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Gray Knowlton's blog on Microsoft Office

Silverlight viewer for Open XML

Silverlight viewer for Open XML

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Updated: The Source Code for this tool is now available:

http://blogs.technet.com/photos/gray_knowlton/images/2974216/original.aspx 

Here's an interesting development (anyone for pun-free Fridays?)

Intergen, a New Zealand based company, has developed a viewer for Open XML documents. You can get take a look at TextGlow for yourself: http://www.textglow.net/.

http://blogs.technet.com/photos/gray_knowlton/images/2974096/579x480.aspx

The viewer allows you to pan through Open XML documents using Silverlight 2.0 runtime. (Get the details from the developer here) Much like the current viewers for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, TextGlow requires no paid-for product, only to install the Silverlight 2.0 runtime. This is a Microsoft Office-free rendering of Open XML documents.

"TextGlow is a unique product combining Office Open XML and Silverlight for the first time," says Chris Auld, Intergen's Director of Strategy and Innovation.

"Microsoft Office documents have traditionally required software to be installed on the local machine. The new XML- based file format, coupled with Silverlight, has allowed us to make documents viewable directly through users' web browsers.  Having an internationally documented standard such as Office Open XML allows innovative New Zealand companies such as Intergen to reach a global audience," says Mr Auld." 

I had the pleasure of attending a Standards New Zealand Open XML workshop last year, where I met Chris and had the chance to chat with him during the breaks. (I'm a bit amused recalling a discussion where the folks in the room discussing intellectual property issues all had to preface their comments with "I am not an attorney but…[I am going to interpret IP law like I am one anyway]…" Chris, as I recall, does have a background in IP law, so he was unique among his peers in offering some thoughts about bogus claims of Open XML IP risks.)

During that workshop, several developers in the room claimed that implementing Open XML was not possible by New Zealand (or more to the point, non-Microsoft) companies. (Worth noting that one of the companies making these claims already had a full implementation of VML in its "Maps" product.) Another of these companies eventually implemented Open XML in a handful of its products, to the chagrin of Bob Sutor and Rob Weir.

It is great to see Chris and Intergen offer this viewer. I suspect this should have a good silencing effect in New Zealand, because this is such a great example of how Open XML and the compatibility it brings is a boost to local economies, it is also a testament to the openness of the spec. Not only will I use this in discussions around the world when highlighting Open XML, I am also recommending this tool to our account teams in need of document viewing solutions. I'm also hopeful that the participation of Intergen in the broader Open XML community will bring them fame and fortune as well. (After all, building community is the point, is it not?)

I guess this is pretty clear evidence that New Zealand companies can successfully implement Open XML. It's a good reminder to me that when we look at facts rather than reading fiction, we can interpret the "nobody can implement Open XML" claims as more of "I can't" than "nobody can."

Truth (2) will carry the day over fiction.

In case you want to read more about Text Glow:

http://www.920.co.nz/?p=81
http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/SC0803/S00016.htm
http://www.geekzone.co.nz/content.asp?contentid=7673
http://computerworld.co.nz/news.nsf/tech/6845F290082F5A7BCC2574030018AD4A
http://www.vnunet.com/vnunet/news/2211395/open-xml-docs-accessible-via
http://www.first.org/newsroom/globalsecurity/218004.html
Tim Sneath
https://blogs.msdn.com/tims/archive/2008/03/06/a-great-early-silverlight-2-showcase-textglow.aspx
http://geeks.ms/blogs/roller/archive/2008/03/06/a-great-early-silverlight-2-showcase-textglow.aspx
http://www.silverlightshow.net/items/3963.aspx
http://www.sunherald.com/447/story/414469.html
http://www.topix.com/tech/ms-office
http://newsblaze.com/
http://www.golem.de/0803/58225.html
http://www.itnews.com.au/News/NewsStory.aspx?story=71552

Comments
  • <P>Gray,</P> <P>The whole argument around IP issues with 3rd party implementations is really rather odd. It reminds of of Rene Magritte (picture of an apple with the caption 'this is not an apple').</P> <P>We released the latest Monarch product back in February 2007 with Open XML spreadsheet support. &nbsp;Furthermore we have been creating Excel exports based on the far more amorphous licensing issues for the legacy file formats for many, many years with no fear of recriminations, as had thousands of other ISVs.</P> <P>Ours is not a product that just a few users will ever see, we have a user base of nearly 500,000 (although obviously a smaller number on the latest version that contains Open XML), including many of the largest organizations worldwide, so the impact of an IP issue with our software would be devastating.</P> <P>Although the EULA means we indemnify customers against such claims, any issues of this nature would be be financially catastrophic. &nbsp;</P> <P>We saw no reason for this to be a legal risk, and as a public company it is obviously something that has to be taken seriously. </P> <P>Following the raft of announcements of late, it is even more unthinkable both from a legal and a PR perspective that any IP issues can exist around Open XML implementations.</P> <P>I suppose I could ask you outright:</P> <P>"Gray, is Microsoft going to sue Datawatch now, or in the foreseeable future, on the specific issue of implementing Open XML support in our product"</P> <P>Gareth</P>

  • <p>Hi Gareth,</p> <p>Interesting question... It sounds like your company reviewed the OSP and determined that it met your needs in terms of being able to implement Open XML? &nbsp;As I read the OSP, unless your company decides to bring a lawsuit against Microsoft’s implementation of Open XML, your company should not be concerned about Microsoft bringing a lawsuit against Datawatch regarding any patents required to implement the standard. My take on it (see above comments about not being an attorney) is that this is exactly what the OSP is designed to provide.</p> <p>And I'd guess you also have an opinion about your comfort level from implementing the binary formats in the past?</p>

  • <p>Gray,</p> <p>That's correct.</p> <p>As regards the binary formats, Microsoft Press did produce a book for the Excel binary file format some time ago. </p> <p>This, added to the fact that thousands of other developers, including all the competing office suites implemented Excel read and write using the file formats themselves, rather than just using Jet/DAO/OLE DB or other Microsoft-provided high-level APIs gave us the comfort level we needed.</p> <p>This includes the open source office suites too. Furthermore, OpenOffice published documentation resulting from their reverse-engineering of the binary Excel format (amongst others) publicly without any action from Microsoft. &nbsp;This documentation was originally started by Sun, according to the documentation itself, but I don't know if they ever published it publicly themselves.</p> <p>Seems like they weren't sweating about it.</p> <p>IP issues didn't keep me up at night, just the usual, mundane things like bugs. </p> <p>Gareth</p>

  • <p>Hey on my older comp, I use Office XP on Windows Me. Now I *know* that Windows Me support has ended, but can't MS make available an unsupported version of the compatibility pack that works on Windows 98 SE and Me? My temporary solution so far is installing Novell OpenOffice which can save files as OOXML but users of older versions of Office (as old as Office 2000) are also likely to run older Windows versions, can't MS please release a compatibility pack for 9x? I really want to save from Office XP as OOXML.</p>

  • <p>While taking a hiatus from Open XML blogging during the BRM, I fell far behind in covering news of interest</p>

  • <P>www.textglow.net - TextGlow press release displayed in TextGlow (+1 for recursiveness!) Blog posts Intergen</P>

  • <p>TextGlow, the prototype Open XML Viewer for Silverlight is one of the most popular posts in the brief</p>

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