Open office document formats

In August 2007, TechWatch published a report on XML-based office document standards and there are a couple of reasons why this has come to the fore this last week.

First of all, at JISC’s strategy meeting this week there was much talk of the need to support institutions dealing with antiquated administration systems that are unable to provide, for example, the kind of business intelligence that managers need. One of the things the TechWatch report did was to acknowledge that institutions were going to need to update their systems. It also provided a way for thinking about the issues that put procurement questions into a bigger picture of soon-to-be mandatory policy requirements around the need to provide information without creating vendor lock-in.

Secondly, the IEEE Internet Computing magazine has recently published an article on ODF (OpenDocument Format: The standard for Office Documents) which looks at some of the new work being undertaken by the OASIS ODF Technical Committee. To understand why this is important you really need to have read the TechWatch report first, but we think what’s interesting is the ODF Futures section. This talks about: improved support for the use of mathematical and scientific formulas in applications that make use of ODF; facilities to help applications make use of collaborative editing and semantic tagging; enhancements for accessibility. The move towards Semantic Web-type applications is particularly interesting. Rob Weir, the article’s author, argues that such tools will “let authors capture… more of what they’re thinking”.