Feeds

Office 2013 to eat own file-format dog food

Microsoft decides to support its own spec at last

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

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." ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Oh no, Joe: WinPhone users already griping over 8.1 mega-update
Hang on. Which bit of Developer Preview don't you understand?
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
Next Windows obsolescence panic is 450 days from … NOW!
The clock is ticking louder for Windows Server 2003 R2 users
Ditch the sync, paddle in the Streem: Upstart offers syncless sharing
Upload, delete and carry on sharing afterwards?
Microsoft TIER SMEAR changes app prices whether devs ask or not
Some go up, some go down, Redmond goes silent
Batten down the hatches, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS due in TWO DAYS
Admins dab straining server brows in advance of Trusty Tahr's long-term support landing
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.