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Subject: Re: [office-comment] OpenFormulas

Hi David,

Wow!  You're on fire.  I just want to duck low and get out of the way!

We discussed the OpenFormula options at the Monday morning TC conference.  There was general agreement that we ought to get out of the way and let you push forward.  But we also think that we need to get your proposals in front of the OOo and KOffice project people as soon as you're ready.  Like everything else in the OASIS OpenDocument spec, we try to get proposals in front of the application developers and beta testers as soon as possible.  They know where the rubber meets the road, and they never let our lofty idealism run to far from reality. 

And truth be told, we're the boat anchor dragging them down.  It's just the opposite of what people think.  The communities are electric, but they never seem to lose their balance.  Nor are they hesitant to stick a prod in the TC's butt whenever needed.

Much of our discussion this morning concerned the issue of a shared community project focused on your OpenFormula specification. While we don't want to tie you down in any way David, your work in many ways represents the holy grail to our spreadsheet projects.   We need their expertise.  We need their review of the options and opinions you have presented as you work through this incredibly intractable problem.  Face it, you bit off the big one here.   There are good reasons why formulas are a no mans land where only fools and footloose dreamers dare tread.  In fact, one of the things that came up this morning was the discovery that both KOffice and OOo model their formulas after MS eXcel.   Perhaps reverse engineering and the migration of those formulas has become such an overwhelming concern that no one seemingly has the luxury of stepping back and re thinking what it is we really need to be doing to break out of the exhausting but never ending cycle.  Running hard to keep up with the arbitrary and self serving advances of Microsoft hardly seems like the kind of foundation any self respecting open standards - open source community would want to stake their independence on.  But that' s the hand we've been dealt.

One of the things you might want to consider is the distinct possibility of setting up a shared effort between yourself as the OpenFormula project lead, the OASIS TC, OOo, and KOffice.  This project would more than likely be willingly hosted by and much welcomed at the OOo Community.  The OASIS TC could reference the work as an ongoing enhancement to the specification, including the work as it progresses, is road tested, and hardened by community users.  Just some things you might want to consider my friend.

While inclusion in the OASIS OpenDocument specification is clearly the objective, the TC also recognizes that the OpenFormula Project might best serve the global community of computational consumers and developers as either a standalone specification, or a distinguished subset of the OpenDocument TC.  This is no doubt a very important effort you've engaged in, and there may be far reaching implications and effects that go way beyond our current charter.   Either way David, we are really grateful that you stepped up to the challenge, and have done so with admirable insight and expertise. 

You're working on a very unique and important gift to the world.  And many thanks for including us.  Do we have your permission to bring in our community experts and testers?


David A. Wheeler wrote:
I'm trying to unify the various formula formats
(text:formula, text:condition, table:formula, draw:formula, and anim:formula)
into a single format. For the most part this is really
easy, they're _almost_ the same.

But I've immediately noticed one inconsistency: function parameter
separators.  Both draw:formula and anim:formula use comma (",") as
the separator.  On the other hand, OOo's table:formula
internally uses semicolon (";") as the function separator.
Semicolon has the advantage of working regardless of locale,
but comma is the more traditional parameter separator.

There are at least 3 options for unifying these:
* Change the OpenDocument specification to use ";"
  as function param separators everywhere (e.g., change
  draw:formula and anim:formula).
* Having the unified formula syntax accept both.
  This means nothing needs to be changed now in the spec.
  This also means that the text-as-displayed may be
  different in many locales from what's sent, which might
  be confusing and does add a burden to simple implementations.
  Consistency wouldn't be required in data, since both
  characters would work, and that might be a problem.
  This approach means that numbers MUST be
  sent using locale "C" (something that happens anyway,
  but that is an unfortunate side-effect).
* Require everyone use "," as the function parameter
  separator.  This would require changing OpenOffice's
  reading of spreadsheets, etc., to accept this.

Thoughts?  Anyone have a preference?
If this could be worked out, I think we end up
eliminating a bunch of different formula formats &
winnowing it down to one main one.
The notion of switching to ";" everywhere is appealing to
me, and if not that, switching to "," everywhere.

--- David A. Wheeler

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