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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What is in the New Draft of OOXML?

Update on Office Open XML (OOXML): In late February 2008, a week-long
Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) was held in Geneva, Switzerland. It
was attended by 120 individual delegates from about 34 different
National Standards Bodies. The outcome of the meeting was a series of
editor's instructions to allow a new draft of the standard to be create:
usually these instructions are completely specific though there may be
some general ones, for example to use one term rather than another
globally. At time of writing, March 2008, OASIS has been working on
ODF 1.2 which is slated to improve several important ODF weakspots,
in particular relating to formulas and metadata. It is mooted for
re-submission to ISO during 2008. The results of the BRM are available
online and National Bodies now have one month (end of March 2008) to
decide if the changed draft meets their requirements. For the new draft
to pass, it will require 5 National Bodies (of the 'P' class), to switch
from Abstain or No votes (remembering that No with Comments may mean
'Conditional Yes') Of the 1027 Editor's responses, the BRM addressed
189 responses by specific resolutions and discussions of the BRM, and
the rest using a paper ballot where each National Body in attendance
voted: this accepted 825 of the Editor's recommendations and rejected
13. The issue of a paper ballot had been abstain on issues of lesser
interest to them... The changes from the BRM usually relate to either
correcting bugs or better documentation. Additions to functionality
tended to be limited to providing better accessibility and better
internationalization, rather than completing or expanding the general
feature set. The Editor's Disposition of Comments clearly tried to
reduce the amount of gratuitous breakage of documents or applications,
and the explicit resolutions of the BRM continued this policy (IMHO).
If the new draft is adopted as a standard, it does not remain static
but can be maintained by the relevant ISO/IEC JC1 committee, SC34,
Document Processing and Description Languages. Procedures exist for
National Bodies to submit Defect Reports, which again attract the
Editor's attention and National Body voting acceptance, so the kind
of process seen at the BRM becomes an ongoing effort, if there is
enough interest by National Bodies. The upshot is that, if DIS29500
mark II and ODF 1.2 both get accepted as standards, by the end of
2008 we should have two standards which together can thoroughly cover
the field of representing current and legacy office documents, each
representing one of the two dominant commercial traditions, with both
under active and significantly open maintenance to fill in the
remaining gaps and to repair pending broken parts, with clear
cross-mapping to allow interconversion, with an increasing level of
modularity so that the can share their component parts, and at least
with a feasible agenda of co-evolution and other kinds of convergence.

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