Skip to Content
Skip to Table of Contents

← Previous Article Next Article →

ATPM 13.03
March 2007




Download ATPM 13.03

Choose a format:


by Mark Tennent,

2-up in Publishing

Two events occurred this week that have significance for the publishing world. First, the world’s oldest newspaper has turned totally digital; and second, Microsoft’s attempt to fast track their Office Open XML document format has hit the buffers.

Post-och Inrikes Tidningar comes from the land of ice and snow, with the midnight sun where hot metal used to flow, but no more for this Stockholm newspaper. Set up in 1645 by Queen Kristina, according to the Guardian it has turned into a Web-only publication listing legal announcements by corporations, courts, and government agencies. The download comes as a PDF with more dieresis than a coach full of tourists and it all looks Greek, er…Swedish to me.

I have been “blogging” since the early 1990s when we were making electronic publications, first in proprietary software before moving to the cross-platform Adobe PDF format. By the end of the 1990s these were multi-media, full-color magazines available online and the cover CDs of printed publications. When the dot-com bubble burst and advertising revenues declined, we didn’t care because we had no advertisers, but the printed mags did and grew noticeably thinner, some to bulimia and eventual starvation. It seemed then that print’s days were numbered, and with virtual publications such as the one you are reading now, major publishers are keeping a foot in both camps. The The Times of London has just spent a billion million making its own Web site worse than it used to be, and for some reason the The Guardian is still trying to get people to pay for their online content.

When Microsoft generously announced the intention of fast tracking their new Office Open XML document format for ISO approval, I for one was pretty downhearted because this is the default format for Office 2007. Especially as they simultaneously announced there wouldn’t be an early translator for Macs, nor for earlier versions of Office come to that. I had visions of returning Word files as unreadable and trying to get computing dimwits to understand I don’t care what formatting they put in their masterpieces; I strip it all out and start with plain old ASCII to design their latest blockbuster.

Thankfully, 19 of the world’s governments agreed with me and have put up strenuous objections to Office Open XML. For many, the existing XML-based and ISO-approved OpenDocument Format (ODF) is enough, and they have moved to non-proprietary formats and OpenOffice software. Adobe, who has always called PDF an “open” standard, has also applied for ISO approval. Their free Mars plug-in creates XML-tagged PDFs which for my use seems the best of both worlds. In addition, Microsoft has reluctantly agreed to offer an ODF translator as part of Office 2007 (no guessing whether it will actually work).

The UK government supported the British Educational Communications and Technological Agency, Becta, in researching open source compared with proprietary solutions and found that not only was there no gain to be made in moving to Office 2007 but also interoperability issues are most prevalent between versions of Microsoft Office applications. This is the same organisation who were pilloried by MPs in November for having outdated purchasing frameworks that denied schools the benefits of open source software. Universities and colleges are not bound by Becta rules, as a result the Open University won a Mellon Technological Collaboration Award for its work with the open source Moodle course management system.

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (1)

Ralph Sanchez · March 9, 2007 - 05:50 EST #1
Oh please with the OOXD format... Really. What is MS's intent with this thing? Is it to open up the developer industry to an even more open document environment? Of course not. MS is running so scared right now that they are just nakedly (can I say nakedly on ATPM?), using their considerable installed user base to take control of literally everything. Its astounding to watch, and it continues to amaze me that businesses continue to get wrapped up with MS and their exclusion-of-all-others solutions. The BBC iPlayer debacle wanna-be is just the latest amazement along with my favorite online photo service, that I loved and respected, just informing me that I "...must..." be using IE in order to avoid problems using their service. ...and the list goes on.

This latest attempt at yet another MS exclusive development platform (in spite of use of the word "open" in the format title), is all about Power, and Control... Really, make no mistake about it, MS is totally out of control. Reason tells me they are going to shoot themselves in the foot, the best real evidence for that is of course the enigmatic VISTA, but it still concerns me because of the inexplicably large install base that Windows has. The fact that the ISO would not simply say NO to MS simply opens the door to the inevitability of the OOXD thing going right on through. What a mistake - For free-enterprise and ultimately for the consumer.

Add A Comment

 E-mail me new comments on this article