a 'mooh' point

clearly an IBM drone

Three monkeys - one was Håkon Lie

(corrected quote of Håkon Lie) 

After the demonstration in Oslo yesterday (damn I wish I had been there) the CTO of Opera Software, Håkon Wium Lie was interviewed by Norwegian newspaper VG. The interview is in Norwegian but let me translate a bit for you:

Håkon Lie: What might happen if Microsoft gets this [OOXML ISO-approval] [OOXML added to the list of approved mandatory document formats in Norway, JLS addition ] through is that Norwegian authorities may be forced to use it, and this means that if you receive an email with an attachment and you don't have a program to read this attachment - it could be a message from a teacher of your child that attends a Norwegian school - when you cannot open this attachment, you will have to buy software from Microsoft. So this is really a "Microsoft-tax" that may be the consequence if Microsoft wins here. We are against this.

Dear Håkon, I love the software you guys make - I use it every day on my cell-phone ... but are you out of your mind? I would expect those kinds of arguments from the typical Tux-f**kers (or in reverse, from the usual Microsoft fan-boys whose coding-skills evolve around point-and-click in Visual Studio Web Developer). I would not expect this from the CTI of the third-largest browser-producer in the world and your argument here makes it all so much clearer for me why Standard Norge discarded your arguments.

I am sure Gene Amdahl would be proud of you.



Comments (51) -


Two standards covering the same subject,is no standard.

Do you see any problems with the following case?
I (retired and at an age of 68) have a supercheap superlaptop with Ubuntu and Open Office. My friend at an age of 75 years with no computer knowledge wanted to bye a new computer, so he  visited a shop. There he is recommended to bye a laptop with Windows and Office2007. There is no reason why the shopkeeper should tell my friend that he could get (even installed)  OpenOffice for free at another shop.
Later I want to send him a document (offcource by default in ODF-format) to my friend. He will read it and then modify it and send it back to me. After that he will send me a document (offcource in Microsofts version of OOXML-format)  and I will modify it and send it back.

Any problems?

Retired citizen.

K Ryder,

Any problems?

Well, apart from a shop-clerk that didn't investigate the requirements and needs of his customer, I don't really see any.

The part of your comment dealing with document interop is bogus. There is no inherent need to convert from one format to another - at least not when both document formats mature a bit in the market.

Does this guy really believe that:

- ISO approval of 29500 implies that everyone (including governments) is forced to use it?
- Only software from Microsoft can read IS 29500?

He would seem to be either delusional, grossly misinformed, or a pathetic liar.

Jesper, are you going to acquaint the newspaper with the facts of the matter?  I'm pretty sure that its readers don't read your blog.

It has been posted on Shahzad Ranas blog here in Norway too, in Norwegian:


Shahzad Rana is a member of SC34 and SN K/185.

This is not the first time Haakon Wium Lie is inaccurate in his description of OOXML and the consequenses of ISO-ratification. I posted an article about it in my blog a few weeks ago, though only in Norwegian. It seems like his antipathy against certain aspects of Microsofts standards behaviour is reflected in his arguments against OOXML.

Sometimes I wish he was the monkey with the hands covering the mouth...

I'm happy to see that Norwegian newspapers have readers abroad.

You not accurately translated me though. Or, more specifically, you have inserted text that I didn't say. My comment is not about "[OOXML ISO-approval]", but about Microsoft Norway's push to have OOXML be added to the government's list of approved standards for web publishing:


If Microsoft succeeds, we may end up with government documents only being available in OOXML. Please correct your quote.

In response to Lie's clarification, let me amend my question earlier in this comment section.

Does this guy really believe that:

- If Norway's government adds IS 29500 to the list of approved standards for web publishing, that implies that everyone in Norway (including governments) is forced to use it?
- Only software from Microsoft can read IS 29500?

It's just as crazy as before the clarification!

Hi Håkon,

(I was wondering when you'd read my post)


As you correctly note, the [OOXML-approval] was inserted by me. I am not sure if there is an international way (standard, ehem) of doing citations, but using square brackets is the way it is done here in Denmark. Given the context of the interview (protesters with anti-OOXML signs etc) I don't think you can really blame me for misunderstanding you.

But just to clarify - does it mean that you are not against OOXML-approval in ISO but against adding OOXML to the list of approved document formats in Norway?


You are right to use block quotes to interpolate. However, you need to make sure that what you write inside the quotes fairly represents what the person is saying. It's still not quite accurate. You now say [OOXML added to the list of approved document formats in Norway, JLS addition]. The word "approved" is not accurate, if you follow the link I gave in the previous comment you will find the word "obligatorisk". I therefore suggest: [OOXML added to the list of obligatory web publishing formats for government use in Norway].

I'm against adding OOXML to the list of obligatory standards.

I'm also against making OOXML an ISO standard, for lots of reasons:


I'm happy that you like Opera's software. I'm a member of the Norwegian standardization committee as a private citizen and I don't represent Opera there. Sometimes my emaployer agree with me, sometimes not. Also, I'm the "CTO" of Opera, not the "CTI".

Thanks for willingness to update the piece; I suggest you revise the headline as well.


You ask: "Does this guy really believe that Only software from Microsoft can read IS 29500?"

You're welcome to call me "Håkon", "Hakon" or "howcome".

The answer is: we don't know yet. The document hasn't been finalized and therefore no software can support it yet. The specification is expected to reach 8000 pages. How long time will it take to reach interoperability on a specification that long? Pixel-for-pixel, as authors have come to rely on? Personally, I don't think it will happen in my lifetime.

HTML, on the other hand, has achieved that kind of interoperability. I suggest we use HTML instead for Office-like documents. The extra bonus is that you can view your documents on a billion browsers. Here's more on this:



Well, we Danes will always go to great lenghts to satisfy our Nordic brothers.


When I read the text from your government I see that ODF is currently the only mandatory document format and that OOXML is under consideration pending ISO-approval. Now, it makes perfect sense to have a mandatory document format if there is only one. But now that we have two document formats I would expect the Norwegian approach to be like the Danish, to have {i]a mandatory choice between two formats[/i].

And thanks for the suggestion to alter the title of the post, but it stays as it is. I still think you are either covering your ears, mouth or eyes regarding OOXML.


Thanks for fixing the quote. And my title.

(I see that I myself used the word "approved" in my first comment. This was done late at night and I hit the send button before checking my own text.)

I can live with the title. But only if you promise to read all 8000 pages Smile


I can live with the title. But only if you promise to read all 8000 pages Smile
Goodie ... about the 8000 pages, remember that there are now more like 9000+ pages. I have read at least one ... so I am perfectly entitled to discuss the technical merits of the damn thing anyways.


> 9000+ pages

I have it on good authority that the final text is only a little bigger than the original spec (it is now at 6000 + a few hundred pages). This is because decisions by the BRM to remove repeitive text nearly offsets the decision to include the schemas.

- Alex.

Hi Alex,

That sounds really good. I was afraid that the inclusion of the entire schemas would make the spec explode.

You are sure the numbers you were told are not just the page count of [b]normative[/i] text, right?


There is a list of software that has no trouble reading and accurately rendering the ECMA version of OOXML, including iWorks08 for the Mac.  Since the changes between the ECMA standard and IS 29500 are not earth shattering, I think its a no-brainer that you'll see the software you are seeking this year, i.e., well within your lifetime.

Your statements just make you look either silly, totally uninformed, or so biased against Microsoft that your hatred of them allows it to blind you to the plain truth.  You do realize that, don't you?


I have some trouble keeping up with your argumentation. You say:

(...) and this means that if you receive an email with an attachment and you don't have a program to read this attachment - it could be a message from a teacher of your child that attends a Norwegian school - when you cannot open this attachment, you will have to buy software from Microsoft.

Later you refer to the decision of FAD (Ministary of administration) about obligatory formats for publication of documents on the web. The problem is: this decision says nothing about other means of electronic communication, like e-mail. There is nothing in the decision of FAD that can prevent any teacher from sending attachments in the format of their choice. I agree that sending attachments in closed formats (like the Microsoft binary formats) is a bad idea, but that is not what FAD has decided against.

If Hakon actually said:
you will have to buy software from Microsoft.
Than he is purpously representing the facts incorrect.

Even for binary MS propriety files you don't need MS software to view them.
But for an open standard like Office Open XML there will be plenty of free and payed alternatives.
In fact even in this early stage already a lot of support for these files exists.

I find it rather said if someone fairly noteworthy adds such obvious fabrications (bordering on lies) to substantiate his arguments.


Try opening this document:


Which software is able to do so without losing information? You say there are many, could you name a few?

Håkon Wium Lie is right in pointing out that you will need to buy software from Microsoft in order to read documents produced by Microsoft Office and saved as OOXML. All other solutions will fail. It's simply impossible for two diffrent applications to interpret 8000 pages of specification in the same manner.


I response to your challenge to list *any* non-Microsoft software that can render OOXML without losing information, here is a list of such software that is currently shipping.  It does not contain announced products (which would make the list even longer).

And, if you don't believe this list, you can watch videos of many of them in action, rendering OOXML just fine.  Just go to Youtube, and look for the OOXML section.


Linspire 6.0 Shipping Open XML Translator
OpenOffice – Novell Edition

Mac OS X:

Apple iWork Pages 08
DataViz MacLinkPlus Deluxe 16
Neo Office 2.1
Word Counter 2.4

Other Operating Systems or Operating System Independent:

Adobe Buzzword
Apple iPhone
DB2 Content Manager V8.4 Clients Support for Office Open XML File Formats
Dataviz Documents to Go – Palm OS
IBM DB2 9 pureXML
IBM WebSphere Portal
Intergen TextGlow
Lotus Quickr V8.0
OpenXML4J - Open XML Framework for Java
Open XML Writer
PHPExcel - Web Development (PHP)
Quickoffice Premier 5.0
SUN StarSuite 8
ThinkFree Write
Tradenex.com nexCONNECT
Zamzar Zoho Writer


Altova XMLSpy
Altsoft XML2PDF Server 2007
AltViewer 2007
BueSpring Software BPM Suite
ComponentOne Studio Enterprise 2007 v3, C1Excel and C1FlexGrid for WinForms
Corel WordPerfect Office
Datawatch Monarch V.9.0
Document Maker
EMC Document Sciences xPression 3 Suite and solutions
Madcap Flare
MindJet MindManager
Nuance OmniPage 16
Open XML Writer
PythonOffice – Open Source
SoftFluent Calypteo
SpaceClaim Professional 2007+
Xpertdoc Studio 2007 Reporting Solution


You misundestood my challenge. I didn't ask for a list of products that claim to read OOXML, I asked to see a list of those that actually can read this particular document.


What's so special about this document?  Is it corrupt?  If not, i.e., if it's a valid OOXML file, then look in the list of applications I gave you to find the one you prefer.


dotne (and Gisle Hannemyr) has a valid point: The document is OOXML and contains text, WordArt and a formula. There is currently no other applications than Word 2007 that presents the document as intended.


That may be the case.  I'm not exactly going to go out and buy all the software I listed just to check.  

But, it is malicious dishonesty to claim, as Lie did, that one *must* buy Microsoft software to view *any* OOXML document. I would hazard to guess that an application like iWorks'08 can properly render about 99.999% of the OOXML documents generated in real life.

And don't forget, for comparison, there are still NO ODF 1.0 compliant applications yet.  The list of deviations is still in the hundreds (when I last looked, about 6 months ago).

The hypocracy is clear for all to see.

I don't disagree with you Ian, I was just pointing out the fact that currently no other applications than Word 2007 can present the document as intended. I am absolutely sure that there will be such applications in the future.

So, it seems that Fredrik and Ian are saying that there will be free software in the future that will decode all OOXML documents flawlessly. Perhaps there will be, perhaps not. Until such software exists, for free, on all major platforms, the Microsoft tax is in place if governments choose to use OOXML for public documents. So, at this point in time, Hakon's statements are entirely correct. Instead of attacking a person you should spend your valuable time writing OOXML decoders and release them to the world.

Or, maybe governments should avoid Word Art Text and equations in WordprocessingML documents for a few months... not a big deal.  If you need these in 0.00001% of the cases, use the old binary formats during that time for those ones.  They are readable properly on all platforms, including free ones.

No Microsoft "tax".  Seems a simple solution to me.

I appologise for jumping in into other peoples' discussion, but if it is just for reading office documents, what's wrong with Word Viewer and friends? ( www.microsoft.com/.../details.aspx )
Clearly, it is not a perfect solution, but i'd like to believe it would be good enough until we start getting more mature implementations of the format from other developers.
Or is it not an option just because it comes from Microsoft?

Hi rake,

Welcome to the discussion.

For the people I am talking to on this blog, it's not a solution *because* it comes from Microsoft.  They hold the position that there is a Microsoft "tax" they have to pay to read these documents.  Of course, it's really not a question of a tax, because there are free solutions.  

Be warned, once you point out this solution on Windows, they are going to come back and say they're still being taxed because it doesn't work for Linux, or OS/X.  When you get free and perfect solutions for those platforms, they will bring up an obscure OS that doesn't have a perfect and free solution yet, and so on ad infinium.

They're not really looking for a solution -- they're just looking for an excuse they can use to try and convince governments not to ever touch OOXML.  That's their agenda.  As long as you understand that, these people won't drive you quite so crazy.


No, reading is not the issue. Here's the list of mandatory formats in Norway which started this discussion:


The sentence "obligatorisk format ved publisering av dokumenter beregnet for videre bearbeiding" refers specifically to editable documents.

For non-editable documents, HTML and/or PDF are mandatory.


I think you have, as Fredrik said, a valid point with the document - and I think it is a perfect example of the kind of documents that "creative" school teachers send to their pupils.

If you look at the document markup you will see, that the text written in "WordArt" is actually VML, the vector markup language of previous Microsoft Office suites. OSS-programs like OpenOffice.org already support this and they will support it in OOXML as well. The "only" problem left in this document is the mathematical formula.

Please also note that the Norwegian FAD-policy regarding open standards and in particular ODF and OOXML are only applicable for publications on official web pages and not when sending emails etc.


I'll also jump into the discussion Smile
You are right about that these people are not looking for any solutions...

Håkon Wium Lie also said to Computerworld (http://www.idg.no/computerworld/article93223.ece)
In Norwegian: "- Det er helt umulig for andre enn Micrsosoft å bruke denne spesifikasjonen til å implementere et produkt."

My translation: "- It is complete impossible for other than Microsoft to use and implement this [OOXML] specification in a product."

I don't know how mange pages he has read, but you may question his technical skills.


I don't know how mange pages he has read
At least 1?


Rana, you recently published a document that you claim is OOXML:


However, it's impossible to decode that document by reading the OOXML specification because the content is written in a secret format. You will simply not find the secret sauce in the OOXML spec. So, again, Håkon is entirely correct and you should be ashamed of yourself for attacking an honorable person. How much do Microsoft pay you for doing the dirty work?

Hi dotne,

Probably you have read <a href="blog.rana.io/.../">the article</a> on my blog. Unfortunately for international readers of Jesper's blog it's in Norwegian only.

A short english version:
* The OOXML specification allows embedding an 3.rd party objects, fully in compliance with the specification.
* Equation 3.0 is not a Microsoft product but a lighweight version og <a href="www.dessci.com/.../">MathType </a>
* The SDK for MathType is available <a href="www.dessci.com/.../a>;

Impossible to decode a document that contains Equation 3.0 math notation is peculiar way of expressing it. How come that even beta version of OOXML->ODF converter is able to convert it as a read-only math notation to ODF?

Why should I be ashamed? I'm just quoting what the CTO of Opera Software, Håkon Wium Lie said in public to Computerworld.

Hi dotne,

(Sorry - I'm not used to Jespers blog and how to type html-codes here, I messed up the previous posting Smile. So therfore a new one)

Probably you have read [url=blog.rana.io/.../]the article[/url] on my blog. Unfortunately for international readers of Jesper's blog it's in Norwegian only.

A short english summary:
* The OOXML specification allows embedding an 3.rd party objects, fully in compliance with the specification.
* Equation 3.0 is not a Microsoft product but a lighweight version of [url=http://www.dessci.com/en/reference/white_papers/]MathType[/url]
* The SDK for MathType is available [url=http://www.dessci.com/en/reference/SDK/#MTEF]here[/url]

Impossible to decode a document that contains Equation 3.0 math notation is peculiar way of expressing it. How come that even beta version of OOXML->ODF converter is able to convert it as a read-only math notation to ODF?

Why should I be ashamed? I'm just quoting what the CTO of Opera Software, Håkon Wium Lie said in public to Computerworld.

Rana, I'm afraid you screwed up by publishing that document. You simply proved Håkons point that the OOXML specification is not enough -- one actually has to reverse-engineer the binary stuff to read your document. Why didn't you simply use the math elements in OOXML? They are there for a reason. I suggest you take down your example before the rest of the world get to see it.


The OOXML-spec allows embedding of object, so does ODF.

If the embedded object contained in a document is not available on a specific platform it's not a question about something wrong with the specification. This implies to ODF as well to OOXML.

Let turn this around for a second and use ODF instead.

1) Create a new ODF-document using OpenOffice 2.4 on Windows platform. Insert an Equation 3.0 object and make a new math notation.
2) Move this file to Linux and open it with OpenOffice 2.4 and try to edit the math notation
3) You can view in read-only mode only and not change the math notation.

The document you created is a valid ODF-document according to ODF-specification. Is the ODF-specification wrong??

Definitely NOT!

Both ODF and OOXML allows embedding of object and they are both fully valid. On the Windows platform you can edit the Equation 3.0 math notation both in ODF (OpenOffice) and OOXML (MS Office 2003-2007)

Documents are more that just plain text and a document specification should reflect the needs of a user.

Håkon Wium Lie wanted med to test this specific document. The question about why this specific document has to be addressed to him.

I not quite sure who is this screwing up, me or you...

Rana, are you saying Håkon created the document that you published? And then he fooled you into publishing it? He may be smarter than you think. I suggest you take it down -- by having it on you site it looks like you're actually supporting this kind of anti-OOXML propaganda. For those of us who truly believe in OOXML, having a document like this on your web site is damaging.

That's what I mean by screwing it up.


I don't get it - who is screwing up what ... and why?

I don't think the document is really interesting in a discussion on usage of OOXML, but the embedded object is not really rocket science - it's just an equation object.

As a funny note, ponder this for at second:

If I take the docx-file and open it in OOo (2.3) using the SourceForge ODF-converter it opens just fine. So this is a direct OOXML-to-ODF-translation.

If I take the docx-file and open it in Office 2003 using the compatibility-pack and save it using Office 2003 to the binary .doc-format ... and open this in OOo (2.3), it also opens just fine.

(in all circumstances the object is editable)

Now, if i take the WordArt.docx-file and open it in Office 2003 using the compatibility-pack it displays the info just fine - however the OMML-markup is not converted to an Equation object. If I save it to .doc and open this in OOo, it's the same behaviour. However, if I open the .docx-fil directly in OOo it basically screws up everything.

Does any of you know someone who will try to open the docx-file in e.g. iWorks or WordPerfect and post the results?


Personally, I'm in favor of OOXML because it's open. Anyone can read the spec, and that's a good thing (even if noone reads all the pages Smile. Then Rana comes along and publishes a document which is counter to this openness. There exists no open spec for the document that he is promoting (or seen as promoting). (Or perhaps MS has published it? Let me know.) This gives lots of ammunition to the anti-OOXML crowd. Is that what you want? I call it screwing up.


So you'd rather that he kept the information to himself?

Sorry - but are you nuts? The only way we (the +OOXML-community) can contribute to a fruit-full discussion of OOXML is to be honest and provide true and fair information about the things we encounter.

Do you also think I should have kept the information about Office 2007 in the various articles I have written, complaining about behaviour in Office 2007, to myself?

Personally I don't think you can conclude anything, really, with basis in the document with the Equatiuon 3.0 equation. If people complain about lack of openness of OOXML and refer to this document, they really have understood just about nothing about it anyways.


The easiest way to explain this is by analogy.

Suppose for some weird reason you are running an operating system that doesn't know about jpeg graphic objects, and someone (e.g., the Norwegian government) gives you an OOXML file containing an embedded jpeg picture.  Is it the "fault" of OOXML that:

- You can't render the picture on your machine
- If you examine the OOXML file, you can't understand the embedded jpeg without some "secret sauce" (in this case, access to the international spec on how jpegs are structured)
- The OOXML spec doesn't contain within itself the specification for jpegs?

Of course not.  And the same applies to the equation under discussion.  Just substitute "Equation 3.0 object" for "jpeg" above.

Further to my comment,

An important corollary is that when governments consider recommending or mandating a document format that allows embedding of foreign objects (i.e., just about any document format worth its salt), they should consider not just the format, but the types of objects that can be embedded in it.

That's the *real* lesson here, since all modern document formats can embed almost anything.

TOTALLY INDEPENDENTLY of specific document formats (OOXML, ODF, etc.), then, governments might want to look at the types of embedded objects they allow in documents on government sites.


I think you are reaching a bit too far here, because the document WordArt.docx contains some VML-formatted text as well as some OMML (the equation).

These are not embedded objects of some esoteric orign but parts of the document marked up by completely valid OOXML markup.

I do not agree, though, that the file constitutes a proof of existance of the "Microsoft tax".



You misunderstand me.  I wasn't talking about the VML-formatted text in this particular case, which I fully understand is specified by the document standard.

I was talking about embedded objects, which are not covered by the document format specification.  (This applies to OOXML, ODF, HTML, and PDF, although many people aren't aware that you can embed things like Autocad drawings in PDF.)

I've published an answer to Rana's letter here, it may be of interest to those who can read Scandinavian:


The «OOXML-document» in discussion was not created by me, but by Rana. If he wanted to show why publishing OOXML on the web like he did is poor idea, he certainly succeeded.


Hi guys,

I just wanted to let you know that, standing in the Apple Store on Regent Street in London, the WordArt.docx-document opened in Word 2008 for Mac displays the WordArt (VML) in the document just fine and allows editing it as well.

(the formula is screwed up, though)

the WordArt.docx-document opened in Word 2008 for Mac displays the WordArt (VML) in the document just fine and allows editing it as well.

Ooh - and the same count for the behaviour of Pages from iWorks 8 for the WordArt as well as the formula.


BTW: where the hell is the "sharp"-key (as in C-sharp) on a UK-mac?

I just noticed at http://people.opera.com/howcome/2008/rana/foo.html that Haakon is accusing me of being paid by Microsoft to blog about OOXML.

Haakon, I have worked long and hard to achieve a reputation of being independent of Microsoft in these debates. I may have points of views that are similar to the ones from Microsoft, but I represent no-one but myself and have not been paid by anyone including my employer to blog about OOXML.

You and Opera should be ashamed of yourselves to accuse me of being a Microsoft-blogger in disguise!

I am surprised to see that you and Opera feel so beaten down after the Norway-decision that you are now attacking the persons in the debates rather than your arguments.

Jesper, you should not take this so hard.

That is just standard OSS retoric.
FOSS retoric 101, rule number #3:
If  someone does dot not agree with FOSS community opinions they should be called:
A) paid by M$
B) astroturfer for M$
C) shill working for M$
D) all of the above

I have heard them all before. Still awaiting to get some of those $ though.

hi hAl,

You and I have both been called God knows what in the previous months and I have gotten rather thick skin because of it. Usually I don't really care about the name-calling from morons like the infamous "S" on Brian Jones' blog or similar characters.

But it really pisses me off when "someone with ranks" does the same thing - like Håkon. He is a CTI of Opera, for Christ's sake!

Strangely, his post has been taken off line again.

Comments are closed