ODF Gets the Nod from ISO

With JavaOne erupting next week, this will probably become an all-Java blog for a few days, but before I'm dunked like a donut (cream-filled, no sprinkles) into the vast cuppa joe that Moscone Center will become, I wanted to catch readers up on the OpenDocument Format standardization saga.

You probably already know this because the tech press and even the mainstream media have finally picked up this story. (The blogosphere strikes again.) But in case you've been focused on Barry Bonds' assault on The Babe's homerun record or caught up in antics of the latest incarnation of Dr. Who, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the IEC jointly announced this week that they have ratified the ODF as a standard. For you standards aficionados, the ODF is now ISO/IEC 26300.

The newly approved ISO/IEC 26300, ISO and IEC said in a joint statement announcing the ratification, ''...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 ever vigilant Andrew Updegrove, OASIS attorney, standards maven, and outspoken and oft-quoted supporter of the ODF, tells me that, although there are still some procedural steps internal to ISO/IEC that are required before the official text of the standard will be finalized and issued, these steps are formalities rather than gating factors.

''With adoption of ODF by ISO/IEC now assured,'' Updegrove wrote me in an email, ''software that implements the standard will now become more attractive to those European and other government purchasers for whom global adoption by ISO/IEC is either desirable, or required. Given the ongoing unhappiness in Europe with Microsoft over what the EU regards as unacceptable bundling and other practices, this may be particularly significant, especially when taken with the desire of many European and other purchasers to use open source products whenever possible. Offerings such as OpenOffice and KOffice therefore should receive a boost in appeal and usage, as well as for-sale versions, such as Sun's StarOffice and IBM's Internet-based offering.''

Updegrove is an indefatigable champion of the ODF cause, and his ConsortiumInfo.org standards blog  is a must-read for that side of the open doc debate. It's also a good place to go for some context on the standards process itself. Check out the first of what Updegrove tells me will be a series of interviews with reps of each of the major office suites that support the ODF: StarOffice 8.0, OpenOffice 2.0, IBM's Managed Workplace Client, and others. His first conversation is with Inge Wallin, the KOffice Promotions Lead.

In other ODF news: The Open Document Foundation has created a plugin designed to allow Microsoft Office users to ''open, render, and save to ODF files.'' The plugin project has been underway for about a year, but the software is not yet available to the general public; reportedly it will be provided first to the States of Massachusetts and California, and the EU.

Microsoft, which readers will recall has submitted its own doc format, Open XML , to the Ecma standards group for certification, has stated that it will not support the ODF.

For more on this development, see Gary Edwards May 4 posting on Groklaw. 


About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].