Since the entire ODF TC is quite large now (almost 20 active members attend each meeting) it is impossible to do a technical “deep dive” on every topic in our meetings. So when a particular specification domain requires sustained attention for a period of time, we can create a subcommittee, to allow interested TC members to study and draft specification enhancements. We’ve done this several times before. For example, the Accessibility SC developed the accessibility enhancements for ODF 1.1. And the Formula and Metadata subcommittees drafted those key parts of ODF 1.2. I hope that this new SC will be equally successful in their work.
So what is “Advanced Document Collaboration”? A key part of this will be enhancing change tracking in ODF. I’ve been looking at how existing applications implement change tracking and I’m not 100% satisfied. And I don’t mean only ODF editors. Even Microsoft Office using OOXML lacks full and complete change tracking support. For example. Microsoft Word does not track changes that occur in an OLE object. And change tracking in PowerPoint is entirely absent. And starting in ODF 1.2 we have an additional RDF metadata layer in documents and we need to consider how change tracking deals with this. So there is a good opportunity here for us to advance the state of the art.
We are fortunate that earlier this year the OpenDoc Society, with sponsorship from NLnet Foundation. commissioned a proposal of a feature-complete change tracking specification from DeltaXML. This draft has also been contributed to the ODF TC and has attracted some implementor interest, with prototyping work occurring both in KOffice and AbiWord.
While studying change tracking, I’m hoping the SC will be able to give some thought to how we might canonically represent an “editing change” artifact. By this I mean a high level change which in the general case might be a correlated set of content, style and metadata changes which appears atomic the user, but which at the implementation level might touch several XML files in the ODF document. This editing change artifact, aside from being necessary to represent change tracking, could also be quite useful in other problems, such as a runtime clipboard format, as a quantum of change in a real-time collaborative editor, or to represent the persistent form of a document selection, which itself is useful in contexts such as fine-grained digital signatures. Not all of this happens overnight of course But I’m hoping that the initial work on feature-complete change-tracking will give other benefits down the road.
The charter for the new Subcommittee follows. If you are interested in these topics but are not already a member of OASIS, then I’d encourage you to join now, so you can “get in on the ground floor” with these exciting new discussions.
Statement of Purpose
Many ODF documents do not involve collaboration. They are created by a single user, edited by a single user, and then perhaps presented or shared with multiple users, or maybe even just converted to PDF for distribution.
However, collaboration-based document scenarios are also common, including review and comment, change tracking as well as emerging work in real-time collaborative editing, in-context document collaboration, persistence of structured document fragments, and so on.
In order to bring together technical experts in these areas, and for them to evaluate trends, investigate opportunities and draft enhancements to ODF in these areas, we are proposing a dedicated subcommittee for this topic.
The initial and highest priority for the Subcommittee will be change tracking. Reliable and user-friendly revision management is critical for professional document workflows in corporate and public sector environments, and as such an important feature of Open Document Format.
The SC is asked to prepare a draft specification of a markup vocabulary that can accurately describe any incremental change to the content and structure of documents – typically made in multiple editing sessions by different authors.
- A draft specification for change tracking, including Relax NG schema
- A description on how to apply change tracking markup to the various
versions of the OpenDocument Format (ODF) as a host format.
- A set of test documents that will allow implementers to validate their
change tracking implementations.
- A document that describes in detail how the existing change tracking
mechanism in ODF can be converted to the new markup.
- Other proposals, draft specifications and in-scope work related to the subcommittee’s Purpose.