Monday, November 20, 2006

Suggested enhancement for OpenDocument V1.2

Tables:
* introduce allowCollapse attribute for paragraphs following nested tables to encode WW and HTML-like tables.
* declare sub tables as deprecated

Numbering
* introduce text:level-text attribute to encode arbitrary number formats
* introduce text:num-follow-char to encode WW-like numbering
* introduce text:list-override to encode WW-like numbering
* declare style:list-level-properties/@text:space-before as deprecated. Effect can be achieved with paragraph indent.

Master-page styles
* add header-first and footer-first to encode WW-like page-styles
* modify master-page styles such that WW-like sections can be encoded; current CSS3.0 like text:sections are not applicable
* declare the style:next-style-name attribute of master-page declarations as deprecated.

Styles:
* allow deriving paragraph-family styles from text-family styles.

“Break chars”
* introduce a <text:page-break/> command and a <text:column-break/> command similar to the <text:line-break/> command

Fields:
* enhance field support by introducing a <text:field-start/> and a <text:field-end/> element to which metadata can be attached.

Change tracking:
* introduce change tracking for tables
* introduce change tracking on property level

Discourage the use of the following OD features for MOOX interop:
* nested frames
* current CSS3.0 like text:sections
* use fo:break-before instead of fo:break-after
* use fo:margin-* for tables

Unfortunately I think this list is not complete yet:-)

Feedback appreciated.

6 comments:

Marbux said...

Florian, on the nesting issues --

I think it important that OpenDocument 1.2 move well beyond Microsoft Office in outlining capabilities. Neither MS Office's file formats nor the ODF standard presently provide the tools necessary to support true hierarchical outliners. As I understand the situation, multiple levels of nested lists are only part of the story.

You might consider involving the developers of two outliners, Zim and KnowIt. The Zim developer has OpenDocument support on his "someday" roadmap. The KnowIt developer is in the process of selecting a new file format for an app rebuild from scratch, apparently having recognized that a limited subset of HTML superimposed on RTF (for text attributes) is less than ideal. Both could provide valuable insights on outliner file format requirements.

The opportunity here is huge. There are literally hundreds of outliners on the market. Virtually every one of them uses as its native file format a custom file format or micro format that has never achieved widespread support. There is no file format standard for exchange of outlines, either with each other or with office productivity apps. The lack of support for necessary tags in MS Office has produced a variety of one-way methods to get outliner data into MS Office. I will re-emphasize "one-way."

That is despite outline format being the default document -- as opposed to file -- format in law offices, in academia, and for business reports in general. To those enormous markets, Microsoft is firmly committed to one-way compatibility. One can "fake" an outline in Word and in OOo, but an outline can not be exported to a true outliner from either of those apps.

Because of the ODF interoperability conformance requirements (well, hopefully they will become requirements in ODF 1.2), this is an area where ODF can grow but Microsoft -- with its one-way compatibility hardwired -- can not. Were an ODF word processor able to round-trip files with outliners while preserving metadata containing processing instructions, there is no longer such a high threshold of supported features for outliners. E.g., a spell-checker is no longer necessary in an outliner because spell-checking can be done in the word processor.

And the huge, huge, huge advantage comes when document heading styles containing tags for automated table of contents generation can be imported from an ODF word processor into an outliner, even if the outliner has no ability to render those styles. Then, a document can progress from research notes in an outliner, to a working outline, to a developed text ready for hand-off to a word processor for finishing, auto-generation of a table of contents and table of authorities, spell-checking, etc.

Likewise, user-generated inline explicit markup of parenthetical matter (using e.g., << >> pairs) in an outliner could easily be translated to footnotes or endnotes in the word processor by its import filter or via an executable script. And vice versa. See e.g., the ConvertR and Note2Txt WordPerfect macros. So there would be less need for an outliner to actually render notes as footnotes or end notes.

ODF already has enough mind and market share to make it the indispensible format for exchanging outline-formatted information; it just needs the tags. So I encourage you to involve outliner developers in development of ODF 1.2.

Best regards,

Marbux

hAl said...

The conformance paragraph is indeed horrible. Any zip file conforms to the ISO standard as there are no required elements to an opendocument file. So even an Office Open XML file conforms to ODF specs even if only being an empty document with foreign unreferenced XML files.

Anonymous said...

Back in the 80's there was a brilliant outline programmer named Dave Winer. I still require dosemu on any Linux machine I use in order to use a Dave Winer outliner.

He created wonderful outliners, but never got the word out on all that they could do, so, as far as I know his software has never been sufficiently appreciated (although he was able to sell out to Symantec resulting in the dropping of all his best work.)

He was always a commercial developer, and I haven't a clue even if he is still alive, much less programming. I do, however think he would appreciate having open standards.

If he is still alive he would be worth contacting

Anonymous said...

Dave Winer is alive. He has an xml-based outline-specific format: opml (see http://www.opml.org/).

You might want to talk with him about how best to support outlining in ODF. He is currently best known for technical and other innovations related to blogging, but still appears to care about outlining.

Thomas said...

Hi Florian,
can you show us an abstract which of your enhancements will be part of ODF 1.2 later this year and what the status of ODF 1.2 now is?

Florian Reuter said...

Hi Thomas,

I provided an update here.