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A Standard Set For The Office

Officials at the non-profit standards body OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) announced Monday its approval of the OpenDocuments 1.0 specification as a standard.

The ratification puts OASIS' seal of approval on a single XML-based file format for text, spreadsheets, charts and graphical documents -- an area dominated by Microsoft and its popular Office suite.

Michael Brauer, OASIS OpenDocument technical committee chairman, said office productivity applications are critical in today's information age and critical to the success of any business and shouldn't be tied to any one vendor.

"Today, for the first time in the 25-year history of office applications, such documents can be stored in an open, standardized and vendor-independent format."

The standard incorporates existing standards, including HTML, SVG, XForms and XLink.

The OASIS technical committee plans to continue work on the OpenDocuments standard with an eye towards incorporating other office applications into the specification, as well as getting existing applications to accept the new standard.

Though many office applications already use XML file formats, that doesn't mean it's an open format. You can hide a lot in a file format, said James Governor, principal analyst at research company RedMonk, in a statement.

"OpenDocument represents an opportunity to ensure truly open file formats for productivity applications, which is why it will receive the enthusiastic support of public-sector steering organizations on a global basis," he said.

According to OASIS officials, the OpenDocuments specification has already been implemented in applications by Novell , OpenOffice.org, Stellent and Sun.

The OpenDocument standard is based on code originally developed for the open source OpenOffice.org project, which is based on code donated by Sun in July 2000. The previous year, Sun bought German office application vendor StarDivision to develop the StarOffice suite.

The code for StarOffice 5.2 was released under the Lesser GPL and Sun Industry Standards Source License (SISSL) open source licenses.

In December 2002 the OASIS XML File Format technical committee was founded to create a standard file format for office applications. It was later renamed the OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) technical committee.