Feeds

Office 2013 to eat own file-format dog food

Microsoft decides to support its own spec at last

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

With the upcoming release of Office 2013, Microsoft is finally offering full support for the Open XML document standard, a format that Redmond itself created and has been promoting for nearly seven years.

"Microsoft continues to lead in giving customers choice and flexibility in file format standards and interoperability," writes Redmond's Jim Thatcher in a blog post announcing the change – although the actual history has been somewhat different.

The Open XML format has been the default document format for Microsoft's office suite since the release of Office 2007, where it is known by the familiar file name extensions .docx (for Word documents), .xlsx (for Excel spreadsheets), and .pptx (for PowerPoint presentations).

For years, Microsoft has been trumpeting that the Open XML formats are international open standards, having had them approved by both the Ecma International and ISO/IEC standards bodies.

So far, however, there has been one small problem. Although Open XML became an Ecma standard in 2006 and an ISO standard in 2008, Microsoft has never actually implemented it in the form in which it was standardized.

Instead, the Microsoft Office applications have saved documents in Transitional Open XML, a version of the ISO standard that is designed "to enable a transitional period during which existing binary documents being migrated to [Open XML] can make use of legacy features to preserve their fidelity."

That has been bad news for developers of other productivity software, such as the open source LibreOffice suite, who hoped the switch to XML-based formats would make it easier to maintain compatibility with Office documents.

To fully support Transitional Open XML, competing suites would have to implement all of the legacy features of Office, which would mean reverse engineering Microsoft's proprietary software.

Furthermore, until Office 2010, the Microsoft Office applications could only read Transitional Open XML documents, not ones written in the Strict Open XML dialect that does away with the legacy support requirements. Even Office 2010 cannot write Strict documents, making reliable document interchange between Office and competing suites impossible.

That changes with Office 2013, where according to Thatcher, all of the Office components will be able to read and write full Strict Open XML documents for the first time.

In addition, Microsoft has added support for the latest version of the competing XML document standard, Open Document Format (ODF) 1.2, as well as the ability to open PDF files as editable Word documents.

According to Andrew Updegrove, an attorney who consults clients on standardization issues, the move is an important milestone in the often contentious conflict between supporters of ODF and of Open XML, a battle which he says brought the importance of technical standards into public view for the first time.

"Only if documents can be easily exchanged and reliably accessed down ton an ongoing basis will competition in the present be preserved, and the availability of knowledge down through the ages be assured," Updegrove writes. "Without robust, universally adopted document formats, both of those goals will be impossible to attain." ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft on the Threshold of a new name for Windows next week
Rebranded OS reportedly set to be flung open by Redmond
'In... 15 feet... you will be HIT BY A TRAIN' Google patents the SPLAT-NAV
Alert system tips oblivious phone junkies to oncoming traffic
Apple: SO sorry for the iOS 8.0.1 UPDATE BUNGLE HORROR
Apple kills 'upgrade'. Hey, Microsoft. You sure you want to be like these guys?
SMASH the Bash bug! Apple and Red Hat scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
ARM gives Internet of Things a piece of its mind – the Cortex-M7
32-bit core packs some DSP for VIP IoT CPU LOL
'People have forgotten just how late the first iPhone arrived ...'
Plus: 'Google's IDEALISM is an injudicious justification for inappropriate biz practices'
Lotus Notes inventor Ozzie invents app to talk to people on your phone
Imagine that. Startup floats with voice collab app for Win iPhone
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.