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Vendor Neutral File Formats? 83

Posted by Cliff
from the no-more-lock-in dept.
timmyv asks: "I have recently been tasked with developing a corporate wide policy that will standardize all employee created documents on vendor neutral file formats. OASIS is good in theory, but I haven't been able to locate enough concrete examples of policies or implementation schemes that work at a corporate level. Does anyone work at a company where documents can only be saved as RTF, HTML, etc. or have any experience with this type of problem?"
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Vendor Neutral File Formats?

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  • Re:OpenOffice (Score:2, Interesting)

    by spud603 (832173) on Friday December 31, 2004 @12:02PM (#11228037)
    Although Microsoft may have successfully killed OOo's format-acceptance in the US by "opening" their office file formats. With the new xml-based word doc's, microsoft may have defined the new standard for text formats in the US. At least it's better than that gobbledy-binary mess they had before..
  • by Rahga (13479) on Friday December 31, 2004 @12:04PM (#11228049) Homepage Journal
    "I have recently been tasked with developing a corporate wide policy that will standardize all employee created documents on vendor neutral file formats."

    Sorry, but looking at that statement, it seems to me that you are asking the wrong questions. Rather than getting concerned about formats and standards organizations, you should realize that to replace certain formats you will need to improve on open source projects without funding for the development of them. If they say "no" to this, then congratulations, you don't actually have to do this research. Nothing's quite as useless as an unfunded mandate.

    Sadly, I'm not sure if this post is meant to be funny.
  • PDF (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AkaXakA (695610) on Friday December 31, 2004 @12:15PM (#11228107) Homepage
    It might sound like Adobe lock-in,
    but with PDF Printers (files are printed to pdf's) for Linux [sourceforge.net] and Windows [sourceforge.net] (I asume Mac has it built in), it's a good option for creating documents that'll be displayed everywhere in the same manner.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 31, 2004 @12:20PM (#11228128)
    What you need is a toolchain that allows conversion back and forth between several different types. For example, I could write a short paper in XML, SGML, or LaTeX, and convert any of the three to PDF. I could convert the XML or SGML versions to LaTeX, then use latex2html to turn it into an HTML document. I don't know of converters that turn XML,SGML->HTML, but they probably exist.

    The point is that it doesn't matter which method I used to create the document; I can convert any of them into either of the other formats without losing information, and any of the three can be turned into HTML or PDF for display purposes.

    You've probably got several different types of documents to mess with. Technical papers with plots, accounting spreadsheets, secretary generated memos, and presentations with pretty pictures so that management can understand what's going on. LaTeX alone could handle all of these situations. Create document types and environments to match the needs of each type of document. XML, being completely generic, could also handle any of the situations, but it's easier to type LaTeX markup than it is XML. There is at least one caveat: you have to be careful what type of images you feed TeX.

    Heck, you could use Perl bindings to MS-Excel to snag data out of spreadsheets and export it into a format that some other chart making tool uses. You could use Excel itself to export as CSV files, which you could then use awk to convert into some other format.

    Basically, it doesn't matter what tool each person uses, as long as what they export off their own workstation is in a standard format.
  • by SHEENmaster (581283) <travis@@@utk...edu> on Friday December 31, 2004 @01:02PM (#11228434) Homepage Journal
    XCircuit, a circuit layout app for X, uses postscript as its default format. If you have XCircuit, you can load the postscript file into it and edit it like any other circuit. If not, you can still print it or view it as you would any other postscript file.

    XML is a good start, because it's easy for a new app (the fictional YCircuit) to add support for the format, but you are still stuck unable to print it if you don't have the skills to write a conversion script and no one else has written it for you.

    Why not combine the two? XML embedded in a standard PDF file would allow any application with support for the creator's XML tagset to import the file, and at the very least those without any similar application could view and print the file.
  • by zedkineece (845146) on Friday December 31, 2004 @03:10PM (#11229184)
    I agree with Anonymous Coward. Why not use XML as your standard format? You could use Word 2003 (or even the entire Office 2003 suite) or XMLSpy to author your documents, but store everything in XML. You could then write (or obtain consulting like we did) to develop XSLTs to convert the XML to whatever format you or your vendors require. One source format to virtually any format you need. It is also somewhat painless to have another XSLT developed when a future format is required, which eliminates the need to do wholesale changes in the future. I highly recommend the company we used, "Docsoft" (http://www.docsoft.com [docsoft.com] I think). They have some smart guys with probably the best support of an vendor we have dealt with. Since implementation, we have discovered a lot of additional "pluses" that we didn't consider, such as using the XML as a DMS (Docsoft has a search tool that indexes XML in relation to how data is tagged, which has turned out to be invaluable to us). We can even store images with XML meta data to find out what the subject and author is. We sometimes spent 40 hours trying to find extremely specific data, now only takes us 15 minutes or less. All because of XML. Just my 2 cents worth.
  • by SgtChaireBourne (457691) on Saturday January 01, 2005 @06:49AM (#11232904) Homepage
    Open Document will be interesting to follow.

    Like HTML, which surprised people in the 1990's, the OASIS OpenOffice.org file format is indeed vendor independent, though, it is now called Open Document [oasis-open.org]. Anyone can use it or develop tools for it without restriction. Even Microsoft is part of the team at OASIS, at least on paper [zdnet.com.au]. And, even if MS doesn't get out of the way, interesting things will happen with Open Doument.

    So far OASIS Open Document being used by at least the following:

    • StarOffice
    • OpenOffice.org
    • AbiWord
    • kWord
    Unlike MS-WordML, which is encumbered by patents, trade secrets, and difficult licensing issues, OpenDocument is free to use. It also meets the requirements specified in European Interoperability Framework for Pan-European eGovernment Services [eu.int]. It's getting increasing attention:
    ... the adoption of an OASIS Open Office Standard should be welcomed, and industry actors not currently involved with the OASIS Open Document Format should consider participating in the standardisation process in order to encourage a wider consensus around the format.

    --EU Telematics between Administrations Committee, May 24, 2004

    Note that the only industry actor not currently involved in the OASIS Open Document Format has been and still is MS. MS is still trying to shoehorn old MS-Office 97 customers into DRM'd MS-Office 2003, which functions in effect like a roach motel for your data. So far the worst insult that Balmer and Gates can cough up is that OpenOffice.org (OOo) is like MS-Office 97. However, I think even those two can see that OOo meets this groups functional requirements quite well, and is free and multiplatform. OOo is also available in more languages than MS-Office, handles long documents better, and does better with styles and stylesheets.

    Currently, there are many governments moving up to StarOffice or OpenOffice.org for the sake of these formats. Singapore comes to mind first, but there are many, many others that don't necessarily make the mainstream press like Sarpsborg. Likewise, there are many small, medium and large businesses moving along. Some with an axe to grind [com.com] (with good reason ) speak up. However, most are silent until the move is being implemented to keep the goon squad from Redmond from getting in the way.

    The current choice:

    • OASIS Open Document --
      1. be able to access your own data indefinitely as XML
      2. and change productivity tools, operating systems and hardware only if and when it suites you
    • MS-WordML --
      1. pay that Redmond tithe indefinitely
      2. and buy new productivity tools, operating systems and hardware when Chairman Bill tells you to
    Easy choice. You don't need to be a wizard to see which direction things are going to head.
  • by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot&castlesteelstone,us> on Saturday January 01, 2005 @05:03PM (#11234951) Homepage Journal
    That's not what he said. He said vendor neutral file formats.

    This may result in dropping MS Office entirely -- or it may just result in changing the default "save as" settings for every install of Word, or the creation of an "archive and share" custom function that takes DOCs or WPSs or whatever and turns them into the new neutral format.

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