Open document formats

There is a bit of press right now about open document formats that have or are currently pushing their status as international standards. Everybody should be interesting in this who may be interested in keeping formatted information around for the long term. In the best world, having a document you created should not mean that you require a specific tool in order to view it in the future. We ran into this here at home when we retired an old computer that had an OEM version of MS Works. I wasn’t willing to buy a new version of Works or pay for Office for my home, and nearly nothing else is able to read it’s document format. So these formats are supposed to help with that. But….

Are there any other applications besides Open Office that can read the MS Open Xml format? Are there any other applications that can read the Open Office format? Better yet, what about libraries? I would love to know. It would be such a simple thing to do if you could allow non technical people to create documents as templates and the have systems flesh out the details if only the document formats were easier to use without the original programs. I’ve browsed the MS samples for dealing with Open Xml and some of this is doable, but it seems like the process would be very fragile to users formatting decisions. Even if that were done, I can’t assume anyone would be able to read the document because even Word requirements are unacceptable for internet published documents, and Word 2007 is hardly used at this point. If there was some software that could programatically read these documents and convert them to pdf or html, it might be a better option.

Some standards bodies have used a litmus test: if an application can be written to use the specification by a certain class of programmer is a certain period of time, the specification is a success. I have a feeling that none of the contenders could meet this test but would be quite happy to be proven wrong.

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