2008-08-19

 

Agreement on Document Rendering

One problem for harmonization of document-format implementations in the case of ODF and OOXML is the degree to which those specifications may provide inadequate specification of how documents are to be presented in order for implementations to be adequately interoperable.  This situation arises between implementations of the same format as well as between different document formats.

Along with establishing clarity on how much agreement in presentation is required, there is the small matter of being able to somehow confirm that an application achieves whatever that level of conformance and interoperability is.

As I suggested in "Interoperable ODF: Finding Ground Truth," there are many difficulties to be conquered in advancing from the current state of affairs to where there is reliable determination that implementations are substitutable in a particular interoperability setting. 

We don't have good ways to even talk about the multiple, interlocking problems that lurk beneath the simple desire to have interchange of documents in standard formats "just work."

It would be helpful, for starters, to at least have a way to describe what a particular document-processing system does in rendering documents that it accepts.  A checklist on the handling of particular features of an electronic document is also useful in determining conformance and interoperability guidance and, perhaps, eventual mechanical verification criteria.

The XML Daily Newslink for 2008-08-18 reports on a contribution that may be useful in this regard, the "First Edition of ISO/IEC 24754: Minimum Requirements for Specifying Document Rendering Systems."  From the scope:

"This International Standard provides an abstract list of the features that a document rendering system may have, thus providing a frame of reference, against which the user and implementor can compare the  features of a document rendering system. However, this International Standard does not direct how each document rendering system should behave.

"This International Standard provides the minimum requirements to specify the features that a document rendering system which transforms formatting objects to rendering output. It may be used as a frame of reference, against which the user, implementer, or software agent may compare the features of a document rendering system.  According to these requirements, the user may express what he or she expects of a document rendering system, the implementer may describe the functionality and capability of the document rendering system that he or she implements, and the software agent may negotiate a minimum set of functionality and capability that are shared across different document rendering system implementations."

The Final Committee Draft (omitting the example in the informative appendix) is available as a 7-page, 74 kB PDF file

Beside the announcement, here's what attracted my attention:

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