In more standards news the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) recently announced that their members have approved OpenDocument Format (ODF) for Office Applications version 1.1 as an official OASIS Standard.
OpenDocument is a royalty-free, XML-based file format that covers features required by text, spreadsheets, charts, and graphical documents.
This newest update provides users with important accessibility enhancements, ensuring that the OpenDocument format takes care of addressing the particular needs of people with disabilities.
Dave Pawson from the UK's Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB), said in a recent statement, "OpenDocument 1.1 is a practical XML format that is readily transformable to the DAISY digital talking book standard for people with print impairments. The clear specification of OpenDocument v1.1 will remain usable long after commercial and proprietary formats have been condemned to the dustbin."
OpenDocument 1.1 will be important in assisting those who have low or no vision or who have cognitive impairments. "The standard not only provides short alternative descriptive text for document elements such as hyperlinks, drawing objects and image map hot spots, it also offers lengthy descriptions for the same objects should additional help be needed."
"We are thrilled with the progress to date," said Curtis Chong, president of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science. "Our views have changed over time. OpenDocument is no longer a thing to be feared, as we once thought. The OASIS process exemplifies what should be done if true accessibility to both a document format and the tools to manipulate it are to be achieved."
Additional accessibility features include "include the preservation of structural semantics imported from other file formats, such as headings in tables, and associations between drawings and their captions."
"Version 1.1 is an important milestone in the evolution of the OpenDocument OASIS Standard," said Erwin Tenhumberg of Sun Microsystems, co-chair of the OASIS ODF Adoption Committee. "This release clears up several issues that the OASIS Accessibility Subcommittee and the community had identified early on. Version 1.1 addresses the features required by today's document-centric applications while taking document formats to a completely new level."
The OpenDocument format has its roots in the XML format used for OpenOffice.org files. The OpenOffice stated mission is “to create, as a community, the leading international office suite that will run on all major platforms and provide access to all functionality and data through open-component based APIs and an XML-based file format.” OASIS has taken the initial OpenOffice format and continued the mission.
The statement of purpose from the OASIS ODF charter is "to create an open, XML-based file format specification for office applications."
According to O’Reilly & Associates, the OpenDocument file format is not simply an XML wrapper for a binary format, nor is it a one-to-one correspondence between the XML tags and the internal data structures of a specific piece of application software. Instead, it is an "idealized representation of the document’s structure."
This allows future versions of OpenOffice.org, or any other application that uses OpenDocument, to implement new features or completely alter internal data structures without requiring major changes to the file format.
For those interested in more gory details, the O’Reilly team have provided a free online book entitled OASIS OpenDocument Essentials. Or in related news OASIS and W3C announced their joint partnership for WebCGM 2.0 and the OASIS Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) Technical Committee released their latest draft for public review.