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France's AFNOR Has an Idea: Merge ODF and OOXML - Updated
Monday, September 03 2007 @ 06:21 PM EDT

If you read French, here is AFNOR's very intriguing suggestion, that OOXML and ODF merge. They say their technical experts say it absolutely can be done. In the short term, AFNOR suggests that all the comments must be addressed, but assuming they are, then it suggests that in the short term MSOOXML be designated a "Technical Specification" for 3 years (here's an explanation of the difference between that and a standard); meanwhile, the convergence work should begin, with the goal of establishing one single standard for documents that everyone can use. Sean Daly has translated the statement into English for us.

Update: Andy Updegrove now predicts that ISO on Tuesday will announce that OOXML approval has "failed to achieve enough yes votes to gain approval at this time".


Office formats: AFNOR proposes to the ISO an approach guaranteeing, thanks to the ISO process, convergence in the mid-term between ODF and OOXML and to stabilize OOXML in the short term.

Following the final deliberations during the meeting of its Normalization Commission which took place on August 28th and 29th, AFNOR is not closing the door on the recognition by the ISO of Office Open XML. It proposes to the ISO to organize the convergence between ODF and Office Open XML.

By numerous contributions, the different stakeholders demonstrated the need to have a quality OOXML format recognized by the ISO. In a context where multiple document formats exist, the French experts who invested a great deal in this work, showed that convergence is possible between OOXML and the ODF format -- which today is already a standard -- towards a single, changeable document format standard.

On the basis of this very widely shared observation, and even if a unanimous point of view could not be attained at the end of these days concerning the best short- and mid-term solutions, AFNOR makes the following proposition to the ISO:

  • restructure the ECMA standard in two parts as follows:
  • in one section having the essential core functionalities and simple to deploy (OOXML-Core),
  • in another section, all the auxiliary functionalities necessary for compatibility with the existing office files stored by numerous users, functionalities which would be regrouped in an ensemble called (OOXML-Extensions),
  • take into account a provided set of technical comments emitted on the proposed standard, in order to make OOXML into an ISO document of the very highest technical and writing quality possible,
  • confer an ISO/TS ("Technical Specification") status valid for three years for OOXML,
  • put in place a convergence process between ISO/CEI 26300 and the core of OOXML, and to that end, to plan starting now the simultaneous updating of ISO/CEI 26300 and ISO/TS OOXML (on condition that the latter be adopted after the previously mentioned restructuring), with a view to obtaining at the end of the convergence process, a single standard which would be the most universal possible, and whose later evolutions would be decided at the ISO level and no longer at the level of a grouping or category of participants.

To achieve the above objective and allow the emergence of a convergence process, AFNOR is required in the immediate to not accept in its current state the text proposed by ECMA. Technically, this brings AFNOR to a negative vote on the project as it is now presented. This negative vote is however accompanied by comments which AFNOR requests be considered in order for it to reconsider its position.

AFNOR commits itself to make known and promote this position internationally in light of the next step planned for February when different countries' comments will be examined.

On August 28th and 29th, the AFNOR FDR (Formats de Documents Révisables) normalization commission concluded five months of intense lobbying to AFNOR between all the concerned parties by the emergence of standard file formats: software suppliers, users, administrations, local governments.

AFNOR is the French representative of the ISO, the international standards organization. It is the central operator of the French standardization system which associates experts, standardization bureaus, and government administrations. It has received from government administrations, a mission in the general interest, formalized by the decree of January 26th, 1984.

For more information concerning standards:

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