Office Shots for Confirmed ODF Interchange Fidelity

The new Officeshots.org service received a fair amount of attention at the recent ODF Interoperability Plugfest.  Taking a page from the “test your site with all browsers” tools that are available, Office Shots will take an uploaded ODF document and show how it renders in different ODF-supporting products.  To deal with the problem of confirming appearance of the document back to the submitter, the rendering by each application is captured in PDF.

This is a fledgling service, currently in limited beta.  It is sponsored by the same Dutch organizations that sponsored the ODF Plugfest.

The power of the service is its user-relevant confirmation of the fidelity with which a document of interest is rendered by different ODF-supporting software/platform combinations.  It is an easy way for evaluators to verify whether their important documents are rendered successfully in interchange among ODF products.  It also allows the subjective determination of success to be left in the hands of the users who know what qualifies as acceptable fidelity in each particular case.

One of the most-difficult situations in interchange of documents is when the receiver is seeing something materially different than what the sender (1) had in mind and (2) expects has been communicated.  For the parties to communicate about a suspected difficulty, they need to use a “channel” that differs from the one that has apparently failed.  Screen shots serve that purpose.  PDF is also valuable in the case where a PDF can be extracted that accurately-enough reflects what is intended and/or what is being seen.

Office Shots provide a way to proactively check, either because a problem is suspected with a local rendition or to ensure that a document and the choice of implementation-supported features is treated consistently by a variety of other implementations/platforms.

One can imagine that, over time, we could see Office Shots support links for troubleshooting specific discrepancies, finding practices for avoiding many of them, and easy reporting of problems to development teams.

Office Shots promises to provide a terrific reality-based approach to confirming the interoperability of ODF implementations as far as presentation fidelity is concerned.  This is also a first-line check on confirming difficulties with round-trip inter-product fidelity preservation.  (Of course, if the goal is solely presentation fidelity, PDF and other final-form formats may be preferable, especially when long-term preservation is also a consideration.)

I look forward to the impetus that Office Shots will provide to user recognition of practical ODF interoperability considerations.  I also think it will provide important stimulus and confirmation for developers who want to improve the interoperable use of their ODF-supporting software.

Beside the Officeshots.org site, there are other discussions of the project and its potential:

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ODF Interoperability at The Hague

There’s a great event at The Hague these two days: June 15-16, 2009.  It’s all about OpenDocument Format (ODF) and interoperability

It is sponsored by a neutral (ODF-supporting) organization. It is attended by major implementers of ODF-supporting products, including IBM, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems.

In short, all of the right people are in the same room, some for the first time, and I am so envious that I am not among them.  There should be a great deal of creative tension.

I will be watching for materials and progress reports.  There is already Doug Mahugh’s useful pre-event post on how Microsoft tested the ODF implementation in Office 2007 SP2 to ensure that it only produced standard-conforming documents and failed in ways that did not introduce security exploits against the Office System or documents of its users.

I have been meaning to post more about my involvement with ODF and how it is fueled by my interest in the harmonious level at which we can start and expand interoperability based around standard, open formats for office-productivity applications.  I will do that separately.  For now, I just want to register my excitement for the positive stage that participation at this meeting represents.

[Update 2009-06-16-18:56Z There are little odds and ends available from the ODF Plugfest so far, and I will compile some links here for safe-keeping.  I am sure there will be additional blog posts and reports by more attendees after they have had some time for reflection]

[Update 2009-06-17-17:11Z with a few more straggling in]

[Update 2009-06-18-17:51Z as other posts show up]

[Update 2009-06-23-14:55Z with some stragglers]

[Update 2009-06-24-18:55Z and one more interesting appraisal]

[Update 2009-06-27-21:40Z and the hits keep on coming …]

[Update 2009-07-01-15:25Z wrapping up, with anything more on plugfests in future posts]

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