I’m happy to report that the code for the “Chemistry Add-In for Word” (from the Chem4Word project) has been released under an Open Source license.

At the start of Chem4Word the agreement was that the non Word-specific bits of the project would be released OS, and that the rest of the add-in would be made freely available, but not OS. Even then, though, Microsoft (and especially Microsoft Research) had evidently started a remarkable reorientation with respect to Open Source licenses, and I’m proud that Chem4Word is one of the first fruits of that.

Congratulations to everyone involved in the programming of this great software (especially to Joe), and thanks to Alex Wade, Oscar Naim and Lee Dirks at Microsoft Research for pushing the opening of C4W forward.

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ODF fillip

May 22, 2008

I’ve resisted getting drawn into the OOXML scrap over on PM-R’s blog; partly because I’ve had plenty to do, and mostly because I don’t think another partly informed opinion would add much to the debate.

Our approach to text mining is necessarily pragmatic, which changes your outlook significantly (for detailed reasons why, read Peter Sefton’s blog). OOXML may be a flawed spec born of a standardisation process that left its participants disenchanted and angry. It may be that OOXML can only ever be implemented meaningfully by Word. The fact remains that most chemists, most people, use Word to create documents.

Which is why the news that Office 2007 SP2 introduces native support for ODF natively is brightening my day.

ODF has a potential upside in expanding interoperability, but as always, business continuity requirements will have a significant effect on our approach to these file format changes.

Gray Knowlton

When ODF became a standard I hoped Microsoft would see the business advantage of open data specs and interoperability, and start playing along. Looks like we’re getting there.

Savas Parastatidis has announced a research output repository software being developed by the MS technical computing group. I got a sneaky preview from Savas a couple of weeks ago, so I’ve been looking forward to being able to blog this! The UI is lots of fun:

Notes and comments: –

  • It’s based on an RDBMS, but walks and quacks a lot like an RDF triplestore. The design aims to retain the scalability of a well designed RDBMS schema, but gain the flexibility of a triplestore.
  • It’s going to be free (as in beer). Of course, there’s a stack of licensed software (windows server, SQL server etc) you need before you can install it.
  • There’s a suggestion that it may be released under an Open Source license. Whatever license they choose, I think the strongest development community will be built on a good API and plugin management system (sound familiar?). This could work with a closed license, or on a MySQL-type OS model equally well.
  • The team have a strong and (IMO) genuine desire to play nicely with existing interoperability standards, and to participate in the development of interop standards.
  • Will this be a competitor to DSpace, Fedora, ePrints, BePress, Intrallect et al? Of course it will, but what IRs need now is people trying new and different approaches, so a new entrant could give the whole area a fillip.
  • More and more people are going to want to bring their repositories to their data, rather than vice versa. Lots of people store their data on windows servers, in active directories and shared network drives etc. There could be a lot of very quick wins if the team choose to go in that direction.