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office-comment message

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Subject: Re: [office-comment] Public Comment

James Clark said:

 >So I > download the spec, and search for the section
> where the Calc formula syntax is specified,...
> I really hope I'm missing something, because,
> frankly, I'm speechless.  You cannot be serious.
> You have virtually zero interoperability
> for spreadsheet documents.
> To put this spec out as is would be a bit
> like putting out the XSLT spec without doing
> the XPath spec. How useful would that be?
> It is essential that in all contexts that allow
> expressions the spec precisely define the syntax
> and semantics of the allowed expressions.
> OpenDocument has the potential to be 
> extraodinarily valuable and important
> standard.  I urge you not to throw away
> a huge part of that potential by leaving
> such a gaping hole in your specification. 

I agree with you; I had exactly the same thought.
And in fact, I've done that work.

I have proposed a specific addition to the specification
to specify the formula syntax.
I proposed it earlier, and then re-proposed a slightly
improved version on Tue, 04 Jan 2005 00:36:38 -0500.
You can see my proposal at:
It was entirely based on what OOo actually does,
so this doesn't involve code changes for OOo and
StarOffice at least.  (I created it by creating
lots of sample spreadsheets and looking at the
resulting XML).

This proposal was formally considered on 14 Jan 2005
and rejected; see the minutes at:
Here is their justification (I don't AGREE with it, but
it's their perogative to make the decision!):
"A comment was submitted concerning the inclusen of a grammar for
spreadsheet formulas which conforming implementations should support.
While we think that having interoperability on that level would be of
great benefit to users, we do not belive that this is in the scope of
the current specification. Especially since it is not specificaly
related to the actual XML format the specification describes.
The TC will work on a solution concerning the documentation of
interoperabilty standards that go beyond what is defined in the
The submitted grammar should be published on the TC web pages."

I do not agree with this decision.  Normal users don't care
if something is XML, HTML, or EBCDIC...
what they want is to do is to EXCHANGE DOCUMENTS.
If the spec doesn't help them exchange documents, then in
some senses it's a failure.  The quality/ability of
document exchange is the ONLY measure that matters.

But I'm thankful that they did consider my proposal,
and I respect their right to make such decisions.
Standards committees have to say "no", and although I
don't agree with this particular decision, I'm very sympathetic
to the hard job they have... so I haven't pressed it.

As a practical matter, people will end up using something
like my informal spec anyway.  The Calc document format
is completely useless without it.

--- David A. Wheeler

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