ODF Forensics

The other day I had a phone call from Michiel Leenaars of the NLnet Foundation, who is busy gearing up for this week's ODF plugfest in the Hague. Michiel had seen my blog post on ODF validation using pipelines, and was interested in whether I could come up with something quick and dirty for providing forensic information about pairs of ODF documents, so they could be assessed before and after they are used by a tool. This could help users check if anything has been incorrectly added or taken away during a round-trip. Here's what I came up with …

Reaching for XProc

Yes again, I am going to use an XProc pipeline to do the processing. The basic plan of attack is:

  1. take two documents
  2. generate a “fingerprint” for each of them
  3. compare the fingerprints
  4. display the result in a meaningful, human-readable form

Fingerprinting XML

For a basic comparison between document I chose simply to compare the elements used, and the number of them. This obviously leaves out quite a bit which might also be compared (attributes, text) etc – but is a useful smoke test about whether major structures have been added or lost during a round-trip.

So the overall pipeline will look like this:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<pipeline name="get-opc-rels" xmlns="http://www.w3.org/ns/xproc"
<import href="extensions.xpl"/>
<!-- the URLs of the ODF documents to be processed -->
<option name="package-a" required="true"/>
<option name="package-b" required="true"/>
<!-- get the first fingerprint ... -->
<xo:make-fingerprint name="finger-a">
<with-option name="package-url" select="$package-a"/>
<!-- ... and the second ... -->
<xo:make-fingerprint name="finger-b">
<with-option name="package-url" select="$package-b"/>
<!-- combine them into a single document for input into an XSLT -->
<wrap-sequence wrapper="fingerprint-pair">
<input port="source">
<pipe step="finger-a" port="result"/>
<pipe step="finger-b" port="result"/>
<!-- style into an HTML report of differences -->
<xslt name="transform-to-html">
<input port="stylesheet">
<document href="style-diffs.xsl"/>

A number of things are of note:

  • The ODF packages are interrogated using the JAR URI mechanism I described here
  • We’re using a custom step <xo:make-fingerprint>, which takes as its input the URL of an ODF document (“package-url”), and which emits a “fingerprint” as an XML document. Obviously this step is not built into any XProc processor, so we’ll need to write it ourselves
  • We using XProc’s wrap-sequence step to combine the two “fingerprint” documents into a single document
  • We’ll be relying on an XSLT transform to turn this combined document into a nice report, which will be the end result of the pipeline.

Writing the fingerprinting pipeline

To define our custom pipeline <xo:make-fingerprint> we simply author a new pipeline, and give it the type “xo:make-fingerprint”. This can then be invoked as a step. Here’s what this sub-pipeline looks like:

<pipeline type="xo:make-fingerprint">
<!-- the URL of the ODF file to fingerprint -->
<option name="package-url" required="true"/>
<!-- load its manifest -->
<with-option name="href" select="concat('jar:',$package-url,'!/META-INF/manifest.xml')"/>
<!-- visit each entry in the manifest which refs an XML resource -->
<viewport name="handle"
and not(starts-with(@mf:full-path,'META-INF'))]">
<cx:message message="Loading item ..."/>
<!-- load the entry -->
<load name="load-item">
<with-option name="href" select="concat('jar:',$package-url,'!/',/*/@mf:full-path)"/>
<!-- accumulate everything in a <wrapper> document -->
<wrap-sequence wrapper="wrapper">
<input port="source">
<pipe step="load-item" port="result"/>
<!-- transform the accumulated mass into a fingerprint -->
<xslt name="transform-to-fingerprint">
<input port="stylesheet">
<document href="make-fingerprint.xsl"/>
<!-- label it with the package URL, as an attribute on the root element-->
<add-attribute match="/*" attribute-name="package-url">
<with-option name="attribute-value" select="$package-url"/>

Things to notice here:

  • We iterate through the ODF manifest looking for XML documents
  • All of the XML in the entire package is retrieved and combined into a single mega-document wrapped in an element named<wrapper>
  • We’re relying on an XSLT transform, “make-fingerprint.xsl” to do the heavy lifting and turn our mega-document into meaningful (and smaller) “fingerprint” document
  • We add the URL of the ODF document to the fingerprint using XProc’s nifty add-attribute step

The Heavy Lifting: XSLT

The XSLT to boil a document down into a fingerprint can be seen here. What it produces is a summary of the elements used in each of the namespaces the document mentions. This extract gives a flavour of the kind of result it produces:

<namespace name="urn:oasis:names:tc:opendocument:xmlns:manifest:1.0">
<element name="file-entry" count="1"/>
<namespace name="urn:oasis:names:tc:opendocument:xmlns:meta:1.0">
<element name="generator" count="1"/>
<namespace name="urn:oasis:names:tc:opendocument:xmlns:office:1.0">
<element name="automatic-styles" count="1"/> 
<element name="body" count="1"/>
<element name="document-content" count="1"/> 
<element name="document-meta" count="1"/>
<element name="document-styles" count="1"/>
<element name="font-face-decls" count="2"/>
<element name="meta" count="1"/>
<element name="spreadsheet" count="1"/>
<element name="styles" count="1"/>

Returning now to our main pipeline, we can see it makes two calls to (or should that be “sucks on”) the sub-pipeline to generate two fingerprints. These are then wrapped with a wrap-sequence step, and we have all we need to generate the final report. Again, an XSLT transform is used to do a comparison operation and the result is emitted as an HTML document intended for human consumption. An example of what this looks like (comparing the OpenOffice and Google Docs versions of Maya’s wedding planner) can be found here.

Putting it to use

The results of this process need to be interpreted on a case-by-case basis. Just because two applications represent notionally the same document with different XML is not necessarily a fault (though I’d like to know why Maya’s Wedding Planner has 2,000 spreadsheet cells according to Google Docs, and only 51 according to OO.o).

The most useful application of this pipeline is to check for untoward data loss when a document is processed by an application – and I understand this is a particular concern of the Dutch government. With this in mind it is possible to take this pipeline further still, checking attribute differences and even textual differences. Though there comes a point when diff'ing XML that it is best to use a specialist tool such as the excellent DeltaXML (I have no association with this product, except knowing it is well-respected through its use among clients). Many an unsuspecting programmer has come to grief under-estimating the complexities of comparing XML documents.

Online ODF Validation

Michiel also asked whether it would be possible to make the ODF validation pipeline I blogged about previously available as an online service. Coincidentally this was something I was working on anyway, though using Java rather than XML pipelines. The result is now available here. Enjoy …

Comments (3) -

  • Rob Weir

    6/26/2009 5:21:11 PM | Reply

    It would be good to take these ideas and contribute them to the existing validator at the ODF Toolkit Union (http://www.odftoolkit.org).  Otherwise we risk having several half-baked validators and no critical mass effort to produce a fully featured one.  I'm thinking things like deep validation of things like embedded ODF documents, MathML, even SVG at some point.  Similarly, the OIC TC will be developing some interoperability guidelines that could be used to evaluated document instances as well.  We have the tools to do this: RNG, Schematron, NVDL, etc.  But I don't think we get there working in isolation.

  • hAl

    6/29/2009 10:31:57 AM | Reply

    On your on line validator.
    It is doing XLS schema validations only ?

    It states "document is valid" on every item.
    Could you make it
    "Document manifest is valid"
    "document settings is valid"
    "document styles is valid"
    "document content is valid"

  • Alex

    6/29/2009 11:01:24 AM | Reply


    It only attempts ODF validation (any ODF document type; any ODF version) at the moment.

    The indenting should help make clear which line applies to what, but I can certainly make that change -- it will make things clearer ...

    - Alex.