CyberTech Rambler

September 29, 2007

Gnumeric’s view on OOXML

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 4:29 pm

Let’s face it, I am not writing a office application, neither is 99.9% of the people discussing this topic. Hence, it is refreshing to see the viewpoint of an Gnumeric spreadsheet writer.

His view was a nice insights into the actual work of implementing OOXML and ODF. To me, it highlighted another hurdle in implementing ODF: Most office applications are written with EXCEL compatibility in mind. Meaning it is easier to implement OOXML because OOXML reflects XLS structure closely. Part of the difficulty in getting a software suite running, any software suite for that matter, is to create sufficient software “foundation” component in the suite to support various functions expected by the software. It’s time consuming and difficult job, but once that is done, adding new things is a matter of building on top of them becomes a relatively simple task.  In this case OpenXML enjoys the advantage that the “foundation” components were already written and it simply had to ride on them. Of course, the fact that OpenXML is more “machine-language like” than full structural XML helps. On the other hand, any one writing ODF components probably have to twist and hack to fit into existing, XLS-centric code.

In my opinion both sides have a valid claim. It can be manipulated by both sides. Pro OOXML people will rejoys in Jody’s view that OOXML is faster to implement, coz they can reuse existing knowledge on reverse-engineering binary XLS format used by Excel. OOXML opponent will say that is only to be expected, if you write your application to reflect XLS.

It is unfortunate that both parties had decided to fight on these issues as the author presented it. If we measure it in terms of speed of implementation, I think OOXML is going to benefit from large existing implementation that is geared towards understanding its predecessor format. To win this argument, Pro ODF people has to escalate beyond implementing OOXML or ODF. I would like to see Jody, once the Gnumeric team completed the OOXML and ODF work, comes back and tell us which one they prefers, as a long term solution to file format.

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