Monday Oct 13, 2008

OpenOffice.org and archiving

At the ODF Workshop last week, a number of the delegates were asking about the right way to handle archiving of their documents. Obviously ODF offers a baseline file format that promises long-term readability and editability, but the question remains of how best to handle files. With the release of OpenOffice.org 3.0, there are now two alternatives, and we heard at the conference of a third alternative coming in the future from ODF.

  1. ODF plus PDF

    Most of the archivists I have spoken to have insisted that one should always keep the original document in its original format, regardless of other choices. The easiest option for archiving is to retain the original file, with an optional copy filtered to ODF if the original is not in ODF, and then accompany the file with a PDF image. Technology exists to automatically create all this.
  2. PDF Container

    OpenOffice.org includes extensive new PDF handling features, including PDF/A support, access to PDF's distribution and use controls and the ability to include the original ODF in a "container" inside a "hybrid PDF". This last feature offers a fine archiving alternative, where a single file is created but within it the original ODF is retained for future use.
  3. Read-Only ODF

    At the workshop, we heard from Jomar Silva on the future of ODF 1.2. One of the features he described was signed, read-only ODF, allowing the preservation of the document exactly as used (it's on slide 4).

Choosing which to use is obviously a decision for each archiving authority, but the richness of the new PDF support means that the options open to arhcivists just grew enormously.

Tuesday Jan 30, 2007

Adobe Adds Non-Assert

I just got home from a great day at JFokus in Sweden, so this is my first chance to pass longer comment on Adobe's excellent move to turn PDF into a ratified international standard like ODF. I first saw the news in Duane's blog and saw from there that they are sensibly using AIIM as the steward. This approach - waiting for the spec to stabilise before standardisation - is exactly the right thing to do and I understand the balance one needs to make between concern for the existing user base and desire to formalise the established standard. Stephen has one his Q & As on the news which is worth reading, especially for the implication of importance to the ongoing tussle between Microsoft and the rest of humanity over document formats.

When I saw the news, the first thing I went looking for was the details of how Adobe will handle all the patents associated with PDF, since it undoubtedly has a substantial portfolio. On Monday there was nothing at all about that in the announcement or the FAQ, so I asked on Duane's blog. Interestingly Stephen doesn't cover this important topic.

I just got a note from Duane with the very welcome news that Adobe has in fact decided to issue a Covenant not to sue surrounding its patent portfolio for PDF. They've added this fact to the end of the FAQ.This is excellent news since it frees the forthcoming ISO standard for implementation by Free and open source communities. Kudos to Adobe for taking this increasingly normal step with their standard, and to Duane for acting so fast to get it sorted.

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