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Software Government Politics

The Future Is Open: The OpenDocument Format 210

Daniel Carrera writes "I've written an article for Groklaw describing the OpenDocument format: 'I asked Daniel Carrera, an OpenOffice.org volunteer, if he'd please explain the OpenDocument format. How does a format get chosen? And is OpenDocument on the list of acceptable formats for governments like the State of Massachusetts? We are all concerned about proprietary formats and standards, and more and more governments are adopting policies requiring open standards, it's a very important subject.' It's currently being considered by the EU Commission as a candidate for an official format."
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The Future Is Open: The OpenDocument Format

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  • by krudler ( 836743 ) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @04:03PM (#11522042)
    Why people never even consider that something else exists other than MS Office. It's not just a philosophical argument, everyone I know has ran into problems with a .doc from a different version that doesn't open. It is hard for some people to do work at home, then bring it to work/school and use it! If it's a .doc, it should work in every version of work. The same goes for all the other formats.

    Krudler
    • Its because Microsoft has taken an almost monopolitical (is that even a word?) stance on the common public's view of computers.

      In fact, outside of select worlds (Slashdot, etc), Microsoft is synonymous with computer software.
      • Software?

        To most people Microsoft is synonymous with computers period.
        • by 808140 ( 808140 ) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @10:27PM (#11525012)
          You know, I'm not sure that's the case as much anymore... or really that it ever has been, actually.

          The reason is simple: Apple. Now, Apple has taken a second (third?) seat to MS-based PCs for a long time and I think they probably will continue to do so for the forseeable future (ie, I am not an Apple zealot). But Apple remains a name-brand that exists in the public, non-geek consciousness. While their current success is due almost entirely to their iPod, in most people's minds, they remain a computer company.

          I believe that part of the reason that alternative browsers like Firefox are beginning to gain ground is because of MS's discontinued support of IE on the Mac. Despite the fact that not many people use Macs, many of the people that do are not geeks, and those "not-geeks" were forced to consider the browser question in a more realistic way when MS discontinued Mac support. Up until then, they likely considered (as most people do) that IE was the internet.

          Now they know better, and as you've probably noticed on Slashdot, Mac-types are a loud bunch -- even the non-geeky ones. They use Firefox or Safari and they make a big fuss about it. They're convinced of a conspiratorial anti-Macintosh agenda on the part of, well, pretty much everyone and they complain loudly when things don't work well on their macs. Nowadays, this includes websites.

          My point in all of this is that MS has been the big bully in the industry for a long time. Apple, Sun, IBM -- all would be exactly like MS if their roles were reversed (IBM in fact was, at one time) -- but as it stands, all would like nothing more than to see MS toppled.

          Individually, each of these companies represents a feeble marketshare. Together, it still isn't much, but it's enough, I think. They have the users required and the lobbying power, too, to really make a difference. IBM and Sun have always had the problem of being companies only IT people really know much about, due to their lack of penetration on the desktop. Apple, on the other hand, is widely seen as a desktop system normal people actually use, and so Apple being on board hopefully will make more non-industry folks aware of what's going on. Unfortunately, these three companies haven't been keen on cooperating on things like formats precisely because of the lack of open standards -- none of them wants to allow a competitor to dictate the structure of any format.

          Each of them produces its own office suite; each of these is MS Office's bitch. By making sure that their office suites all interoperate 100% with an open format, and by lobbying governments (especially non-American governments) with arguments about (American) vendor lock-in, I believe they can make in-roads into ODF adoption.

          If governments use it, large companies and contractors will be forced to use it as well, even if infrequently. They will quickly find MS Office's inability to save into these formats annoying (which will not force them to switch to another office suite, but which will cause them to lobby MS to support the format).

          Big companies = big clients = big money. Add this to the fact that any law requiring a government to adopt an open format that MS Office doesn't support will make the use of MS Office illegal in a de facto sort of way, because of its non-compliance.

          If (and that's a big if) all of this happens, if the laws pass, and IBM/Apple/Sun manage to cooperate for a change, I expect that MS Office will include support for a usable subset of ODF. What they will not do -- what they will never do -- is make it the default format. Further, they will likely ensure that some features of their doc format cannot be saved in ODF, allowing them to pop-up the little box that warns the user that "some formatting information may be lost, proceed?"

          This will make little difference to governments legally required to avoid doc, but this will be enough to prevent widespread adoption in the private sphere.
          • "I believe that part of the reason that alternative browsers like Firefox are beginning to gain ground is because of MS's discontinued support of IE on the Mac."

            The overwhelming majority of Mac users I know, including the geeks, default to the pre-installed browser (Safari) just like Windows newbies do, except with even less willingness to try an alternative. The few Mac users I know that do use (or even try) Firefox are already super-geeks, so they'd be using it even if they were in Windows and therefore
    • Well, I think that depends. You can't expect every version of MS Word to support newer features (although the ability to read the rest of the document should be unaffected). However, never versions of the software should always be capable of opening older documents.
    • Because in these days most of the people that use computers are not computer experts (not that this is a bad thing though)

      If they have a problem with microsoft word, they don't usually blame the program. For them there is no distinction between the software that runs on their computers and the computer itself. They blame the computer, because they don't know better.
    • supposed; ought to: thought.
      These are the voyages of the conditional-ship Hypothetical, its five year mission to discover how that vast delta between the reference state and reality crept into the system...
    • Not true. Move on. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Saeed al-Sahaf ( 665390 ) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @04:31PM (#11522298) Homepage
      Why people never even consider that something else exists other than MS Office

      First, Word Perfect is still King in law offices and certain other niche areas. But two words: "Market Saturation". If you need to communicate with the majority of people and business out there, if you're not sending .doc you might as well just send a random string of characters, so it's a matter of if you want to do business or not.

      everyone I know has ran into problems with a .doc from a different version that doesn't open

      Also, most people don't have problems opening Word docs that are not the latest version, this is simply an anecdote perpetuated by people that don't like Microsoft. Right now, I have Office 97 (which I actually have owned since about that time) at home, and have never had any problems opening brand spanking new Word docs.

      I support open document formats because it promotes competition in the areas of application user experience that count like usability. I would very much like to see OpenOffice mature to a point where most people including large companies would feel safe transitioning. But repeating these discounted "stories" of version incompatibility help no one.

      • by gardyloo ( 512791 ) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @04:45PM (#11522395)
        most people don't have problems opening Word docs that are not the latest version, this is simply an anecdote perpetuated by people that don't like Microsoft.

        Great. But the point is that no one, if the program were committed to being more compatible with past versions, should have problems. I have problems opening Word docs in several versions, whether they were created on older versions or on the newest ones. And many people I know do, too.
        I don't care if 70% of people who use Office haven't had compatibility problems. I DO care that at least half of the people I work with do or have had problems with it. When you say "discounted 'stories'", I take some offense, because those stories should NOT be discounted, and they aren't apocryphal -- many are true!
        There are rarely problems with postcript files or .pdfs, and they look much better. There are NEVER any problems with .rtfs, or with plain .txt documents, and even though these don't have the bells and whistles of many Word formats, they're always readable, and always editable.
        There's a higher standard than Word, and there has been for a long, long time.

        I don't hate Microsoft, but their compatibility issues are ridiculous.
        • There are NEVER any problems with .rtfs, or with plain .txt documents

          Let's not get carried away. .txt files are subject to \n vs \r\n mangling and to various failures of 128-255 charsets (plus the occasional UTF-8 sneeking in). Come to think of it, the most common problem (\n vs \r\n) is MS's fault....

          The format I've found most universal is HTML. So long as you stay away from scripts, specific fonts, and complex CSS, it can be read pretty much anywhere.

        • The Help compiler that came with visuial basic 3 wouldn't work with RTF documents created using word 97.

          I had to write something to reprocess the RTF documents and remove the crap that word 97 had put in there.

          Oh, try opening a text document written on a Mac or Linux on windows, sometimes it forgets that crlf isn't the only form of line termination in the world.

          And for the count, I've had lots of problems with word files of different versions, but word files with different fonts are even more annoying.

          A
      • by civilizedINTENSITY ( 45686 ) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @07:22PM (#11523631)
        The biggest problem our campus printing shop has is incompatibilies of versions of MS Word due to different computer labs running different versions (97 thru 2000 Pro). Mostly this seems to relate to embedded graphics and the formating of text around said emedded object. This isn't anecdote perpetuated by people who don't like Microsoft, this is historical fact related to using the campus printing shop, acknowledged by them as well as students.

        Some classes required bound reports (Software Engineering did...), and your only hope is PDF. Crappy formatting isn't an option in a "professional" report.
        • This sort of thing will happen whe people refuse to update. NO software company is required to support old software forever, and we shall see if OO formats 10 years from now will open in today's version of OO, or the other way around.
          • People have an incentive not to update when they have to pay hundreds of dollars per computer to do so. OpenOffice.org is free except for bandwidth, and even that is becoming less and less of a dealbreaker.
          • ...and we shall see if OO formats 10 years from now will open in today's version of OO, or the other way around.

            (La)TeX. A few weeks ago I re-typeset a 10 year old document in the latest version of LaTeX. Came out just right. I suspect that if I had a ten year old version of LaTeX2e I could typeset a modern document.

            This is why I use LaTeX for more things than I probably should. On the other hand, I can still read and typeset those text files, and on whatever my platform of the day is. There simp

            • LaTeX is not an "all purpose" word processor. Move on, before you make more of an ASS of your self.
              • Amen to that. LaTeX is way better than those lame "all purpose" word processors that make it so terribly easy to make butt-ugly, cludged-together documents with inconsistent manual section numbering and content lined up with spaces. LaTeX instead does exactly what a document authoring system should do: it allows those responsible for content to worry about content, and those responsible for layout to worry about layout. Sure, it's missing a few key "features" like the ability to allow every moron in the
            • LaTeX is amazingly cool technology. It kicks ass for Math, and Math intensive areas like Physics. LaTeX is required for submitting to most Professional Journals in these fields.

              While the learning curve is about that of hand coding HTML, LyX - The Document Processor [lyx.org] gives you a frontend interface that simplifies getting started and getting things done. The output is beautiful.
      • ...but it actually is seeming to work (after weeks). Try this as your signature file:

        Please avoid sending me Word or PowerPoint attachments.
        See http://www.fsf.org/philosophy/no-word-attachments. html [fsf.org]
      • Also, most people don't have problems opening Word docs that are not the latest version

        As de facto tech support for my family and friends, I've run into quite a few cases. The biggest problem seems to be cross-archetechture compatibility. Someone saves from Word 97 on a Mac and the only PC program that can open it is OpenOffice. If you don't run into this, you may be in a mono-archetechtural environment.

        I suspect this happens because MS Word dumps data structures raw with integers in binary host form

    • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @04:34PM (#11522316) Homepage Journal
      It's not just a philosophical argument...
      Indeed, the philosophical argument is of no interest to anybody except a few geeks. But there are a lot of practical reasons to want alternatives to MS Office. Not just the reasons you mention, but issues of cost, and of problems caused by overdependence on a single notoriously flaky company.

      But if you're baffled by people's adherence to MS Office, then you've never used this kind of software in a real-world environment. Being able to pass a file around without interopeability problems is crucial. Given the messy kind of data most people have to deal with, the only way to do this is to standardize on a specific set of tools from a specific vendor. In the past, you had real competition between Microsoft, IBM/Lotus, WordPerfect, and others. It was inevitable that one company would win the desktop application wars, though I wish it wasn't the same company that also won the desktop OS wars.

      If you're going to end this monopoly, you're going to have to overcome the same social and economic forces that drove Lotus and WordPerfect into niche status. There's more to doing that than simply coming up with a technicallly supperior or more open product.

      • by yagu ( 721525 ) <yayagu@NoSpAm.gmail.com> on Sunday January 30, 2005 @06:09PM (#11523052) Journal

        ..., But if you're baffled by people's adherence to MS Office, then you've never used this kind of software in a real-world environment. Being able to pass a file around without interopeability problems is crucial.

        I am STILL baffled... I have attended meetings where I worked where people literally were not able to print or view agendas, etc. ahead of the meeting because of the incompatibilities among the microsoft applications! Were it not so counter-productive to the work at hand, it would have been funny. (And this was/is an almost every-meeting event.)

    • Ive recently started using Apple's iWork suite, in particular Pages, and I love it much more then MS Office!
    • One word: Outlook.

      Until FOSS can replace Outlook, Office is a necessity. In fact, most people I work with use Outlook all day everyday and would be perfectly happy on Writer and Calc. But until we can't ditch Outlook, because that's what everyone knows.
      • Can you elaborate which features of Outlook are missing from all the other Email/Calendar/... apps out there?

        • The ability to migrate gently away from an Exchange server. There can be years of data stored in exchange, and that data can't just disappear because the company has chosen to use different software.

          • On Linux there is Evolution, and I hear a Windows port is coming up.

            • Hmm, seems that Connector has been open-sourced. That's pretty cool. At one point I believe you could buy a 3rd-party plug-in to make it work.

              Sweet deal. This could actually get things going. Go Novell!
    • I'm not baffled when it comes to Office suites... MS Office is a very good product. Probably the only good product to come out of Microsoft, in my opinion.

      We all know of the loads of problems with Windows and IE... but Office really never causes me problems at work, and I rarely have to support it (and if I do, it's operator error).

      I love leveling the playing field and hope that open formats win out, but Office is the least of my problems with Microsoft at present.

    • From my experience that's pretty rare. The compound document structure used by Microsoft Word is backward compatible and - so long as you don't use new features of newer Word versions - forward compatible. The OLE objects that comprise your basic document don't remove functionality but - at some times - add functionality. Any Windows developer centric around COM should know this (at least any decent developer).

    • Start refusing any document sent to you in non-OpenDocument format. Refusal will help. Might force a few people to install OpenOffice, if only for document conversion from Word, "until" Microsoft comes out with an OpenDocument convertor. (Wonder how long that will take? They'll fight that kicking and screaming until it's made a legal standard in a majority of locations...)
  • I will definitely miss that loading time (of approx. 2 minutes) of Acrobat Reater and that invaluable information on those 4573 (or something) patents that they have for one document reader software!
    • on windows, stay away from any adobe readers above version 4. i have no problems with version 4 on my pentium 2.

      on linux, acrobat's *ok*, but gpdf and xpdf are pretty decent and very fast. the new version of kpdf in kde 3.4 is going to be great as well.
      • Actually.. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Rezonant ( 775417 )
        After all complaints about the slowness of Adobe Reader 6 they have sped up version 7 A LOT. It starts almost instantaneously and even performance within the program is much better.
        • Yeah, and did you notice it is because they preload it in memory and leave it there, kind of like Office. Check your process list sometime...
    • I will definitely miss that loading time (of approx. 2 minutes) of Acrobat Reater and that invaluable information on those 4573 (or something) patents that they have for one document reader software!

      I too was very disappointed with Adobe because of the Acrobat Reader in Version 6.x.
      But they managed to fix the performance problem in version 7. I haven't benchmarked Acrobat Reader 7, but it feels like it loads and scrolls as fast as version 5 with all the benefits from version 6/7.
      Now they only need to imp

    • Foxit [download.com] is a freeware, very light, no-install-needed pdf reader, loads ultra quick and does the job just fine. There's a foxit pdf editor too. The reader is free the editor is 99 bucks
    • But the beauty of PDF is that it's an open format, it may be controlled by one company but the specs are public so theres nothing to stop you writing your own reader/writer.. And msoffice takes a similar time to load...
      Other PDF viewers dont take so long to load, "preview" that comes with OSX is very fast, as is Xpdf on unix machines... You dont get the flexibility of being able to use multiple apps like this with a close format.
    • Funny, but PDFs open in seconds on my old butt-slow iBook G3. Maybe you should use another program instead of Acrobat Reader.
    • I haven't used an Adobe product to deal with pdfs in years. Ghostscript, xpdf, Preview and print-to-PDF (in Mac OS X), OpenOffice -- all those are better at dealing with PDFs than Acrobat reader is. So why bother?

      Adobe Acrobat fostered in my a deep hatred of PDF; it's only since getting a Mac that I realized how unfounded that hatred was.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Daniel Carrera writes ... 'I asked Daniel Carrera, ...'

    Hmm... /me scratches head
  • by bigberk ( 547360 ) <bigberk@users.pc9.org> on Sunday January 30, 2005 @04:12PM (#11522148)
    For a similar discussion, but from the perspective of an OpenOffice.org user, check out this article [pc-tools.net] (even though it's really talking about OO.org, there is a section where it goes into the advantages of open formats for data interchange and longevity/archival). The XML format discussed there is I believe the same as OpenDocument
  • .txt (Score:2, Redundant)

    by Sophrosyne ( 630428 )
    Send all your files as .txt
    If Fancy formatting is really necessary send as a pdf.
    I could care-less about OpenOffice, they have done a nice job at emulating all the really bad elements of Microsoft Office without the perks like the speed of office, the interoperability, and some of the features.
    • Ah yes...I'm sure that will work. Tell me, where do I get a free WYSIWG editor so that I can collaborate with other people who can't write latex?

      What? There isn't one? Well, that's not going to work, is it?

      perks like the speed of office, the interoperability, and some of the features
      OpenOffice might not have the speed, but it has more compatibility than Office does. Try this: get several versions of Word. Get them to output documents containing text boxes with floating alignments and put them on a
      • Ah yes...I'm sure that will work. Tell me, where do I get a free WYSIWG editor so that I can collaborate with other people who can't write latex?

        He said .txt not .tex, as in plain ASCII, not TeX/LaTeX files.

      • Re:.txt (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Probably you are confused between .txt and .tex. You can use just notepad or wordpad for the first. Only the second one refers usually to LaTeX. But even for that second one you can try, for example, the nice (and free) LyX [lyx.org] (there is a standalone version for windows [zonnet.nl]) and there are much other for windows (of course for the free operating systems there are much many).
        • Lyx is not capable of reading any latex file - only Lyx produced Latex files are guaranteed to work.

          And no, I am not confusing .txt and .tex. Rather, I am thinking about virtually the only way to produce still-editible fancy documents (for free) given the choice between pdf and plaintext is with latex, since .tex is a plaintext format. Reread my post.
      • I just think that the UI is very similar to every other word processor out there- there is little innovation in OpenOffice, and not much incentive for people to use it other than being stuck on a linux system. I realize that openoffice inherited a lot from staroffice, which is both a positive and a limitation.
        I've stopped using word and office, but I think the hook for people is exchange operability- not always word operability.
        For many documents .txt would probably suffice- I know people like nice head
    • Re:.txt (Score:2, Funny)

      I completely agree. OpenOffice is soooooo... in need of a Firefox to its Mozilla suite. Can someone please fork this puppy and dump the bloat.
  • This is to the EU (European Union) and MA (Massachusettes), plus all those who want to bend the likes of MS.

    They should draw their terms, make them known to all stake holders and put a close that says something to the effect that the likes of MS, by submitting whatever they submitting, agree to the terms. These terms could be GPL/LGPL or whetever they license they choose. This would save them (EU & MA), the burden of having to interprete whatever MS and others mean in their licences.

    In effect, they

    • I hope you're kidding. If the EU were to define the terms of open documents, you'd have 25 countries each with their own experts half of whom would be fiddling the costs only to produce an 18,000 page document which, in order to be exactly translatable into all the official languages of the EU uses words (in the English language version, at least) that neither Websters or the Longer Oxford seem to recognise. The document would appear in eight versions and be finalized in 2014.
  • Wishful thinking (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JAFSlashdotter ( 791771 ) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @04:31PM (#11522302)
    While I honestly hope the OpenDocument format catches on and wins out in the end, I really think it's not going to make a major impact until Microsoft Office & Works save in OpenDocument format by default.

    I find that in my experience, most MS Word users have no clue what different file formats are, why they'd care to change, or even that they CAN choose a different type in the "Save As..." dialog. The only time it ever becomes an issue is if the version of Word / Excel / Powerpoint that they're using at work is significantly newer than the one they have at home . If they don't let that completely stop them (maybe "Clippy" shows them how), they learn to choose "Microsoft Excel 97" from the list if they want to take work home. That's the only time they are likely to differ from the default. And when they do that, they get warned what a bad idea it is, because features or formatting may not be available.

    No, I doubt the future is open, unless Microsoft makes open the default.

    • I find that in my experience, most MS Word users have no clue what different file formats are, why they'd care to change,

      People who install software for them might have a clue. That's where it matters.
    • You're right that users choosing "Save as OpenDocument" won't be the driving force behind a shift. But I think the shift will happen. The pressure will come from integration with other systems, especially the internet varieties. Right now the MS Office suite covers most of what runs a business, but already strange new tools and data formats are becoming important even for small businesses: content/site management, integration with search tools, blogs, RSS, RDF, automatic translation systems, Wikis, colla

  • by Milton Waddams ( 739213 ) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @04:53PM (#11522460)
    They release their documents [budget.gov.ie] in OpenOffice, PDF and .doc format.
    • Releasing multiple versions is a wonderful idea, and I'm a little disappointed this idea hasn't caught on.

      I'm not a good coder, but here's a simple yet powerful feature that I would absolutely love to see in a future OpenOffice.

      During the install, ask the user whether they would like to operate in "MS Word Compatability Mode". Make this option default to "yes" in Windows. From then on, without any whining to the user about the evils of .doc , or the possibility that "Saving in an external format may h
  • A very interesting place to discuss and advocate open formats is OpenFormats.org [openformats.org]. It is a wiki, so you can contribute, too.
  • Semantics or no, Massachusetts is a one of four commonwealths. It should not be referred to as the "State of Massachusetts".
    • "Commonwealth" sounds vaguely socialistic and pinko; Maybe Bush should liberate it.
    • You're correct and it's not socialistic or communistic or anything else.
      Commonwealths "States" of this country are Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Virginia. VA doesn't have a Secretary of State -- they have a Secretary of Commonwealth [virginia.gov].

      Curious why some states are commonwealths? Read the FAQ -- Why is VA a Commonwealth? [virginia.gov]
      Starts with: There is no such entity as the "State" of Virginia. While generally categorized as a state, Virginia has been the "Commonwealth" since independence from Grea
      • How each state wants to operate in its sovereign form is up to the people as long as its republic in nature. If New Jersey would like to call itself the "Free and Independent Peoples Democratic Place of the Principality of New Jersey, formerly known as the State of New Jersey." That's up to itself.

        True, but everyone in the other 49 states will still laugh at them.

  • Did anyone else flashback to the FORMER technology known as OpenDoc [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia] after reading the title of the article?

    Talk about a bad flashback... [shudder]

  • Prediction Time! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by thehunger ( 549253 )
    My predictions:
    1. EU chooses OpenDocument for standard
    2. Micro$oft includes support in next version of M$ Office
    3. then adds its own 'extensions' to OpenDocument format
    4. People discover that using anything but M$ Office is a 'hassle' since other products dont support 'extensions'

    Ok so it might not happen exactly like this but I bet they will try to do something similar!

  • Not a state (Score:2, Informative)

    by robogymnast ( 755411 )
    Hate to be nit-picking, but it is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Don't ask me explain how that works or what the difference is, but IIRC there are 3 others.
  • by demon_2k ( 586844 ) on Sunday January 30, 2005 @10:23PM (#11524986) Journal
    Obvious point : This could help solve most of the compatibility problems between different Office suits. Your work document may one day open in your frineds OpenOffice word processor and look 100% thesome as in you MS Office.

    The problem : Digital Rights Management. Ms might have or might open their XML document format. Other suits might open their format.

    However, can a application be an owner of a license? You could have a DRM'ed document created using Ms Word that is in an "open format" but, only Ms Work is licensed to open it or you are only allowed to open it in Ms Word. Anything else is considered a hack and you could me prosecuted under DMCA.
  • The U.S. Government has been pursing an XML based National File Format (NFF [cast.org]) for some time. This has currently morphed to the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS 1.0 [cast.org]), a subset of ANSi/NISO Z39.86 (DAISY 3 [loc.gov]).
  • I think there need to be several open file format standards:
    * one for plain text (straightforward, but standardize the /n/c/r)
    * one for rich text (above plus bold, italic, underline, color)
    * one for mixed documents (basically html - mix rtf and graphics)
    * one for rigid formatting (pdf)
    * one for complex documents - including collaboration markup

    Forgetting authoring interface, each is an extension of the one below it. Rich text is still only text. Mixed adds graphics and tables, but no rigid layout control
    • You just described LaTeX + CVS/Subversion/whatever. No one seems to be rushing to adopt it, which makes me think that the need for a unified format isn't as dire as you would expect. I love LaTeX and use it to write reports (and even my resume). However, the reality is that it will always be a niche application, even if it would solve 99.9% of the problems of people who don't know it exists.

      Maybe Don should take out an ad in the Times?

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