The second day of the Plugfest followed the same general scheme of the first one (covered in a separated page): a non-technical introduction followed by lots of hacking, feature analysis and product anticipations.
A representative of the Spanish Ministry of Presidency, Miguel Angel Amutio Gomez, started the day explaining the crucial points of the Spanish law 11⁄2007: the right for everybody to use whatever digital technology they like best and the obligation for all Public Administrations to avoid discrimination of citizens based on their technological choices. In order to make this possible, the law stresses the importance of open standards, setting the goal that all e-government services and documents become available at least through such standards. In this context, Amutio said, the Spanish National Interoperability Framework (NIF) that A. Barrionuevo presented in the first day becomes an essential legal test for all Spanish organizations.
Besides the law itself, the most interesting part of this presentation were the results of an analysis made using the NIF: it turns out that 30% to 40% of the about 400 digital standards already used for e-government in Spain comes from (in decreasing order): IETF, OASIS, W3C, ISO, and Microsoft.
After this stimulating factoid, the conference went back to strictly technical topics. Michiel Leenars of the Opendoc Society, showed us all you can do with OfficeShots. This is a rendering farm for office documents, primarily aimed to developers and power users but useful for everybody. When you upload your file to the OfficeShots server it will show you how it will look with many combinations of office suites and operating systems. If needed, an anonymizer kindly provided byt the lpOD folks (see Day One report) scrambles all the text to avoid online dissemination of sensible data. The most advanced use cases for OfficeShots include:
- check before buying which ODF software works better with the kind of documents you actually need
- design styles for corporate templates that render correctly on all office software products
- (for developers) testing the interoperability of your program with other office suites
There is also a test suite gallery to help developers to test new versions of their products quickly. Of course, OfficeShots is an Open Source project to which everybody can contribute.
Microsoft and OpenDocument
Before lunch, Mario Wendt summed up the current status of Microsoft support for OpenDocument. Here are the main points:
- Office 2010 will include over 1000 odf related bug fixes
- Implementer notes for Office 2007 and Office 2010 requested by the community already available (even if only as single PDF files)
- Study of the differences between ODF 1.1 and 1.2 in order to provide appropriate feedback
- Ongoing work to contribute to finish OpenFormula
- Commitment to support ODF 1.2 nine months after its formal approval by ISO
Opendocument on Android!
Using ODF documents on the road becomes easier and easier every year, at least for text ones. Oliver Mas presented the Android port of ODFMovil, a J2ME ODF viewer developed by Cenatic under an Apache 2/GPL2 license. The port, which was also intended as a pilot to estimate the complexity of porting bigger applications, was relatively easy due to the four-layer architecture of ODFMovil: core utilities, file management and compression, XML parsing, GUI. As it turned out, only the first and third layer could be ported. File management and graphical interface had to be rewritten from scratch. More details are available in Oliver’s ODFMovil slides.
OpenDocument for financial firms
There is a part of the OpenDocument standard that is really critical for its adoption, at least in some markets: the financial formulas that are used to calculate things like interest rates, mortgage payments and similar amenities. As Rob Weir put it, “an economist whose predictions aren’t wrong more than 10% is a genius, but a banker making a 1% error is a criminal”, so it’s essential that the formulas in OpenDocument don’t make any mistake. This is more complicated than it seems, to the point that a whole session of the Plugfest was reserved to this topic.
There are at least five ways to calculate the number of days between two dates that can in real life you can find mixed in different ways, depending on the traditions and regulations of every country (not to mention leap years): sometimes all months are assumed to last 30 days, and the year can be 360 days instead of 365. Since this changes how much you still owe to your bank after a few years of mortgage, it is absolutely necessary that all ODF compliant applications are 100% interoperable from this point of view. This means that each of them must declare without ambiguities what method it uses for day counts and how it handles (at least) the YEARFRAC() formula, even when it appears in a spreadsheet generated by another application.
Change tracking and handling of unique features
Another important moment of Day Two was the hacking session on management and interoperability of change tracking. Mario Wendt presented a test case that all developers could create and test on the spot, reporting the result on a common wiki: a text document with a fixed layout mixing a table, several paragraph and numbered list, on which everybody had to perform a well defined series of edits.
Saturday morning, instead, was “unique features” time. There are functions of some ODF capable suites that are simply absent from other programs: notable example are music shapes in KOffice or SmartDraw graphics in Microsoft Office. What must happen when you use such features in an ODF document that you want to share with users of other software? The session theme was that developers could, as a minimum, guarantee that:
their unique feature always provides a fall-back representation of that object that any other application can surely display(e.g a PNG version of SmartDraw graphics)
their application doesn’t mess with objects it can’t understand when it saves a file, so that, when the file itself is reopened with the application that inserted that object, it can still edit it
Careful readers of my ODF Day One report will immediately notice the intersection of this issue with the topic of my own talk and with what Rob Weir said about metadata interoperability. For the record, Rob also pointed out that the problem presented in my talk could also happen in another way: what if you insert into an OpenDocument file a macro in an open programming language (e.g. Python) that implements a patented algorithm? It will be really interesting to see how Public Administrations and other large organizations will handle all these issues in the medium/long term (if they see them in the first place, of course).
Converting wikis to books in OpenDocument format
The last cool thing I’d like to report from the Plugfest is a cool use of lpOD that Louis showed us on Friday: it turns out that you can use this software to export a whole wiki, or selected parts of it, to a book in OpenDocument text format. Besides a flexible templating system, the software gives you automatic generation of the Table of Contents and support for footnotes, tables and images. This could be a very handy publishing tool for schools writing their own textbooks or any other organization that creates text content working through the Internet!