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ISO: OpenDoc Ratified as Standard

In Europe on Monday, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the IEC jointly announced they have ratified the OpenDocument Format (ODF) as a standard meant to enable documents from various desktop applications to be interchangeable.

OpenDocument -- also referred to as OpenDoc but not related to an earlier IBM technology of the same name -- is a competitor to Microsoft's Office Open XML.Both are based on XML vocabularies, but Microsoft's technology, while royalty free, is proprietary, critics observe.

Microsoft is also planning on submitting Office Open XML to ISO after it receives what seems an assured ratification by European standards group, Ecma International.

Microsoft has stirred up quite a lot of controversy over its insistence that its Office Open XML schemas are as "open" as OpenDoc. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts executive branch has been caught in the turmoil over what formats to require for all public documents issued by that branch.

ODF was originally created by OpenOffice.org. It was developed and finally adopted as a standard last spring by OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) in the U.S.

"The newly approved ISO/IEC 26300, Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) v1.0, has been designed to be used as a default file format for office applications with no increase in file size or loss of data integrity," says a joint ISO/IEC statement announcing ratification.

"It will allow users to save and exchange editable office documents such as text documents (including memos, reports, and books), spreadsheets, databases, charts and presentations -- regardless of application or platform in which the files were created," the statement continues.

The ODF file schemas are supported by both Sun Microsystems' StarOffice and the open source OpenOffice suites, as well as by Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). Interestingly, though Microsoft has said it has no intention of directly supporting ODF, it did announce last year that Office System 2007 will be able to save documents as PDF files.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.