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Bumps on the Road to Document Exchange Nirvana

The OpenDocument Foundation has announced its plans to sever itself from participation in or further advocacy of its namesake office document format in favor of the World Wide Web Consortium's XHTML (Extensible HTML)-based Compound Document Format.

Although the OpenDocument Foundation is a fairly small organization, the group sports a certain cachet that stems from the ODF-to-MS Office plug-in that the group announced--but did not release publicly--about a year and a half ago.

At the heart of the rift between the Foundation and the rest of the ODF backers--led by Sun and IBM--lies a dispute over the proper strategy for achieving round-trip document fidelity between Microsoft Office and ODF-consuming applications, such as Sun's OpenOffice.org or IBM's Lotus Symphony.

When you open an MS Office document with one of these applications, a conversion engine attempts to map every formatting element it finds to a feature of the application doing the importing. If some formatting elements are unknown or otherwise unmappable, those elements are stripped and thrown away.

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