07/12/2010 22:02

ODF TC Creates Advanced Document Collaboration Subcommittee

OpenDoc Society very much welcomes the creation of the new OASIS ODF Technical Committee subcommittee on “Advanced Document Collaboration”.  The new subcommitee, chaired by Robin LaFontaine from DeltaXML will work on a number of important issues.

The first is to enhance change tracking in ODF. Earlier this year we commissioned a proposal of a feature-complete change tracking specification from DeltaXML, with sponsorship from NLnet Foundation. The existing track change mechanisms in all existing office file formats- even those based on XML like ODF - are currently unable to handle many types of changes to documents in a well-defined way. They work for many usage scenario's, but for some professional applications - as one finds in large document-intensive organisations like governments - they lack the syntax to record specific types of changes.

The way we envision the future of documents allows for these scenario's, and we believe the proposal we commissioned is both simpler and yet more powerful than any other technology available. In principle it allows for any type of change to be recorded in ODF documents of any version. For those interested in the technology, you can have a look at the live demonstration code from the comfort of your webbrowser - just give two snippets of different versions of a document, and you will get a track changed version that combines the two. First implementations of the proposed specification candidate as submitted to OASIS and ISO/IEC JTC1 SC34 wg6  in July 2010, notably in KOffice and AbiWord, show the feasibility of this approach in actual code.

The work commissioned by OpenDoc Society by itself would already make ODF the leading document format also in this area, but the fact that within the new Subcommittee the technology will be even further improved by allowing the scrutiny of multiple vendors based on actual competing implementations is very important. This is how standards should be made. Likely other vendors will contribute refinements, difficult use cases that will need more detail in parts of the specificaion - or even completely alternative approaches with possibly very strong technical advantages. Whatever technology will prevail in the end, the great thing is that serious work is now underway to vastly improve change tracking for end-users - and bring it to a completely new level. 

Change tracking is a key feature for many different types of organisations, like the statement of purpose of the new SC states: Reliable and user-friendly revision management is critical for professional document workflows in corporate and public sector environments, and as such an important feature of Open Document Format.

The potential of what is already on the table, is very significant. We expect it to be of great help to the new subcommittee to deliver a wonderful specification.

We wish the ODF Advanced Document Collaboration SC good luck with their work and we encourage you to join the SC now.