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Document Freedom: How to know when you have it

Today is Document Freedom Day.  In the five years since Open Document Format (ODF) first was approved in OASIS we have certainly made progress, but there is still work remaining to be done.  How will we know when we have arrived?  At what point can we declare victory and say “Free at last”?  I think that when we  can agree that all of the following statements are true, then at that point we have achieved the substantial benefits of document freedom.

  • I can create documents on the platform of my choice, using the software of my choice.
  • I can migrate to another editing environment (application or operating system) without losing high-fidelity access to my existing documents.
  • I can send my documents to anyone and know that they can read them without requiring the purchase of new software.
  • I can receive documents from anyone and know that I can read them without requiring the purchase of new software.
  • I have confidence that the documents I create today can be read and understood, 10, 25 or 50 years from now.
  • Programmers can write and distribute software that reads and writes documents without paying royalties to anyone.
  • I have confidence that the document format standard is being evolved in a way that guarantees the above rights equally for all users and vendors.

We’ve made substantial progress on these fronts, but I don’t think we’re there yet.  We should celebrate our substantial progress, while at the same time commit ourselves for the remaining work ahead.  For example, we still need to improve interoperability.  In a few weeks we will have our next ODF Plugfest, in Granada, where ODF implementors will gather for the 3rd time to work together to improve interoperability among their implementations.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Winter 2010/04/01, 05:03




  • Rob 2010/04/01, 09:59

    @Winter, I think the criteria I enumerate allow a nearly infinite number of solutions. Of course, if you have more than a very small number of formats in actual use, then some of these goals are much harder to achieve, like being sure that others can understand your document.

    That’s the beauty of ODF. It isn’t magic. It isn’t rocket science. It is just common sense. Agree on a common open standard document format and everyone implements it.

  • Chris Ward 2010/04/01, 11:41

    This sort of question has been addressed before. Some of the answers then were …
    Use ASCII paper-tape rather than IBM EBCDIC punch-card to hold your data.
    Use TCP/IP rather than IBM SNA to communicate.
    Use IEEE-754 rather than IBM System/360 for floating point arithmetic.

    Of course you can still use IBM EBCDIC, IBM SNA, and IBM S/360 Float. They work well, and they are profitable for the proprietor when you do. But ‘growth’ and ‘futures’ seem to demand that we should build on the open standard.

  • Peter Baker 2010/04/02, 13:49

    Interesting that Alex chose to drop his “the entire OOXML project is now surely heading for failure” bombshell on this specific day :-)

    There are two me only 2 questions: can ISO unstuff the process now, and can the EU now restart investigations into monopoly behaviour?

  • Rob 2010/04/02, 18:50

    @Peter, I doubt anything can do anything adverse to OOXML in ISO. Look at the math. To get OOXML approved in the first place they needed 2/3 approval of JTC1 P-members. To remove Transitional from OOXML would also require 2/3 approval. So that means that Microsoft needs only 1/3 to block that removal. They have for the most part maintained their 2007 participation levels in JTC1 NBs, so they have more than enough votes to block any such proposal. If Alex actually had the votes to do anything, he’d just do it, not blog about it. So it appears to me that he is merely trying to shame Microsoft into changing. I’ve tried that myself. It doesn’t work.

    As for the EU, I have no idea. My guess is this is just a case of Alex Brown realizing what others have already realized with regards to OOXML. In any case, I think the main thing that will improve competition in the office market will be when Microsoft Office, along with everyone else, implements ODF 1.2 in a full and interoperable way.

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