Re: Please participate in OpenFormula! First issue: Where should the mailing list be?

Jody Goldberg wrote:
From my point of view, to complement the OpenDocument specification in a useful way, what we need is something that's confined to the file format. It would probably include the general formula syntax, a list of function names, but not much more.

That seems like a fairly vacuous result.  What is the utility in
knowing that there is an ADDRESS function without knowing that it
will have the same calling convention and results ?

Expressing intent. The order of a function's parameters would need to be specified, but not the details about its results. Just like in a word processing document, where the file format says nothing about where on a page a single word will appear. It only stores the logical structure. For interoperability, similar-looking layout results are important, but that's a separate issue, not part of the file format.

I'd rather see a more long term goal of providing a specification
to help us improve interoperability.  The vast majority of existing
spreadsheets are from MS Excel and can not be changed.  For any
other product to compete or replace it will require us to calculate
the same results given the same input files.  We either standardize
on semantics and and names that are different than XL and add ever
more complex translations on import and export, or we codify the
already existing behaviors for the majority case and fix our apps.

The former does not seem likely to succeed.

If there is a requirement of "the same results", that doesn't leave much room for calling things like non-existing dates, rounding in value comparisons, or conversion from text or boolean to numbers "implementation specific".

In fact, a specification that says "the same results as Excel" doesn't add much value at all. Today, Excel interoperability is already a goal, but complete compatibility isn't reached by any application. With such a specification, OpenFormula compliance will be a goal that nobody completely achieves. So what is gained?

A shared file format (syntax) for formulas would be useful on its own, allowing one to express "this is a sum of those cells", whatever an application considers a sum.

An "Excel calculation documentation project" would be useful, too, no question.

But those two things are separate, and there's no point in mixing them together.

And, I keep repeating myself, these issues need to be sorted out first. Call this a meta argument, but discussing about schedules and standards bodies, or details like calculation order and date formats, is a waste of time as long as nobody knows what the whole effort is all about.


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