I am glad so many people have chimed in on the topic of RTF or XML, and more specifically the markup in Microsoft Word called WordProcessingML (WordML for short). If you want to catch up on the total thread, click here for my original post. My last post was picked up by Mr. Bad Example on his blog, and he offered some insights. He notes that he has, "ASP.NET application that generates Safety Guides on the server." He adds he used, "RTF largely because its what was available to us at the time." Then, he decided, "to look into what it would take to rewrite that to use WordML instead."
"I'd love to say that I concluded that redoing that to output WordML instead of RTF would be hard enough that the best solution going forward is to would be to stick with RTF.
I can't. The WordML format for these documents seems both cleaner to generate programatically and to serve up efficiently."
Now, to his post, there are two feedback (plus my own, added today). One asserts that using WordML is cool is you are sure to have Office 2003 clients. To be sure, docs saved using WordML markup are most easily opened and manipulated with Office 2003. However, we have put out a down-level viewer (see downloads here). The fact is that RTF gives you fewer options in the document itself (someone needs to do an empirical comparison), and it is less easily transformed to other consumers.
The second feedback rightly points out that there is a lot of bad XML out there. I couldn't agree more. The free-love motif of XML (do it your way, no rules, Haight-Ashbury etc.) means that a lot of undisciplined XML loiters in too many systems. But, this is no weakness of WordML. WordML is well-formed XML. The schemas we (Microsoft) advance are the proprietary piece. In this way, we are showing a world-class implementation of a standard we do not own (in response to this feedback).
This weekened, I am going to build our family Christmas letter (ours is unique in that it is a) brief and b) neither a sanitized picture of our real lives nor a talk-show description of any challenges we have faced). I say "build" because I will use WordML and gen the docs from a couple of sources. It's something that MailMerge could not easily do.
Rock Thought for the day: Billy Corgan has a new book, "Blinking with fists" which I plan to buy: