Tracked Changes: Navigating the Document-Format Anti-Pattern
Dennis E. Hamilton
DChanges '14 Proceedings of the 2nd International Workshop on (Document) Changes: modeling, detection, storage and visualization, 2014.
presented at the
DChanges 2014 Workshop
Abstract. Editing of word-processing documents at the presentation level,
with visible tracking of changes, operates at a different level of
abstraction and granularity than the recorded form in common
document-file formats. The consequent mismatches along with
other limitations of standards for document-file formats present an
anti-pattern that impedes reliable inter-product exchange of
change-tracked documents. Analysis of the situation for ODF
change-tracking reveals simple extensions and definitions that
supplement the current specification without introducing any
conflicts. Patterns of systematic testing for conformant
document files, compliant processing, and verifiable
interoperability are identified as essential prerequisites to
dependable improvement of change-tracking in collaborative settings.
- The Situation
2.1 Terminology: manifest equivalence
2.2 User context: manipulated manifestation
2.3 Focus of document format standards
2.4 Unspecified interoperability
2.5 Interpretation under-specification
2.6 The document format anti-pattern
- ODF Tracked-Change Features
3.1 ODF change-tracking foundation
3.2 Tracked-deletion representation
3.3 Cross-cutting markup effects
3.4 Atomicity failures and copy conflicts
- Repairing ODF Change-Tracking
4.1 Profile specification
4.2 Test assertions and test suites
4.3 RCT manifest fidelity
4.4 RCT compliance assessment
4.5 RCT interchange confirmation
4.6 RCT change-tracking confirmation
4.7 Example: works-for-me-not
4.8 RCT extension technique
The principles behind Repaired Change-Tracking (RCT) are not limited
to change-tracking and apply whether or not change-tracking is relied
In the absence of an envelope within which document fidelity
is preserved in collaborative interchange of word-processing
document files, employment of tracked-changes in those document
files is meaningless to the same degree that interoperability is
The key principle, described in the publication, is that the
achievement and preservation of document fidelity is a consequence of
engineered alignment between software operation and the human-perceived
document. This is termed manifestation fidelity.
Manifestation fidelity is an empirical notion. It is about the
perceived document: what the user sees, understands, and
experiences themselves manipulating. It is not about document
files the coding and formats of which are incomprehensible to the
community of intended users.
To have engineered an alignment between how a document-file format is
interpreted by software and the manifest document, there must be some
form of testing by which manifest fidelity can be inspected for and
confirmed. This testing is necessarily empirical. It can be
A prerequisite to interoperable change-tracking is confirmation of
manifestation-preserving interchange as part of collaborative
including after edits..
The RCT specification is produced as a hypertext on the web.
RCT extensions are technical additions to the document files that
signal the producer's honoring of RCT
principles. There will be an RCT profile specification that identifies the
extensions and how the compliant production of them invites verification
by empirical assessment.
At the foundation of the assessment process are document files and
empirically-repeatable tests by which manifestation-preservation is
confirmable for processors that
produce and consume such files.
RCT has levels of manifestation-fidelity preservation that are
amenable to independent, empirical assessment. For the interchange
interoperability level, document files produced under the requisite
conditions carry the producer's declaration that an RCT profile holds
and an RCT-aware consuming processor can rely on that.
Although tracked changes are expressed entirely in terms of changes
to the document file, not any manifestation, there is confidence that
the changes can be manifest properly wherever the RCT profiled
interoperability and change-tracking conditions are satisfied.
This is the early entry point to the work on development of the RCT
Supporting analysis and exploratory work is captured on-line. Precursor material can found and viewed in
additional areas of the nfoWorks site.
- RCT ODF 1.2
Change-Tracking Repair Development
This is the hub for materials captured as part of analysis and
development of the RCT extension profile.
RCT Profile Organization
with master outline and cross-referencing between the evolving
specification hypertext and development of separate content
The ODF Interoperability Assessment
project applies the testing methodology and RCT principles for
profiling interoperability of existing implementations.
Introduction of basic RCT extensions will be atop the identified
envelopes of existing products, supplementing the basic
compliance and conformance provisions of the International Standards
for OpenDocument Format.
DocInteroperability Bootstrap Project
on GitHub, provides experimentation
and accumulation of tests and materials required to achieve the ODF
Interoperability Assessment Helix.
listing mini-notebook hypertexts produced for
Ones listed as about ODF, RCT, or
BSO may be useful.
- devNotes Catalog
mainly listing developer-oriented technical material, there is
related development content here, such as definitions of namespaces
and production of test cases, along with development of the profile