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In Dublin’s Fair City

Trinity CollegeI am back from KDE’s aKademy 2006 held this year on the campus of Trinity College in Dublin. Tuesday the 26th was “OpenDocument Day” and we heard from a variety of speakers on that topic.

The keynote was by Barbara Held from the EC’s IDABC (Interoperable Delivery of European eGovernment Services to public Administrations, Businesses and Citizens), giving a good overview of their important work.

Then through the remainder of the morning and early afternoon we heard a variety of “lighting talks” on various ODF-related topics. You can see the full list and the posted presentations here, but I’d like to highlight a few of them here.

Prof. Lotzi Bölöni from the Networking and Mobile Computing Laboratory at the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science of the University of Central Florida presented on the work he and his students are doing to create a comprehensive test suite of ODF sample documents. Each sample document is keyed to the relevant ODF specification page, and each comes with screen shots showing how that feature renders in OpenOffice.org and KOffice. This is an excellent tool for verifying interoperability of the implementations and also for identifying any ambiguities in the specification.

Tim Eves from SIL International presented on their charitable work with producing writing systems for minority languages as well as the fonts and software to support these encodings. Since FOSS word processor like KOffice and OpenOffice will often be used in such contexts, it is important to understand what additional font feature support might be needed in ODF to support this work.

I gave a presentation entitled “A Standard ODF Object Model” proposing an Open Document Developers Kit (ODDK) to enable application developers to become productive quickly with this format. If you’ve read my previous write-up on the topic at XML.org then you know the gist of it. The enthusiastic response I received to the presentation indicates (to me at least) that the time is ripe for such a toolkit. I was followed by Florian Reuter who talked about “ODF Processing Toolsets” and the idea of an ODF InfoSet in a presentation that echoed and extended my ideas. We didn’t plan it that way, but our ideas complemented each other well. While discussing these toolkit ideas with the other conference attendees we found out that KOffice has been evolving in this direction as well, with some toolkit-like API planned for version 1.6 with their Kross scripting framework. I had also just recently heard, from Michael Brauer via Sun’s new OpenOffice team blog that Sun has been thinking about a toolkit as well, in their case thinking how their UNO runtime API could be used.

To give you an idea how how quickly this is moving, when I got back to Westford and checked my email, I already had a note from KOffice’s Marketing Lead, Inge Wallin and KDE’s scripting guru Sebastian Sauer with some Python code demonstrating a templating scenario with an invoice in an ODF spreadsheet document. This was all accomplished, it seems, in the length of a flight from Dublin to Boston. Jet-speed application development, anyone?

So this is great news, that everyone is working on code that can help enhance the application developer’s experience with ODF, and enable ODF innovation beyond the editors, along the lines of the 20 patterns of use I outlined earlier. Microsoft is well-known for their commitment to developer tools and support, so we have our work ahead of us to match that level of focus. For inspiration I recommend this short video clip of Steve Ballmer.

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