Fraunhofer Institute on OOXML und ODF

Aug 19, 2009

The Fraunhofer Institute has published a whitepaper on the interoperability of Office Open XML (OOXML) and the Open Document Format (ODF). Microsoft had a hand in its development.

The first part of the Fraunhofer Institute whitepaper with the title "Document Interoperability: Open Document Format and Office Open XML" describes use cases in which ODF and OOXML would work well together. The second part analyzes both in terms of the demands the use cases make. In the introduction, the authors hope that their analysis "will be useful in understanding how the ODF and OOXML standards compare, and how their functionality can be mapped between the two formats." However, they do not compare implementations of the standards "which can cause additional kinds of interoperability problems."

The results are rather sobering. Whether the conversion from one document type to the other is successful depends on the complexity and functionality of the document as well as the "translatability level" of the tool used. A closed loop where, say, an ODF document is converted to OOXML and then back again is nigh impossible. The problems arise, according to the analysis, from the ambiguities of the standards and the extensions to the document formats, even if they conform to the standards. The success ultimately lies in the instruments used, which the standards often don't cover. The authors recommend developing validators for the purpose. All in all, the basic compatibility between ODF and OOXML remains largely undefined.

In its conclusion, the whitepaper addresses Open Source activities by identifying their strengths and successes: "There are still many unanswered questions in the field of document interoperability. However, current developments in the field of the standardization as well as interested communities in the Open Source environment are working on and providing solutions to solvable questions and providing clearer views on limitations."

The 90-page whitepaper is available as PDF after a short registration. The Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems (FOKUS) in Berlin is the author and publisher, with some acknowledgements to (and possible financial help from) Microsoft.

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