Open Document Architecture

Last updated
Open Document Architecture
Developed by ITU-T, ISO
Initial release1989;30 years ago (1989)
Type of format Document file format
Standard CCITT T.411-T.424, ISO 8613
Website ISO 8613

The Open Document Architecture (ODA) and interchange format (informally referred to as just ODA) is a free and open international standard document file format maintained by the ITU-T to replace all proprietary document file formats. ODA is detailed in the standards documents CCITT T.411-T.424, which is equivalent to ISO 8613.

An open standard is a standard that is publicly available and has various rights to use associated with it, and may also have various properties of how it was designed. There is no single definition and interpretations vary with usage.

International standards are technical standards developed by international standards organizations. International standards are available for consideration and use worldwide. The most prominent organization is the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

A document file format is a text or binary file format for storing documents on a storage media, especially for use by computers. There currently exists a multitude of incompatible document file formats.



ODA defines a compound document format that can contain raw text, raster images and vector graphics. In the original release the difference between this standard and others like it is that the graphics structures were exclusively defined as CCITT raster image and Computer Graphics Metafile (CGM - ISO 8632). This was to limit the problem of having word processor and desktop publisher software be required to interpret all known graphics formats.

In computing, a compound document is a document type typically produced using word processing software, and is a regular text document intermingled with non-text elements such as spreadsheets, pictures, digital videos, digital audio, and other multimedia features. It can also be used to collect several documents into one.

Computer Graphics Metafile (CGM) is a free and open international standard file format for 2D vector graphics, raster graphics, and text, and is defined by ISO/IEC 8632.

Word processor computer program used for writing and editing documents

A word processor (WP) is a computer program or device that provides for input, editing, formatting and output of text, often with additional features.

The documents have both logical and layout structures. Logically the text can be partitioned into chapters, footnotes and other subelements akin to HTML, and the layout fill a function similar to Cascading Style Sheets in the web world. The binary transport format for an ODA-conformant file is called Open Document Interchange Format (ODIF) and is based on the Standard Generalized Markup Language and Abstract Syntax Notation One (ASN.1).

HTML Hypertext Markup Language

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is the standard markup language for creating web pages and web applications. With Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and JavaScript, it forms a triad of cornerstone technologies for the World Wide Web.

Cascading Style Sheets style sheet language

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a style sheet language used for describing the presentation of a document written in a markup language like HTML. CSS is a cornerstone technology of the World Wide Web, alongside HTML and JavaScript.

Standard Generalized Markup Language

The Standard Generalized Markup Language is a standard for defining generalized markup languages for documents. ISO 8879 Annex A.1 defines generalized markup:-

Generalized markup is based on two postulates:

One of the features of this standard could be stored or interchanged in one of three formats: Formatted, Formatted Processable, or Processable. The latter two are editable formats. The first is an uneditable format that is logically similar to Adobe Systems PDF that is in common use today.


In 1985, ESPRIT financed a pilot implementation of the ODA concept, involving, among others, Bull corporation, Olivetti, ICL and Siemens AG.

European Strategic Programme on Research in Information Technology (ESPRIT) was a series of integrated programmes of information technology research and development projects and industrial technology transfer measures. It was a European Union initiative managed by the Directorate General for Industry of the European Commission.

Groupe Bull French-owned computer company

Bull SAS is a French-owned computer company headquartered in Les Clayes-sous-Bois, in the western suburbs of Paris. The company has also been known at various times as Bull General Electric, Honeywell Bull, CII Honeywell Bull, and Bull HN. Bull was founded in 1931, as H.W. Egli - Bull, to capitalize on the punched card technology patents of Norwegian engineer Fredrik Rosing Bull (1882–1925). After a reorganization in 1933, with new owners coming in, the name was changed to Compagnie des Machines Bull (CMB). Bull has a worldwide presence in more than 100 countries, and is particularly active in the defense, finance, health care, manufacturing, public and telecommunication sectors.

Olivetti company

Olivetti S.p.A. is an Italian manufacturer of typewriters, computers, tablets, smartphones, printers and other such business products as calculators and fax machines. Headquartered in Ivrea, in the Metropolitan City of Turin, the company has been part of the Telecom Italia Group since 2003. The first commercial programmable "desktop computer", the Programma 101, was produced by Olivetti in 1964 and was a commercial success.

The intent was to have a universal storable and interchangeable document structure that would not go out of date and could be used by any word processor or desktop publisher. The rapid adoption of personal computers in the late 1970s and early 1980s by consumers and small businesses and the relative ease of writing applications for the primitive early PCs had resulted in a huge number of new word processing applications that were then duking it out around the world for market dominance. At the same time, large corporations who had purchased dedicated word processor devices in the 1970s were switching over to the new PCs that could run word processing software and much more. The result was a profusion of constantly evolving proprietary file formats. It was already clear by 1985 that this confusing and often frustrating situation would get much worse before it got better, as desktop publishing and multimedia computing were already on the horizon.

Personal computer Computer intended for use by an individual person

A personal computer (PC) is a multi-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and price make it feasible for individual use. Personal computers are intended to be operated directly by an end user, rather than by a computer expert or technician. Unlike large costly minicomputer and mainframes, time-sharing by many people at the same time is not used with personal computers.

Market dominance is a measure of the strength of a brand, product, service, or firm, relative to competitive offerings. There is often a geographic element to the competitive landscape. In defining market dominance, one must see to what extent a product, brand, or firm controls a product category in a given geographic area.

Desktop publishing creation of documents using page layout skills on a personal computer

Desktop publishing (DTP) is the creation of documents using page layout software on a personal ("desktop") computer. It was first used almost exclusively for print publications, but now it also assists in the creation of various forms of online content. Desktop publishing software can generate layouts and produce typographic-quality text and images comparable to traditional typography and printing. Desktop publishing is also the main reference for digital typography. This technology allows individuals, businesses, and other organizations to self-publish a wide variety of content, from menus to magazines to books, without the expense of commercial printing.

Thus, ODA was intended to solve the problem of software applications whose developers were continually updating their native file formats to accommodate new features, which frequently broke backward compatibility. Older native formats were repeatedly becoming obsolete and therefore unusable after only a few years. This led to a large financial impact on companies that were using ad hoc standard applications, such as Microsoft Word or WordPerfect, because their IT departments had to constantly assist frustrated users with transferring content between so many different formats, and also hire employees whose sole job was to import old stored documents into the latest version of applications before they became unreadable. The intended result of the ODA standard was that companies would not have to commit to an ad hoc standard for word processor or desktop publisher applications, because any application adhering to a common open standard could be used to read and edit long stored documents.[ citation needed ]

The initial round of documents that made up ISO 8613 was completed after a multi-year effort at an ISO/IEC JTC1/SC18/WG3 meeting in Paris La Defense, France, around Armistice (Nov. 11) 1987, called "Office Document Architecture" at the time. CCITT picked them up as the T.400 series of recommendations, using the term "Open Document Architecture". Work continued on additional parts for a while, for instance at an ISO working group meeting in Ottawa in February 1989. Improvements and additions were continually being made. The revised standard was finally published in 1999. However, no significant developer of document application software chose to support the format, probably because the conversion from the existing dominant word processor formats such as WordPerfect and Microsoft Word was difficult, offered little fidelity, and would only have weakened their advantage of vendor lock-in over their existing user base. There were also cultural obstacles because ODA was a predominantly European project that took a top-down design approach. It was unable to garner significant interest from the American software developer community or trade press. Finally, it took an extraordinarily long time to release the ODA format (the pilot was financed in 1985, but the final specification not published until 1999). Given a lack of products that supported the format, in part because of the excessive time used to create the specification, few users were interested in using it. Eventually interest in the format faded.

IBM's European Networking Center (ENC) in Heidelberg, Germany, developed prototype extensions to IBM OfficeVision/VM to support ODA, in particular a converter between ODA and Document Content Architecture (DCA) document formats. [1]

It would be improper to call ODA anything but a failure, but its spirit clearly influenced latter-day document formats that were successful in gaining support from many document software developers and users. These include the already-mentioned HTML and CSS as well as XML and XSL leading up to OpenDocument and Office Open XML.

See also

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The Portable Document Format (PDF) is a file format developed by Adobe in the 1990s to present documents, including text formatting and images, in a manner independent of application software, hardware, and operating systems. Based on the PostScript language, each PDF file encapsulates a complete description of a fixed-layout flat document, including the text, fonts, vector graphics, raster images and other information needed to display it. PDF was standardized as an open format, ISO 32000, in 2008, and no longer requires any royalties for its implementation.

Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) is an XML-based vector image format for two-dimensional graphics with support for interactivity and animation. The SVG specification is an open standard developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) since 1999.

DisplayWrite was a word processor software application that IBM developed and marketed for the IBM PC and PCjr. It was among the company's first internally developed, commercially sold PC software.

Corel Ventura software

Ventura Publisher was the first popular desktop publishing package for IBM PC compatible computers running the GEM extension to the DOS operating system. The software was originally developed by Ventura Software, a small software company founded by John Meyer, Don Heiskell, and Lee Jay Lorenzen, all of whom met while working at Digital Research. It ran under an included run-time copy of Digital Research, Inc.'s Graphics Environment Manager (GEM).

Tagged Image File Format, abbreviated TIFF or TIF, is a computer file format for storing raster graphics images, popular among graphic artists, the publishing industry, and photographers. TIFF is widely supported by scanning, faxing, word processing, optical character recognition, image manipulation, desktop publishing, and page-layout applications. The format was created by Aldus Corporation for use in desktop publishing. It published the latest version 6.0 in 1992, subsequently updated with an Adobe Systems copyright after the latter acquired Aldus in 1994. Several Aldus or Adobe technical notes have been published with minor extensions to the format, and several specifications have been based on TIFF 6.0, including TIFF/EP, TIFF/IT, TIFF-F and TIFF-FX.

The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) is a global nonprofit consortium that works on the development, convergence, and adoption of open standards for security, Internet of Things, energy, content technologies, emergency management, and other areas.

The Open Document Format for Office Applications (ODF), also known as OpenDocument, is a ZIP-compressed XML-based file format for spreadsheets, charts, presentations and word processing documents. It was developed with the aim of providing an open, XML-based file format specification for office applications.

Systems Application Architecture (SAA), introduced in 1987, is a set of standards for computer software developed by IBM. The SAA initiative was started in 1987 under the leadership of Earl Wheeler, the "Father of SAA". The intent was to implement SAA in IBM operating systems including MVS, OS/400 and OS/2. AIX, IBM's version of the UNIX operating system, was not a target of SAA, but does have interoperability with the SAA family.

OpenOffice or open office may refer to:

Advanced Function Presentation (AFP) is a presentation architecture and family of associated printer software and hardware that provides for document and information presentation independent of specific applications and devices.

This is an overview of software support for the OpenDocument format, an open document file format for saving and exchanging editable office documents.

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The Office Open XML file formats are a set of file formats that can be used to represent electronic office documents. There are formats for word processing documents, spreadsheets and presentations as well as specific formats for material such as mathematical formulae, graphics, bibliographies etc.

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  1. Fanderl, H.; Fischer, K.; Kmper, J. (1992). "The Open Document Architecture: From standardization to the market". IBM Systems Journal. 31 (4): 728–754. doi:10.1147/sj.314.0728. ISSN   0018-8670.

The standard itself was made available for free download on September 7, 2007 (the "missing" documents T.420 and T.423 do not exist):