Rob Weir just posted a proposal for an OpenDocument Format Developer’s Kit over at the OASIS OpenDocument.xml.org site. This is not a done deal by any means, but is meant to stimulate some open, public discussion in the community about what this should be, why this should be, and how it might be implemented. Rob also set up a discussion area. Please direct all comments there.
This is the introduction:
XML has proven itself to be one of the pivotal technologies of the past 10 years. But when you look at the ecosystem of tools, applications and systems that use XML, you find that there is very little code that directly manipulates XML. We all work at least one level higher, with the XML parsers and the API’s they support, such as DOM or SAX. Otherwise we would all need to deal in the minutia of various XML character encodings, UTF-8 versus UTF-16, the exact lexical definitions provided in the XML specification, whitespace processing, etc. But for the vast majority of application developers, DOM and SAX are what XML means to them. Said differently: XML gave us the standard for interchanging formatted data in a language and platform neutral way, but DOM and SAX are what made application developers productive with it.
We have a similar situation with Open Document Format (ODF). The 700-page ODF specification defines what an application and platform neutral office document in XML format looks like. But we are lacking high-level developer tools that allow us to be productive with this format. An ODF toolkit will go a long way to accelerating the arrival of new ODF-supporting applications and solutions since it reduces these difficulties that currently confront the developer. Dealing with ODF as XML using an XML parser presumes mastery of the ODF specification, and this is time consuming and tedious. It is as unreasonable for the average application developer to read the ODF 1.0 specification as it is for them to read and understand all the nuances of the XML specification and write their own XML parser in order to work with XML.
For ODF to become more attractive to application developers, we need tools that are easy to master and that work with the tools the application developers already use. This paper outlines some ideas on how we could accomplish this via something I think of as the ODDK – the OpenDocument Developers Kit.