CyberTech Rambler

April 26, 2007

Science Magazine not accepting Microsoft 2007 format and what does compatibility means? [Updated 2 May 2007]

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:57 pm

Rob Weir latches on the fact that both Science Magazine and Nature Magazine advise contributors that it cannot accept Microsoft 2007, i.e., .docx format. The reason given is the incompatibility with their internal publishing system. Given that .docx format is relatively new, i.e., less than 6 months, I am not very surprised. It takes sometime for both magazine to upgrade its system to accept new .docx format. The question is will it upgrade in this way and when. At the mean time, they are exploiting their clout to tell their contributors to conform to their working practice, a luxury not enjoyed by journals of lesser caliber.

The big surprise is, that Science advise that if your submission comes from a “downgraded” .docx to .doc format (older Microsoft format), and the original .docx file contains equation, than your .doc file will actually save the equation as “graphics”. Science and Nature are not big equations users. Hence, if the equation problem are big enough nuisance for them to speak out against, how crippling will this be for other journals that uses equations extremely heavily. I am not talking about maths journals which are the expected victims, but computer science journals and engineering journals as well.

This sentence by Science should be noted by everyone claiming that OpenXML’s refusal to use existing standards is not a problem:

“[T]he default equation editor packaged with Word 2007 — for reasons that, quite frankly, utterly baffle us — was not designed to be compatible with MathML” [emphasis mine]

It is powerful because it comes from a disinterested party in the ODF/OpenXML debate. It is powerful because Science technical services and their vendors know that bidirectional MathML to OpenXML Math’s markup is available (See this Brian Jone’s blog entry). It is powerful because it means IT people sees this as a barrier that need not be there. Finally, it does poke a small tiny holes into the claim that MathML is not good enough for Microsoft Office.

Rob Weir claims that this violate the “100% compatibility” claim. This will be true on the condition that we are talking about bi-directional compatibility. As far as I can recall, nobody in the OpenXML camp actually define the term “compatibility”. I so far had taken it for granted that they meant “forward compatibility only”, i.e., from .doc to .docx. Normally, in software one do not expect all information in newer format to be saved in the old format, that is why I only considered “forward compatibility”. If someone on the OpenXML camp wish to clarify that will be great, but I am not holding my breath. [Update 2 May 2007: Brian Jone confirms that OpenXML camp meant “forward compatibility”.  (See comment below). Thank you Brian]


1 Comment »

  1. ctrambler,
    You’re right that when we talk about 100% compatibility, we’re dealing with bringing the existing set of files into the new format. We wanted to make sure that when people move their legacy binary documents into the new XML format, that they don’t lose any information. We were worried that if something gets lost, than folks would be less likely to use the new formats. Even if it only affected 1% of our customers, that’s still 4 million people…


    Comment by Brian Jones — May 2, 2007 @ 1:00 am | Reply

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