Wednesday Mar 25, 2009

Second Annual Document Freedom Day (2009)

Document Freedom

Today the world is celebrating the second annual Document Freedom Day. As a community we have a lot to celebrate and recognize.

  • It is becoming politically acceptable for organizations everywhere to standardize on OpenDocument Format (ODF) for their documents.
  • Microsoft is expected to release information any day now regarding their support of ODF in their latest office suite (and with the ODF plug-in already freely available for their older versions).
About the Document Freedom Day
The Document Freedom Day (DFD) is a global day for Document Liberation with roughly 250 active teams worldwide. It is a day of grassroots effort around the world to promote and build awareness for the relevance of Free Document Formats in particular and Open Standards in general.

Document Freedom Day is supported by a large group of organizations and individuals, including, but not limited to ANSOL, Ars Aperta, BrOffice.org, COSS, Esoma, Estándares Abiertos, FFII, Free Knowledge Foundation, Free Software Foundation, Free Software Foundation Europe, Free Software Foundation Latin America, Funambol, Google, IBM, NLnet, ODF Alliance, Open Forum Europe, Open Source Initiative (OSI), Opentia, OSL, iMatix, Red Hat, Sun, The Open Learning Centre. Click here to see a list of DFD Teams.

Thursday May 22, 2008

Microsoft embraces ODF -- What does Sun have to say about it?

If you've any interest in standards and open source, one of the most thought provoking topics in a long time (in my opinion) has been how to save your files in a way that you can access them in the years ahead.

On Wednesday, Microsoft issued a press release that states they will support ODF.

Since Sun has long supported Open Standards and Open Source and our commitment to them remains strong and unwavering. This news pinged my interest so I approached Jim Parkinson, vice president, Developer, Tools and Services at Sun, to ask him about these developments.

In summary, he stated, "Sun welcomes Microsoft's decision to embrace OpenDocument Format (ODF v1.1). We look forward to working with Microsoft on the OASIS ODF Technical Committee to complete the improved ODF v1.2 specification and to submit it as an update to ISO/IEC. This is valuable progress towards the interoperability and openness that customers are demanding worldwide."



 UPDATED POST:

You might also enjoy an insightful perspective on Microsoft's decision in Simon Phipp's blog entry and and invitation from Peter Korn, Accessibility Architect at Sun, who is officially inviting Microsoft and others to join in the OASIS OpenDocument Format Accessibility subcommittee efforts.

Other ODF related links:
\* Patrick Durusau and ODF 1.2
\* IBM and ODF

Wednesday Feb 27, 2008

Open Standards, Open Source, Open Access to IP, and Open Dialog

Bill Smith

At Sun, we consider Open Standards, Open Source, Open Access to IP, and Open Dialog to be key tenets of our corporate philosophy. In this spirit, we'd like to offer the following thoughts given the recent publication of a series of documents (Open XML Policy Briefing) related to XML formats for office documents, their development, and standardization.

Bill Smith, Director of Business Strategy, Sun Labs.

Open Access to IP

Sun pioneered the use of Non-Assertion Covenants (NACs) as a means to openly, clearly, succinctly, and unambiguously state our intentions with respect to patents, especially in standards-setting environments. NACs have a number of benefits, including their Open Source–friendly nature of not requiring any signed license. As a result their use is on the rise, with a number of companies issuing them in a variety of areas. However, not all NACs are equivalent (nor need they be) and in fact significant differences exist.

With respect to ODF 1.0, Sun promises not to assert any of our patents against any implementation. This statement is unambiguous, clearly stating that any and all of our patents have been taken off the table in this field, subject to a reciprocity clause covering all patents held by a recipient. Our promise applies to all portions of the ODF 1.0 specification, including other specifications included by reference. In addition, our ODF 1.0 Covenant offers a prospective promise regarding subsequent versions of ODF in which development Sun participates.

It has been suggested that our Covenant is non-standard. To the extent it is, we are happy to offer it as a model for others to copy – as has already happened.

Open Standards, Open Source, Open Documents

Sun has long supported Open Standards and Open Source and our commitment to them remains strong and unwavering.

Sun, together with ten other OASIS members, supported the formation of a Technical Committee at OASIS to address the needs of individuals, corporations, and governments who had expressed the requirement to freely choose systems and software for their long-term document processing needs. By 2002, when the TC was formed, Open Source and XML-based standards had become well-established and well-regarded as mechanisms to support such free choice. The OpenOffice.org application had established itself as a leading Open Source office productivity suite but was lacking a companion Open Standards file format. XML was the sensible choice for such a file format and OASIS the obvious place to undertake its development.

Starting with the OpenOffice.org XML format specification as input, the Technical Committee worked over a period of many months to produce a high-quality specification. From its inception, the TC performed all of its work, as required by OASIS process, in an open manner. All committee mail lists, document drafts, and comments are available for public review and publicly archived to help others understand and learn from ODF's development process.

While the specification was being written and reviewed, developers at OpenOffice.org (many of whom are Sun employees) made changes to ensure that their Open Source implementation would be in sync with the specification when it was adopted as a standard. Availability of both a comprehensive specification of the ODF file format and Open Source implementations of products that support that format have fostered the emergence of a thriving market. Today, some 15 different products support ODF.

ODF is well-specified, comprehensively documented, and has gone through a number of rigorous and transparent public reviews. V1.1 consists of 738 pages with 37 references to other specifications. A companion document, 53 pages in length, discusses accessibility issues in general, provides guidance to (ODF) application developers, and makes recommendations to content creators.

V1.1 of the specification was developed in part to respond to accessibility concerns that were raised after publication of V1.0. The OASIS TC responsible for ODF established a subcommittee to investigate these concerns and it produced a report reviewing the issues and making specific recommendations. The Executive Summary of the report stated in part:

The ODF Accessibility Subcommittee has identified 9 accessibility issues in ODF 1.0, and proposes candidate solutions to them. With these changes, we believe that ODF will meet or exceed the accessibility support provided in all other office file formats as well as that specified in the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0.

All of the subcommittee's recommendations were accepted and adopted as part of ODF V1.1.

The small number of issues listed in the report is in large measure the result of the requirement by the ODF TC Charter to reuse other open standards and concepts whenever possible. To the extent those standards are accessibility friendly, ODF is. By reusing standards, ODF reduces complexity (though not functionality) and length (though not completeness) while enhancing interoperability. ODF is able to “stand on the shoulders of others,” thereby reducing duplication of effort and facilitating consistency across a broad set of applications and implementations.

Questions have arisen regarding ODF's support for financial formulas, and V1.2 will address these questions. ODF 1.0 did not specify a financial formula language. While the TC found that this mechanism did not present significant short-term interoperability issues, it was recognized as a long-term issue and is being addressed in Version 1.2.

Rather than base its financial formula language on a single implementation or application, the TC chose to specify formulas based on broad industry experience and best practices, by examining a number of applications and their formula support. The financial formula language in ODF 1.2 is based on a review of over 10 different products and their formula languages. ODF V1.2 is expected to be published in final form later this year.

Is ODF perfect? Certainly not, but those responsible for its development and maintenance have demonstrated a willingness to engage in Open Dialog and respond to issues in a timely fashion using agreed-upon procedures. That is the mark of a truly Open Standard.

Open Dialog

All Sun employees have a responsibility to engage in Open Dialog, question conventional wisdom, and offer honest views (which are occasionally contrarian!). We ask questions, challenge assumptions, and propose solutions in a collaborative fashion, working across traditional boundaries for the benefit of our customers and Sun as a whole. We recognize and respect that not all companies support such diversity of opinion, questioning of authority, or collaboration with others. For us, it's just business as usual – and we thrive on it.

Sun has supported and will continue to support participation in Open Standards efforts. We believe that Open Dialog coupled with direct discussion of technical issues can result in superior specifications (and interoperable products) in short time periods. The development of XML, the foundation of ODF and OOXML, is an excellent example of this approach that brought together partners and competitors to work towards a common goal – a pattern we would like to see repeated.

Monday Feb 18, 2008

Peter Korn honored as an "Agent of Change" in the IT Community during 2007

Golden Gate Bridge Peter Korn, Accessibility Architect at Sun and co-chair of the OASIS OpenDocument Format Accessibility Subcommittee, has been selected by Federal Computer Week as one of their 100 "Agents of Change" for his contributions to accessibility standards in the U.S.Federal Rehabilitation Act.

Peter was nominated based upon his participation and accomplishments in the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee (TEITAC) to the Access Board. The advisory committee was chartered to update the standards for section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act providing for accessibility to IT by people with disabilities. The committee is comprised of experts in the area of IT accessibility for people with disabilities and includes government agencies, advocate organizations for people with disabilities, academia, standards organizations, and industry.

 Congratulations Peter!

Tuesday Sep 11, 2007

What can IBM do for OpenOffice.org?

We've seen a lot of news this month around OpenOffice.org and the StarOffice productivity suites.

In a press release issued yesterday, it was announced that IBM has officially joined the community to collaborate on the development of OpenOffice.org software. What is interesting about this is that IBM will be making initial code contributions that it has been developing as part of its Lotus Notes product, including accessibility enhancements, and will be making ongoing contributions to the feature richness and code quality of OpenOffice.org products supporting the ISO ODF standard.

Why is this important?
For several reasons. This agreement will spur more innovation and enhanced support for OpenOffice.org and ODF, particularly in the area of accessibility. In turn, the enhanced functionality will provide better support and further choice for organizations around the world that are moving to ODF.

One of the first things IBM is bringing to OpenOffice.org is an implementation of the new accessibility interface, IAccessible2.

IAccessible2 is essentially a port to Windows of the GNOME Accessibility interface that Sun brought to the open source GNOME community, and like that interface, it is becoming a standard under the stewardship of the Open Accessibility Group in the Linux Foundation.

Without something like IAccessible2 assistive technology products -- screen readers for the blind, screen magnifiers for users with low vision -- must reverse engineer applications in order to make them accessible; a particularly difficult, expensive, and brittle task that must be re-done with every new release of Windows or the application.

Now that two of the most popular screen readers (JAWS and WindowEyes) support IAccessible2, the majority of blind screen reader users on Windows will have very good, direct access to OpenOffice.org and ODF. This complements the access provided through the free, Sun ODF Plug-in to Microsoft Office, which allows Windows assistive technology users (as well as others) to read and write ODF through MS-Office, where their existing, reverse-engineered access exists. This in turn will make ODF more attractive to governments, which often require that the technology they purchase be accessible to all of its users, including the disabled.

IAccessible2 also complements excellent open source access solutions provided on UNIX platforms like Solaris, OpenSolaris, and Ubuntu.

Peter Korn has a great entry on his blog about Darragh Ó Héiligh, a blind Linux user in Ireland, who has just posted an audio introduction of Fedora Linux with Orca.

Futhermore, OpenOffice is free, open source, supports ODF and it ships with Solaris and most major Linux distributions as well as other popular file formats. What more can you ask for?

OpenOffice.org Conference
Developers, businesses, government representatives, and users will be convening at the annual OpenOffice.org Conference (OooCon) on September 19-21 in Barcelona, Spain. OOoCon is the premier annual event for all contributors interested in or working with OpenOffice.org. Representatives of all OpenOffice.org community projects will be on hand to participate and learn from the achievements of the past year, and to discuss how to meet new challenges. This year, OOoCon and OASIS will host a joint ODF Camp, focused on OASIS' ODF. Come to Barcelona and check it out. 

Thursday Jul 12, 2007

Sun's ISO-standard ODF plug-in for MS Office has exceeded 13,000 downloads

Spreadsheet
Presentation
Wordprocessor
Folks were very busy during the recent U.S Independence Day break releasing the Sun ODF Plug-in 1.0 for Microsoft Office. It was released on July 3rd and is enjoying great popularity. In the first seven days the plug-in, which supports Office 2000, XP, and 2003, and works on Windows XP and Vista, was downloaded 13,000 times. It adds to MS Office the ability to read and write ODF text, spreadsheet, and presentation files (.odt, .ods, and .odp) - the ISO standard editions of MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files.

Download the ODF Plug-in.

The plug-in is based on StarOffice technology and is easy to setup and use, the conversion happens transparently and the additional memory footprint is minimal. Microsoft Office users now have seamless two-way conversion capabilities. The Sun ODF plug-in is currently the only converter with Enterprise support available.

On Peter Korn's blog site you will find a wealth of information addressing accessibility concerns, which is one of the key reasons behind Sun's development of the ODF plug-in.

Check out what others are saying.

Malte Timmermann
Perspectives
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