I have repeatedly made the argument that it is bad logic that leads you to the conclusion that there should be only one document format. If you value innovation in document creation, and you want to see applications continue to advance rapidly, and you want to see broad-based problem sets be addressed creatively - then more innovation is good.

I have often heard that there should be just one document format...ODF...and yet it is just amazing to me how many document formats there are, and how many more seem to crop up on an ongoing basis. (remember the whole CDF discussion?) It would seem that the folks at the National Library of Medicine did not get the memo that they were to adhere to the singularity that is ODF. They had the temerity to go and solve for the very complex issue of creating an XML format that takes into account the needs of the scientific journal community. Specifically they did this with...

...the intent of providing a common format in which publishers and archives can exchange journal content.

They have focused on four challenges:

  1. Archiving and interchange
  2. Journal publishing
  3. Article authoring
  4. National Center for Biotechnology Information "Book Tag" (to describe volumes for the NCBI online libraries)

Microsoft has been espousing the belief that multiple document formats provide choice, innovation, flexibility, etc. etc. Moreover, in the context of XML, we fully anticipate that there will by a myriad of document formats created to solve particular problems.

So - at the heart of the document format discussion remains the concept of interoperability. The effective exchange of data to connect people, data, and diverse systems. And in the case of document formats...specifically the issue of effective translation of data from one format to the next.

Pablo Fernicola from Microsoft Research seems to have a new blog up in which he talks at length about the work he is doing in developing and authoring add-in for Word 2007 that builds a bridge between Open XML and the NLM format. Here is the link to the Technology Preview Release of the add-in.

I think this is a very cool thing, and it is absolutely what we have been talking about all along. We did this with the DAISY format (Nov 2007), with ODF (July 2006), and here is a link to the UOF (Chinese national XML format.

No matter what the outcome is of the current deliberations on Open XML, we will persist in our belief that diversity in innovation is a good thing and that goes for document formats as well as applications.