About ODA?

What is ODA?

The Open Document Architecture (ODA) is an internationally standardized electronic representation for document content and structure. ODA has been ratified by the International Standards Organization as ISO 8613.

ODA is a critical standard for anyone who wants to share documents without sacrificing control over content, structure and layout of those documents. It is designed to solve difficulties created by the variety of document formats that exist. An ODA document can be opened, changed, exchanged, stored and reproduced by any ODA-compliant program.

The value of ODA increases with time. That is, while proprietary stored files may be incompatible with the new formats of software upgrades, ODA files remain readable regardless of new formats. With ODA, massive file conversions will become a thing of the past. ODA not only protects office automation investments, it also allows for easy document transfer and common document storage. Moreover, ODA goes beyond unformatted text by using logical structure, so that text can be formatted on output in a form most suitable for the output device.

ODA has established subsets of functionality, suitable for particular applications. Such a subset is specified in a functional profile or Document Application Profile (DAP). At present, functional profiles for ODA have been developed for three specific types of use. WordPerfect Exchange, the ODA solution from WordPerfect, the Novell Applications Group, supports a profile known as FOD26. This DAP aims to provide support for typical word processing and simple Desk Top Publishing.

Who needs ODA?

Working with word processors has become a natural part of today's office life for most of us. Word processors, editors and other document handlers provide electronic assistance in the production of documents, which frequently include graphics and images as well as text.

The story is very different where document handling is concerned; it is still not possible for us to send electronic documents to other people without first having to inquire about their document handling facilities. Is there really no alternative to sending all our texts in ASCII form?

What is needed is a single, self-contained standard under which documents, including both text and graphics, can be transmitted with all attributes intact from one system to another, for further editing, processing, storing, printing and retransmission.

Open Document Architecture (ODA) is precisely such a standard. The Open Document Architecture and Interchange Format (ODA/ODIF) is a new compound standard for use in the expanding world of open systems. Compound, or multimedia documents are those made up of several different types of content; for example, character text, graphics and images.

In the early 1990s, six major computer companies joined together to form the ODA Consortium. The ODA Consortium (ODAC), a European Economic Interest Grouping, promotes the ODA standard and provides means to implement it in software applications by use of Toolkit APIs. The companies are: Bull SA, DEC, IBM, ICL PLC, Siemens-Nixdorf and Unisys. In 1994, WordPerfect, the Novell applications group joined the consortium.

Why use ODA?

ODA has been designed to facilitate inter-operability between different document processing systems. Document interchange occurs whenever one person sends a document to another. Users may prefer electronic document interchange for a variety of reasons:

The essential benefit within the context of document interchange is to give the document vendor independence.

Because ODA has been designed to be extensible, the ODA standard is written to have a very broad scope. In practice, however, no device can support every possible feature. How then is it possible to guarantee that the sender and the recipient of a document support a compatible set of features?

The answer to this problem is a set of defined document application profiles (DAP). These are arranged in levels of increasing functionality. Loosely speaking, each DAP defines a list of supported features, which any system at the same or higher level must be able to accept or interpret correctly.

How does ODA work?

ODA prescribes, first of all, an organization for the information in a document. This is divided into the following categories:

For example, a memo document (where layout may not be critical) could have logical and content components in ODA format.

All ODA files can be classified as Formatted, Formatted Processable, or Processable. Formatted files are not to be edited. Processable and Formatted Processable files can be edited.