CyberTech Rambler

January 8, 2007

We may get the correct behaviour, but it does not mean ODF v1.0 is clear on birectional text

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 7:34 pm

Over on OpenMalaysia blog, the author had used and KOffice to “debunk” a vendor “assertion” that ODF 1.0, a.k.a., ISO26300, supports bi-directional text. While (s)he successfully demonstrate that bi-directional text is indeed supported by one than one applications, and that the rendering error in Abiword is exaggerated by the said “vendor” (since Abiword only claims 60%+ compliance with ODF), the so-called technical demonstration does not prove that ISO26300 is clear on bi-directional text.

The proof for bi-directional text support must be found inside the ODF specification document itself and the specification must be unambiguous.  A statement like “Please refers to [Insert external bi-directional text standard] here” will suffice. Thus, even if ALL ODF supporting application renders bi-directional text correctly, it simply means there is a consensus on how bi-directional text should be rendered. It is not an indication that the particular version of ODF is clear on bi-directional text.

As the source accusing ODF v1.0 of lacking bi-directional text support is not quoted. I cannot evaluate whether the source aim’s is to discuss, compare and contrast ODF with another document format as a specification, or whether is piece of commercial literature designed to scare off users whose main language is written the right-to-left way from considering ODF as an alternative. If it is the latter, the author of OpenMalaysia blog certainly debunk it completely. The author, however, had not reach the burden of proof required to show that ODF did specify how bi-directional text should be handled.

Since I was raised in Malaysia. I know how important bi-directional text support is. I have a lot of Muslim friends that needs to write and in Arabic and my Chinese friends might have to write their Chinese word in the traditional top-down/right-left way. Thus, I will find it surprising that the National Standard body (SIRIM) will endorse any document format that does not support bi-directional text, or at least raise its concern about no bi-directional text support when ODF came out for vote in the ISO procss. Bi-directional text support is a fundamental requirement for any self-respecting document format. As such, I am sure ODF, or any other document format, is not silent on this topic. That said, I still need to see ODF specification specifically mention this to satisfy myself that ODF v1.0 supporst bi-directional text.

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