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Two conferences about ODF

In the week of November 2nd I travelled to a little village in Italy called Orvieto. The reason for going to this lovely town is two conferences in a row.
The first one is the OpenDocument plugfest. The second is the openOffice.org conference, both of which were new experiences for me.

The ODF plugfest is a meeting where different implementors of a standard come together and come up with user scenarios and test how well they port between the implementations.
So you'll see a document created in KWord being opened in OpenOffice.org and Microsoft Office and investigations started when the resuls are not as expected.

I did a presentation at the event of the progress made in the Qt (QTextDocumentWriter) and KOffice implementations of ODF and naturally the Maemo Office reader and last mentioned the Nokia sponsored officeshots.org node we are preparing.
The next day I had another presentation where I showed an interoperability issue with right-to-left languages. Several bugs were found in OpenOffice.org and MSOffice and a discussion followed to share the concepts of right-to-left text and (visual) text-alignment. These are tricky things so its important to all have the same ideas on how it should work.

The event had lots of talks, essentially making is clear we are not the only ones doing ODF and showing whats going on in this space. It was interesting to see how far MSOffice has come with ODF, and at the same time how much we need KOffice to become the big second implementor. MS said several times that for optimum interoperability they choose a solution that works better with OOo and not what the specification says it should do. Having a second independent implementation will benefit us all by keeping the standard authoritative, not the most popular implementation.

The event consisted of several interoperability scenarios, essentially manual testing of making a document, saving it in your app and adding it to the wiki. Then loading everyone else's document and checking whats broken. Followed with an investigation how you can do better. Its a good way to keep the developers focussed so they don't spent all their time on one feature and being bad overall. KOffice did pretty well here, except for the areas that were already marked as experimental anyway (like change tracking, which is work-in-progress).

Joining the OpenOffice.org conference was making me a bit uneasy, on going there I felt like I'm a spy in the opposite camp. How wrong I could be! The conference was indeed called OpenOffice.org but essentially is a collection of people interested in the open document format as well as the main implementation. There were lots of people from governments and other stakeholders that made clear they were just as interested in KWord as in any other ODF implementation.
This is a stark contrast to the usual events I go to where the majority of participants are volunteers or students. For I went through my business cards quite fast and wished I had brought more.
As usual I get a lot of good energy from these conferences, so many friendly faces, good talks and this being Italy, I had quite good food too ;)

I'm always happy to get a face to a name I've been emailing with and nothing works better than a conference in a country where wine is as cheap as water during dinner.


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