For businesses and organizations of any size, from the smallest to the largest, the ability to communicate through the medium of documents is indispensable. A variety of technologies have evolved over many decades, combining the knowledge and expertise of writers, publishers, graphic arts experts, computer scientists and linguists, making possible the wide range of document preparation and processing tools that are now taken for granted in almost every sphere of human activity.

Many of these technologies have become ubiquitous, despite their complexity and despite being hidden from the view of most users. Standard document file formats, enabling the exchange of documents between disparate systems, have enabled the development of a global competitive marketplace for tools for creating and modifying documents, meeting a huge range of demands of businesses, public services and consumers.

ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 34 is responsible for the development and maintenance of standards for document description and processing languages. Technical work is carried out in collaboration with several external partners, including the European Manufacturer’s Association ( ECMA) International, OASIS and the World Wide Web Consortium ( W3C).

The current work programme includes:

  • Involvement in the maintenance of both major office file formats, OOXML and ODF
  • Collaboration on standards for e-book production
  • Various XML technologies that are used in professional document production workflows

Inevitably, the requirements of the marketplace for document description and processing systems change over time, whether as a result of evolving consumer demand or in response to new regulation.

Equality of access to information achieving ever greater political importance and the widespread adoption into law of the Marrakesh Treaty, which facilitates access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled, are driving the development of new standards for making documents accessible to consumers with visual or other impairments.

ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 34, in collaboration with ISO TC 46: Information and documentation, and IEC TC 100: Audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment, has coordinated the development of ISO/IEC 23761, Digital publishing – EPUB accessibility – Conformance and discoverability requirements for EPUB publications, involving contributions from experts from W3C, the DAISY Consortium and the publishing industry.