Microsoft’s Open XML document formats

There has been a lot of media and industry comment of late about Office document formats, including Microsoft’s willingness (or otherwise) to embrace open standards. Whilst there will be some limited PDF support in the next version of Office (Office 12), Microsoft is hoping that it’s submission of the new Office formats to the ECMA will be sufficient to make the new Office file format a global standard.

In a newsletter sent to Windows Vista and Office 12 beta testers, Microsoft commented that:

“…Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents are now zipped files containing separate XML components. This format has just been released to ECMA and can be used royalty free.”

They continued to extol the virtues of this approach, claiming that:

“This means that you can build robust server side processes that manipulate and create office documents without ever needing the client [applications] running on the server. The openness of the file format means that ISVs can access the full semantic content of their documents without relying on Microsoft code to extract strings.”

On the face of it, this sounds good, but my first impression is still “oh no, yet more explaining to customers why their users on previous Office versions can’t read documents that have been sent from Office 12 users”. Oh well, I guess that’s the price of progress, but isn’t .PDF a de facto standard for document interchange these days?

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