ODF Alliance Annual Report

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The battle between the OpenDocument Format (ODF, now ISO 26300) and Microsoft's confusingly-named Open Office XML formats has generated much sound and fury this year, but alongside this high-profile tussle there has been steady progress on the ODF front. A good place to review what has been going on is the Annual Report 2007 from the ODF Alliance, which

"works globally to educate policymakers, IT administrators and the public on the benefits and opportunities of the OpenDocument Format, to help ensure that government information, records and documents are fully and natively accessible across platforms and applications, even as technologies change."

Here's part of the report's summary:

● The year ended on a high note, with the Netherlands and South Africa officially adopting policies requiring ODF's use by government agencies, joining ten other countries that had already done so. Norway required the use of ODF for all published, revisable documents on government web sites.

● Following the trend at the national level, three regional governments – Kerala (a state in southwestern India), Misiones (a province in northeast Argentina), and Paraná (a state in southern Brazil) – adopted policies requiring the use of ODF.

● Software support for ODF grew rapidly in 2007 and now includes over 40 applications, with more than a dozen announcements of new or improved support during the months of September and October alone.

● The OASIS OpenDocument Technical Committee, which maintains the ODF specification, reached consensus about extensible metadata for the upcoming ODF v1.2 specification, which among these and many other new features will come with digital-signature support. Furthermore, a first draft of the spreadsheet formula specification is now available, which will also become a part of ODF v1.2.

●Accessibility-related improvements were incorporated into ODF v1.1, allowing ODF to meet or exceed the accessibility features of any other office document format.

It has a good round-up of important work on the area of metadata, spreadsheet formula and digital signature support:

The OASIS OpenDocument Technical Committee, which maintains the ODF specification, reached consensus about extensible metadata for the upcoming ODF v1.2 specification, which among these and many other new features will come with digital-signature support. Furthermore, a first draft of the spreadsheet formula specification is now available, which will also become a part ODF v1.2.

The new metadata support in ODF 1.2 and the XForms support from ODF 1.0 make it simple to implement intelligent documents that can be integrated into electronic workflows and will enable ODF's entry into the semantic web8. The metadata support in ODF 1.2 is based on the W3C standards RDF/XML and OWL which dramatically simplify and enable the reuse of ODF metadata by other applications. RSS technology is based on RDF and Adobe also uses RDF within the Adobe XMP technology in applications like Photoshop. In addition, there are strong developer tools and database support for RDF. Finally, the metadata concept in ODF 1.2 is extremely flexible and allows for the integration of complex metadata hierarchies.

The new formula language also targeted for ODF 1.2 is based on a large number of spreadsheet applications, including Microsoft Excel, OpenOffice.org/StarOffice, Lotus 1-2-3, Quattro Pro, Gnumeric, KOffice KSpread, WikiCalc, SheetToGo, Mathematica, Macsyma, and Octave.

The formula language covers a large number of functions and operators including innovative ones like OR, BASE and SEC. As with metadata support, the formula language reuses existing standards like ISO 8610 date and time representation and avoids bugs like the "1900 leap year bug". The formula language does not impose any row or column number limits on implementations and allows rapid, decentralized innovation via supplier-unique namespaces. Finally, the formula language does not constrain the user interface of implementations and defines function sets for different application areas.

It also has a handy list of important white papers on ODF (with links), and two annexes: one detailing government adoption of ODF around the world, and another listing the growing application support for the format.

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