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Anatomy of XML Office Formats

I contributed to an article over on Groklaw that compares OpenDocument and Microsoft’s Office 12 XML formats. It might be good to read that alongside a presentation from Daniel Vogelheim (who then worked for Sun, and is responsible for much of OpenDocument) from awhile back [pdf].

The take home point is that OpenDocument is a really well-designed XML format technically, and that the choices its designers made empower users and third-party developers. By contrast, I argue, Microsoft’s design choices focus on ease of use for their internal developers, and result in an often obtuse and difficult to work with format for the rest of us.

While openness does not by definition yield better technical solutions, it often does; certainly in the case of the grand confrontation over XML office formats. If you read the OASIS charter for the OpenDocument Technical Committee, you will find that reuse of existing standards and ease of transformation are central to the very design of the format, and the mission of the group overseeing its continued evolution. Such is not the case for Microsoft’s formats.

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