Saturday, December 5, 2009

OpenDocument in the pipeline

We are currently working to implement support for the OpenDocument (ODF) format in Atlantis. This document format is supported by a number of word processing applications. But it is mainly linked to the OpenOffice.org office suite.

The ODF format can be used to store not only text documents but also spreadsheets, presentations, etc. Since Atlantis is a word processor, it will obviously only be concerned with text documents in the ODF format. Text documents in the ODF format normally have the ".odt" file extension.

So how comprehensive will ODF support be in Atlantis?

At this point we will not be adding ODF export capability to Atlantis.

What does this mean to Atlantis users?

Atlantis will open and display existing ODF documents, but you won't be able to create or re-save ODF documents as such in Atlantis. In other words, you'll be able to modify the contents of existing ODF documents, but you'll have to re-save the changed documents in any other document format supported by Atlantis, namely the RTF, DOC or DOCX format.

You might wonder why Atlantis won't save documents in the ODF format.

There is a single reason to this: the ODF document model is incompatible with the document model used in Atlantis.

Many word processing features work very differently in OpenOffice.org Writer (the word processor from the OpenOffice.org suite) from the way they do in Atlantis. For example, support for automatic lists, tables of contents, headers & footers, newspaper columns, and especially document sections and fields in Atlantis and OpenOffice Writer has been implemented quite differently.

Will Atlantis be able to open (i.e. import) ODF documents at all? Yes, because there are ways to convert the "incompatible content" of most ODF documents to an Atlantis-friendly format. Quite tricky transformations of the original content will have to be performed in order to convert some ODF features into elements that Atlantis can deal with. Some of the original elements and formatting of the ODF documents will be replaced with similar elements and formatting available in Atlantis so that when opened in Atlantis, ODF documents will look as closely as possible to how they look in OpenOffice Writer. In this way, you'll be able to open any ODF document in Atlantis, copy its contents and insert them into "Atlantis-friendly" documents.

You might say "if there are tricks to convert any ODF document to the Atlantis internal format, why not implement similar tricks to convert Atlantis documents to the ODF format?” From a solely technical point, this would be possible. But from a practical point, this does not make much sense.

Let's imagine that Atlantis is capable of saving documents in the ODF format (i.e. it can export to the ODF format). Each time you save an Atlantis document as ODF, Atlantis internally changes its document elements and structure to make them compatible with the ODF format. Such a transformation entails losing some of the original Atlantis formatting and structure. If you reopen such an "Atlantis-exported" ODF file in Atlantis, a new internal conversion of format has to be performed once more towards an "Atlantis-friendly" format. Such repeated conversions of internal format inevitably entail loss and distortion of information. Consequently, it will be impossible for Atlantis to reproduce the exact state in which original documents were before they were saved as ODF. Atlantis users will ineluctably be surprised at the way the documents they "saved as ODF" actually will look when reopened in Atlantis: with different formatting in many cases!

This is how we currently see things. But we might reconsider our decision if Atlantis users interested in the ODF format still think that ODF export might be useful to them.

A new version of Atlantis Word Processor 1.6.5 with ODF import support (the "Open ODF document" feature) will soon be available for betatesting. Your comments and test documents regarding this feature will be most welcome. Plus we are open to discussing implementation of ODF export capability in Atlantis.

4 comments:

Jannik Lindquist said...

Thank you for listening to request concerning the ODF-format. Your position on this issue does make sense. Looking forward to test the new version!

TWatters said...

I would love to see an Atlantis word processor built solely for the open document format.

A pipe dream, perhaps, but there is nothing out there filling this niche.

Atlantis Word Processor Team said...

Sorry, but ODF could not be the native document format of Atlantis Word Processor. ODF is too incompatible with the internal document format used in Atlantis. Note that Atlantis 1.6.5 with the ODF import has already been released:
http://www.atlantiswordprocessor.com/en/news/1_6_5.htm

Luc said...

Thanks a lot for the ODF support !!!