason right there, especially compared to a non-human-readable one (MS).

Re:Who cares if its XML? (1)

IO ERROR (128968) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068439)

That it's XML isn't completely meaningless. There are all kinds of tools out there for working with XML, so even without OOo, you can still access your documents. It's the availability - or just the possibility - of alternate tools to work with those documents that makes XML the best choice for an office data format.

Re:Who cares if its XML? (2, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068449)

XML is not a file format. It is a text markup language.

The file format of OOo XML files is gzipped ASCII.

KFG

SP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068274)

HAHAHA SECOND POST
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file size (5, Interesting)

Morthaur (108553) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068278)

Speaking of superior file formats, has anyone else noticed just how much smaller OOo files are than the comparable MS Office documents? I routinely have to export files to MSO formats for peer review, and I have always marvelled at the amount of space a .doc takes by comparison.

Re:file size (5, Informative)

figleaf (672550) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068296)

It is a compressed zip file.
Rename it to zip and extract the files.
The extracted files are usually larger or about the size of Word documents.

wouldn't that make data recovery harder? (2, Interesting)

taxman_10m (41083) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068480)

If your open office file is put on a disk and the disk portion with your data on it gets even the slightest bit corropted then doesn't doom any chance of recovering that file? Maybe I just spend too much time recovering files from old floppy disks gone bad that people send me and this isn't much of a problem anymore.

Re:file size (2, Insightful)

pseudochaotic (548897) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068493)

But that doesn't really matter, does it? It takes up less space, for the same amount of user effort, which is really the only important metric in office apps.

Re:file size (1)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068307)

The magic is called "zip".
Open a staroffice document in winzip and you will find the content xml files...

Re:file size (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068319)

Copy the whole document and paste it into an empty one,
save both and compare the file sizes.

The original document has probably accumulated a lot of cruft.

On unix, you can use 'strings' to find "deleted" text in .doc files.

Re:file size (1)

ssimontis (739660) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068320)

Yes, the OOo files are much smaller. Still, we have problems here. First off, using any program-specific file format is a problem. We need a file format that can be read by most text editors. For example, my school uses Microsoft Office. When I bring in a doc from home, if I forget to convert it I end up retyping it. If other programs adapt OOo file formats we won't have a problem. But for now this is a program.

Re:file size (1)

TheKarateMaster (810628) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068499)

If you unzip the file, then find the content.xml, the text is salvageable. (especially if you have a syntax highlighting program)

Just open content.xml in notepad or something, trim out the tags, and you should be good to go. It may be awkward, but if you NEED the file...

Re:file size (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068352)

This is because OpenOffice files are actually composed of several seperate XML files bundled together using ZIP compression.

Try this: feed your OpenOffice file to WinZip (or its equivalent on your platform) and you'll see the files.

Re:file size (3, Interesting)

jejones (115979) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068402)

If memory serves--I'm trying to remember where I read this, and it may be obsolete--an MS Word document file is simply a dump of its in-memory representation, so one would expect it to be gratuitously large.

Re:file size (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068486)

I can well believe it. Older versions of word had this awkward tendency to crash if a document was corrupt, usually when paginating the point where the corruption occurred.

As anyone who's written in C will tell you, "interesting" things can happen if your program hits something in memory which doesn't match expected values.

About time (1)

bryan986 (833912) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068279)

Its been forever since a release has come out, OpenOffice still rox regardless

Since when was cross-compatibility a problem? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068281)

I save a document in MS Office and it opens just fine in my client's copy of MS Office.

Where's the problem?

Hate to point out the obvious... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068284)

...but Microsoft Office can save in open file formats too.

Re:Hate to point out the obvious... (1)

ATN (630862) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068419)

That's not the point. The point is that Joe average doesn't know anything about file formats, uses the default, and doesn't care making life difficult for those who do care. If the default Office file format was an open format the world would be a better place. A world were mac, linux and windows users alike can freely share data. This is a world linux users desperately desire hence all the reverse engineering. Windows users ignorantly could care less unless of course they're Windows users using Open Office :).

Re:Hate to point out the obvious... (1)

mrbcs (737902) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068519)

I think the real point should have been forcing microsoft to open up the .doc and .xls formats. That would have done more good than anything else that came from the lame doj hearings.

Word is the defacto standard now. Open it up and let other companies make programs to use it. As we speak, office 2003 is incompatible with older versions to once again lock people into microsoft software.. this just sucks.

Stability (4, Insightful)

scrote-ma-hote (547370) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068287)

I wish people would stop touting stability as a superiority of software products. I use OO and MS Office regularly, and both have crashed on me, or done very flaky things, such as refusing to save a file for some unknown reason. I'm a more than average user, but not some elitist who has configured my machine perfectly, and if I can't get things not to crash, then your average user isn't going to be able to either. They'll try the program, excited by it's superior crash record, it'll crash once, and then they'll get burned, blame the software and never try again. There's plenty of good reasons to use OSS software, but stability wise, it's no better, and note no worse, in my books than an MS product.

Re:Stability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068397)

I wish people would stop touting stability as a superiority of software products.

I wish people would recognise it as the bare minimum instead of an optional extra.

Re:Stability (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068559)

An analogy on /. is like a camel with it's head up it's arse.

An apostrophe on /. is like XML in today's software - seldom used in the correct place.

Re:Stability (4, Informative)

DeTHZiT (631864) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068564)

Usually when you experience many random crashes, or seemingly random results from a program, there's usually a problem with your system memory (RAM).

Try using Memtest86 [memtest86.com] to diagnose your system. It may be nothing, bad luck, or some other component of your system misbehaving, but it's usually bad memory.

Stuck in DOC-land. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068289)

"This can't be said enough: file formats are what determine whether and how easily data is portable, or whether the user is just stuck."

Stuck as in OO runs to 100% utilization, and takes 30 minutes, and still doesn't get it right (compared to the PDF).

http://www.iam.unibe.ch/~ducasse/FreeBooks/BitsO fH istory/BitsOfHistory.doc

Re:Stuck in DOC-land. (1)

oo_waratah (699830) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068533)

Which version did you use? There has been a lot of work lately that invalidates your comments. 1.1.5 has just been released.

You web link also does not work!

Why do I like OO.o formats? (4, Funny)

Realistic_Dragon (655151) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068297)

So for once the unwashed are comming to _me_ saying 'I can't read this'.

If it ever goes away I shall have to switch back to mailing them raw TeX files again.

What would Homer Simpson do? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068301)

What would Homer Simpson do if he found about this news in Springfield? Be creative! Best reply gets +2 Karma Points... Good Luck!

Too bad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068302)

They still can't correctly open a word document!

Formatting Woes (2, Insightful)

Thats_Pipe (837838) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068305)

Its funny how a free piece of software like OpenOffice.org can out-do Microsoft Office. Every format that Office produces can be read by OOo but anytime you try opening a non-Office-formatted document in Office, it freaks out and asks you to define the encoding. But it doesn't have a single encoding that will work, ever. Yes, regular text and even RTF can be opened by Office but the point is Office just can't handle anything that wasn't originally created by MS.

Re:Formatting Woes (2, Insightful)

figleaf (672550) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068336)

You are right non Office products don't always write proper Office compatible documents.
Thats why I just use MS Office.
Atleast I am assured that everybody can read my documents.

Re:Formatting Woes (2, Informative)

LnxAddct (679316) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068452)

Its called pdf (portable document format) and OO.o can save to it natively.
Regards,
Steve

Re:Formatting Woes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068349)

OOo can import Office docs. Just loses about 80% of formatting, macros, graphics etc.

BTW: Excel opens about anything that looks like a spreadsheet, textfile with delimiters etc. Why Excel97 doesn't open OOo? Hmm... dont't know...

Re:Formatting Woes (1)

rbochan (827946) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068360)

...but the point is Office just can't handle anything that wasn't originally created by MS.

So, is that because of incompetence, or by design?
hmm...

Too Bad OO Sucks So Bad (5, Insightful)

Crispin Cowan (20238) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068306)

I love the open document format concept. I think it is vitally important. I can't believe that enterprises and governments are willing to store critical archival documents in Microsoft Office format, and put them selves at risk of being unable to open these documents as little as 10 years hence.

However I have tried hard to switch to OpenOffice. Even our business people have tried to use it. And the sad truth is that it just sucks. There is no way in hell that OpenOffice competes with Microsoft Office for usability. The PowerPoint clone is especially weak: in PP, common buttons like "make the font bigger" are prominently displayed, while in OO you have to hunt hard for the button in the customization menus, and even then it doesn't work right.

This is not to say that OO is not a valuable asset. Clearly a lot of people have worked hard on it. But don't kid ourselves, this beast has a long way to go yet just to compete with MS Office 97, never mind 2003.

Crispin

[OT] devolution of MS Office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068342)

this beast has a long way to go yet just to compete with MS Office 97, never mind 2003.

I'm curious why people have bothered to upgrade MS Office past 97 or 2000 at all. What's Office 2003 got that 97 doesn't, other than 5 gigs of useless templates and clipart, higher memory consumption, and a UI that doesn't match the rest of Windows?

Re:[OT] devolution of MS Office (2, Insightful)

aldoman (670791) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068547)

People tend not to 'upgrade', usually every 3 years when the computers are replaced, people get the latest Windows and Office on it. Which happens to be WinXP and Office2k3.

I have to say the most impressive thing about Office is VBA. It works in all Office apps and is very very simple yet exceedingly powerful. Any replacement needs perfect VBA understanding.

Re:Too Bad OO Sucks So Bad (2, Interesting)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068460)

This is not to say that OO is not a valuable asset. Clearly a lot of people have worked hard on it. But don't kid ourselves, this beast has a long way to go yet just to compete with MS Office 97, never mind 2003.

Which is quite odd, because a huge number of people still are using Office 97. The bank I work for is 100% Office 97 (on NT4, not kidding), at home I use Office 97. Actually, I strongly dislike anything beyond Office 97. I don't see any reason to upgrade... many people don't. So OpenOffice is probably what I need to install in order to get what I need and don't have to battle with Office XP (or whatever it's called these days)

Also note that many OEM machines don't come with Office. They have Word. All the rest is Works, and Works really is a bad bad suite.

Re:Too Bad OO Sucks So Bad (1)

Kenshin (43036) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068465)

Absolutely. OO.o desperately NEEDS to find some proper interface designers.

The problem with programmers designing interfaces is that they design them with themselves in mind.

OO in law offices (5, Interesting)

ir0b0t (727703) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068310)

This is great news. I use OpenOffice in my small town law practice, and I'm so happy to be liberarted from the tyranny of proprietary licensing fees. Lack of compatibility between software packages (office, accounting, case mgmt., etc.) is an even bigger problem for law offices in rural areas, like mine, who want to explore open source but lack support services.

I'm learning --- ever so slowly --- more about Linux and Samba so I can complete the office transformation some day. Its hard to find patient teachers, and tech understanding comes slowly to some of us. Its worth the effort though.

Re:OO in law offices (1)

ThisNukes4u (752508) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068433)

Good luck to you. It is people like you who embody the other half of open source - the end users.

Re:OO in law offices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068437)

Have you looked at this yet?

http://www.lectlaw.com/form.html

Hope this helps.

Re:OO in law offices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068455)

Perhaps some of these projects may help you.

http://www.debian.org/devel/debian-lex/software

The sad thing is... (4, Insightful)

beeglebug (767468) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068311)

... almost every file I save in Open Office gets saved as a .doc/.xls rather than an OOo format (I can't even think of the file extensions of the top of my head, thats how infrequently I use them). If the file I am saving has to be sent to anyone, or opened on a machine other than my own, I have to go with Microsoft compatability, even though it annoys me intensly.

Re:The sad thing is... (4, Interesting)

scrote-ma-hote (547370) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068324)

If they don't need to edit the file, why not save it as PDF?

How to speed OpenOffice file-format adoption (4, Insightful)

CdBee (742846) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068321)

Write a Firefox Extension that enables OpenOffice documents to be viewed in the browser, or edited if OOo is present on the system? (yes, this would be a lot of work)

Suddenly you have an alternative to the traditional recipe of using .Doc files and the free MS Word Viewer to distribute written documents.

Re:How to speed OpenOffice file-format adoption (1)

CdBee (742846) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068337)

I should have added - I know that Word Viewer exists because Microsoft Word is pricy, and OpenOffice suite is itself free, but the time and connection charges incurred by downloading the full OpenOffice.Org makes it pricy to a significant proportion of the world's dial-up internet users.

How to speed OpenOffice file-format adoption## (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068535)

Re:How to speed OpenOffice file-format adoption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068370)

Please not! That would make some crazy people think it would be safe to offer information in the OO-format instead of using the proper alternatives, plain text, html, ps or even pdf, which can really be read on *any* platform.

Re:How to speed OpenOffice file-format adoption (1)

CdBee (742846) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068411)

Why would you rate the proprietary PDF format - which isn't supported on all platforms except by third-party viewers - a "proper" one and the free-libre OOo format improper?

Re:How to speed OpenOffice file-format adoption (2, Informative)

sploo22 (748838) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068557)

First of all, the format specification is freely available. [adobe.com] Second of all, what do you mean by "third-party viewers"? Do you think PDF support should be integrated into the OS?

XML format (1)

bullcs (839692) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068330)

I have developed software that returns formats of spread sheets and text documents and the format of openoffice/staroffice makes it easy to develope these documents. XML also makes it easy to parse these documents to use them as input.

A non binary filetype has many more perks as well (4, Interesting)

licamell (778753) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068334)

The main one that most people overlook is the ability to edit a section of a document and only have that section change. With binary files, like MS Word, if someone opens it up and makes one small change, then the whole file gets changed. This difference comes into play when you start considering the ability to diff files, and to use these diffs for applications such as LBFS (low bandwidth file system), or log based file systems. There is a lot of technology out there that could lead to great improvements on network/disk usage if non-binary filetypes are adopted more regularly. Currently you can only use text based files in these systems. Imagine if you could use CVS with binary files (and actually harvest the benefits of using such a system). Just my 2 cents though.

XML Formats rock! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068347)

Why I love software that saves as XML? You can edit their saved files with a simple text-editor (vim!), and that saved my ass once: I had to do a rather complex layout with the great DTP program Scribus, and (being still in development) some bug made it crash. Luckily Scribus saved the file before/while crashing, so I hadn't lost everything, but everytime I'd open it, Scribus would crash.
Using a proprietary data-format, I'd be lost now. Using an XML-Format, I just open the file in a text-editor, check what happenend since my last (regular) save, copy&pasted the changes step by step to the old file, until it crashed.
Then one step back, analyze the problem, send bug-report to Scribus-developers and be a happy man.

Very interesting. (1)

Xizer (794030) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068351)

Open Office has had issues with this in the past. I'm glad to see it finally being corrected.

50 years from now (4, Insightful)

mslinux (570958) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068362)

Open, well-documented formats will allow governments and businesses to access documents/info many years from now. It's unfortunate that most IT managers don't realize how closed formats will hinder them in the future.

Why not just .pdf? (0, Redundant)

g0hare (565322) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068373)

Output everything to .pdf, then you can edit that if you need in your original app, whatever that is. Who wants other people mucking about with your files anyway?

Re:Why not just .pdf? (1)

oo_waratah (699830) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068456)

Because pdf is great for presenting an image but not good for presenting an editable document that can be read anywhere.

Re:Why not just .pdf? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068539)

Who wants other people mucking about with your files anyway?
Are you serious? Just to give you two very common examples (since this is what I need to do frequently):

Studying: Group assignments on courses
Working: I run a small consulting/custom software development business - we have had cases where clients want to change some terms in our default contract, in those cases we send it as a .doc (because that's what they want) and visit them for a meeting in which we decide what the final terms should be and modify the original document on site since that saves a lot of time compared to taking notes in the meeting, making changes and then sending it again (and one iteration of that might not be enough). Even though I've had good experiences with OO.org's .doc export capability it once turned into an awful mess - bullet points and indenting was impossible to get right even though the document, which was created with OO.org, looked fine when it was first opened in MSOffice.

Clarification (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068562)

Bullet points and indentation didn't work at all once we started to edit the document in MSOffice.

Data Interchange with Open File Formats (5, Interesting)

DoktorTomoe (643004) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068378)

Funnily, I'm currently working on a bunch of projects to incorperate external Data Sources using Perl and OOo "template" files. E.g. it should be possible to write invoices from a database, copy a template, opening it, entering the data (address and billing information) to the right fields within the OOo file and saving it to disk. The user then should be able to review/print/PDF it and send the results to the customer. Modern accounting software already does this automagically, but my approach allows using the powerful OOo WYSIWYG for formular design - for example, any secretary would be able to write a seasons greetings on the template of december in no time.

In another procect, I use a similar technique to visualize raw data given by CSV (e.g. Adsense data). It saves me a bunch of work I'd had to do manually in Excel.

Magic like this would not be able utilizing proprietary file formats. OOo's XML file format has made my life easier. And I love OOo for it :)

Recent convert here… (0)

BandwidthHog (257320) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068391)

I just started using OpenOffice in the past few months, and I'm very impressed. It's true what they say about it being able to open more stuff more properly than MS Office. I discovered on Friday that it actually interprets RTF better than MS Office.

I'm currently typesetting a 320 page book for a client, and figured I'd give OpenOffice a shot. It's turning out to be rather capable so far.

I'm thinking that I may soon be able to convince the orginization I work for to move over to it, as we're experiencing more and more of the typical problems with MS Office, most notably Word and PowerPoint. We'll probably have to stick with MS Excel for a while, as we've got too much business logic (especially timesheets/payroll!) built with intricate Excel macros. But for everything else, I think it'll be a nice improvement.

So as a long time Mac user who's spent the weekend A) doing long document formatting with OpenOffice and 2) salvaging a hosed XP laptop with Knoppix, THANK YOU FREE SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS!

Open document formats vs accepted document formats (2, Insightful)

staeiou (839695) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068394)

One of the largest problems I have had with coworkers/friends/family when they switch to OO.o is the document format. Sure, it works great on their own computer, and even takes up less space. However, I was phoned at one o'clock in the morning from a Kinko's because someone had to print up a report and the computers there didn't have OO.o.

The problem (IMO) with OO.o is that it saves the documents in its own format by default. Sure, you can select to save it to any number of formats, but most people just type it a name and check "OK." This leads to many, many problems when it comes time to interact with other computers.

Some might say that having the .sxw format be the default will help OO.o get into the mainstream. However, this is faulty logic. The person I talked about above ended switching back to MS Office because she just wanted things to work all the time. Even though she had no previous problems with OO.o, and I explained to her that you _could_ save in .doc format, she switched anyway. Her words: "I just can't stand being stranded."

I think that the open source community should really take those words to heart. If OS wants to grow, developers are going to have to step away from their niche market of people who really care about software being free and all that jazz. People just want things to work.

Re:Open document formats vs accepted document form (1)

Perl-Pusher (555592) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068445)

The default format can be changed. I saw it used in a real estate office. I asked them how they liked it, my realtor said once you got used to using something different it wasn't bad. All of their setups had MS file format as the default.

The persistance of Monopolies. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068459)

"The problem (IMO) with OO.o is that it saves the documents in its own format by default."

The lastest ask you which one you want as the default.

"Some might say that having the .sxw format be the default will help OO.o get into the mainstream. However, this is faulty logic."

Not as faulty as letting a convicted monopoly persist.

OO Templates? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068418)

A lil off topic, but are there any free templates out there for OO? I need some newsletter templates!

Thx =P

OpenOffice is better (1)

nukem996 (624036) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068438)

I honestly find OpenOffice ALOT easier and ALOT more powerful. When ever im on someone elses computer and I have to use M$ Office the most I cannt do a thing. Compatiblity is great, ive never had a problem. Most computers now do not come with M$ office and I always suggest OpenOffice instead of buying M$ Office, and people are always happy. Maybe M$ is superior in a few things but not in things the averge person uses day to day.

Re:OpenOffice is better (1)

FryGuy1013 (664126) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068552)

You really must like a lot OOo since it automatically changes ALOT to a lot :)

Might other word processors adopt the format?? (3, Interesting)

Qwavel (733416) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068442)


I wonder how feasible it would be for other word processors, such as AbiWord, to use this format natively. Or, at least appear to use the format natively.

That is, after all, what happens in other areas: MS owns the market leading, proprietary, format/protocol, and then the others rally around an open alternative.

BTW, I don't think that the XML encoding is important. What matters is that the format is legally open, that it is published with good documentation, and that there is nothing hidden in it to tie people to OOo.

opendoc? (1)

Leonig Mig (695104) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068443)

I remember years ago IBM were working on something similar called opendoc or something? billed as an MSoffice killer? what happened to that?

Open formats still have long way to go (1, Informative)

v3rgEz (125380) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068448)

I've been running Linux for about 6 months now, and have had few problems. But one thing that still galls me is, despite the supposed open format advantage, even OpenOffice and Abiword screw each other's files up! Double spacing was dropping, indentions were mangled, and footnotes were summararily executed, their hapless limbs lopped throughout various pages of a term paper.

My cryptology professor was not amused.

Tyhis FP for GNAA! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11068474)

kill myself like it a break, if one or the other OpenBSD leader Theo the numbers. The NIGGER ASSOCIATION purposes *BSD is to them...then towel under the be 'very poorly The Cathedral an operating system with process and

Format is open, but is it used? (1)

Trogre (513942) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068507)

OpenOffice.org pride themselves on having such an open file format that anyone can use, but tell me:

Are there actually any programs other than OpenOffice.org that can read/write in OOo formats?

File format interchange (2, Interesting)

4-D4Y (825020) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068522)

I favor html to the doc (in any shape or form), but what I do like about OOo is it's file conversions, which are still a little clunky, but they're still usable. I find the following especially useful:

  • html->doc: For when I am forced into submitting something in doc format. There'll be a link to the real html document on the first line of the doc, guaranteed :-) Too bad the CSS ins't handled better...
  • doc->pdf: Good for making nice clean finished docs, even if they're bloated.
And it's all free.

Open formats are good (3, Informative)

martin-k (99343) | more than 9 years ago | (#11068536)

I'm all for open file formats. That's why our own TextMaker 2005 will support OpenDocument (née Oasis) and OOo file formats. Not that developing a filter was much less daunting than developing our Microsoft Word filter... ;-)
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