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OASIS OpenDocument Essentials: Using OASIS OpenDocument XML by J. David Eisenberg

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Chapter 1. The Open Document Format

In this chapter, we will discuss not only the “what” of the OpenDocument format, but also the “why.” Thus, this chapter is as much evangelism as explanation.

The Proprietary World

Before we can talk about OpenDocument, we have to look at the current state of proprietary office suites and applications. In this world, all your documents are stored in a proprietary (often binary) format. As long as you stay within one particular office suite, this is not a problem. You can transfer data from one part of the suite to another; you can transfer text from the word processor to a presentation, or you can grab a set of numbers from the spreadsheet and convert it to a table in your word processing document.

The problems begin when you want to do a transfer that wasn't intended by the authors of the office suite. Because the internal structure of the data is unknown to you, you can't write a program that creates a new word processing document consisting of all the headings from a different document. If you need to do something that wasn't provided by the software vendor, or if you must process the data with an application external to the office suite, you will have to convert that data to some neutral or “universal” format such as Rich Text Format (RTF) or comma-separated values (CSV) for import into the other applications. You have to rely on the kindness of strangers to include these conversions in the first place. Furthermore, some conversions can result ...

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