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Office 2007 fails OXML test

The dog ate Microsoft's homework

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Microsoft's Office 2007 Word documents do not conform to the newly-approved Open XML (OXML) international standard.

Alex Brown, who heads up the group responsible for maintaining the OXML standard at the International Standardisation Organisation (ISO), revealed the less-than-pretty findings in a blog post late last week.

He said that OOXML, which last month – in the face of heavy opposition – just scraped in enough votes to be passed as a standard by the ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), does not adhere to the latest specifications of the draft standard (ISO/IEC 29500).

Brown carried out what he liked to describe as a "smoke test" to see how well Microsoft's latest Word app behaved against the "strict" and "transitional" schema defined in the standard.

But OXML, which lost its second O (abbreviated for Office) after the ISO officially gained control of the standard last week, doesn't sit nicely with Office 2007.

According to Brown, the problem is with making Word documents generated in Office 2007 fit with the tweaks made to the spec at an ISO ballot resolution meeting (BRM) in February this year.

Microsoft had tried to fast-track OOXML via Ecma International, the group which originally rubber-stamped the format. However, a vote of the draft failed to gain sufficient approval last September.

The Ecma-approved version of OOXML conformed to Office 2007 documents, but, following the changes made at the BRM, the wheels appear to have fallen off.

Despite his findings, Brown remained somewhat optimistic about the discovery. He said on his blog:

"Given Microsoft's proven ability to tinker with the Office XML file format between service packs, I am hoping that MS Office will shortly be brought into line with the 29500 specification, and will stay that way.

"Indeed, a strong motivation for approving 29500 as an ISO/IEC standard was to discourage Microsoft from this kind of file format rug-pulling stunt in future."

Under the test, the spec generated 122,000 errors against the strict schemas and 84 errors against the transitional schemas.

Microsoft's Office interoperability senior product manager Doug Mahugh felt those results were good enough for the software giant to hold its head up high. He said on his blog yesterday:

"Office 2007 was designed to be highly compatible with existing documents, so it uses features of Open XML that provide backward compatibility, including many of the elements and attributes that were moved to 'transitional status' as a result of the BRM.

"So the test of strict conformance, although interesting, is a bit abstract: it's testing whether a document conforms to a subset of the spec that was defined after the document was created."

Yesterday, Groklaw, which has been one of OOXML's biggest critics, slammed Brown's latest revelations:

"All you folks who voted for it need to tell us why you accepted it before it was done. Because what this means is that OOXML was just approved as an ISO standard, on the allegation that it was necessary for interoperability with Microsoft documents, and it turns out it doesn't even do that.

"It also means no one can interoperate successfully with Microsoft Office 2007 except Microsoft. Neato. Back to Go. Do not collect $200. Isn't the Fast Track supposed to be for already *implemented* standards?" ®

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