Print 16 comment(s) - last by Jack Ripoff.. on Feb 7 at 11:13 PM

Finally, a solution that "opens" up Word to the rest of the office suite world

Interoperability between office suite file formats has long been a thorn in the side of corporate workers. One may receive a document in the nearly de facto Word format, only to find that it’s unreadable by his WordPerfect software. To make matters worse, not all file formats within the same family but across different generations are compatible. Files saved in Office 2007 are unreadable in older versions of Office unless the user specifically saves the files in an older, more compatible format.

To tackle this problem, projects were started to create open formats that multiple office software suites would use. One such format is the Open Document Format, or ODF, backed by IBM, Sun Microsystems and Novell. In a bit of a counter move to idea of an open format, Microsoft has its own “open” format called Office Open XML, or OOXML, which is the default document format in Office 2007.

As an effort to help solve this apparent gap between the two open formats, Microsoft has funded an open source project to create a translator tool that will convert file formats between ODF and Open XML, which saw its 1.0 release of the technology last week. The completed Open XML Translator enables conversion of documents from one format to the other and is available for anyone to download and use at no cost.

As a plug-in for Microsoft Word, for example, the translator provides the choice to open and save documents in ODF rather than the native Open XML format. The translator may also be plugged into competing word processing programs that use ODF as the default format to open and save documents in Open XML.

Microsoft announced its support for the open source project to build a technical bridge between Open XML and ODF in July 2006 to provide interoperability between formats. Since inception, it has remained among the 30 most active projects on and has been downloaded more than 50,000 times.

"We believe in delivering interoperability by design; in this case, by working with partners and members of the open source community we have achieved that goal," said Tom Robertson, general manager for Interoperability and Standards at Microsoft. "The translator project has been built to be independent of any one application, and has proved to be useful for both Microsoft and our competitors in solving an interoperability challenge for customers."

The 1.0 release of the Translator supports the current industry-standard document formats of both Open XML and ODF. It has been tested on Microsoft Office 2007, Office 2003 and Office XP and has been localized into Dutch, French, German and Polish. In addition, Novell has announced that the Translator will be natively implemented in its next version of OpenOffice.

The second phase of the translator project, including translators for spreadsheets (Excel) and presentations (PowerPoint), will begin in February. Regular customer technology previews will be posted to beginning in May 2007, and the final versions are scheduled to be available for customers in November 2007. The Microsoft-funded translator project is being developed by French company CleverAge and Sonata Software Ltd. of India, and tested by Dialogika of Germany and India-based Aztecsoft Ltd.

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Do you smell that?
By bottle23 on 2/5/2007 4:35:58 PM , Rating: 4
...I do. Its called Bullshit. (With a big-ass capital "B")

The OpenXML to ODF converter only exists to keep the Massachusetts requirements happy. That's all.

"We believe in delivering interoperability by design

If Microsoft believes in interoperability, then why do they need to come up with OOXML or OpenXML in the first place?

Why didn't they get themselves involved with ODF like IBM, Sun Microsystems, etc? (They were more than welcomed to join, like anyone was. They chose not to).

You really want to know why? Because its NOT a standard they came up with. That's why. If you don't control a standard, you make your own up. By dominance of marketshare, you can get the majority of people using OpenXML. And if the majority of folks end up using OpenXML, then we're back to square one again! (This is EXACTLY what MS wants...To remain control of document standards so they can get people to continually invest in MS Office).

I suggest you all read the 6000+ page spec of OOXML/OpenXML. You realise that its not all that open when you try to implement it. (Its because it calls for functions that only MS knows about). We're talking specific things that allow you to completely implement OOXML flawlessly on your own solution.

Have you folks actually tried this plug-in?

Its a joke. You will have issues trying to get it to work properly. You are more likely needing to compile this solution yourselves. And then pray that it actually does its job properly. (I bet you 100 to 1 that it won't work well, and you will have layout issues).

Have a think about it this way...Why would MS Office not have an easy to use "SAVE AS" option for ODF? Why is there a need for an external plug-in that makes it difficult to use?

Put all this together, and you realise MS isn't really interested in interoperability. They're cornered into it by factors out of their control. (ie: Massachusetts requirements AND the EC anti-trust case).

Stuff like this...Its all a farce.

RE: Do you smell that?
By f1sh3r on 2/5/2007 5:33:05 PM , Rating: 2
*sniff* i smell it.

microsoft is good at making money. its what they do. its their job.

RE: Do you smell that?
By Jack Ripoff on 2/6/2007 10:21:18 AM , Rating: 2
I can smell that foul scent here too.

Why “reinvent” existing standards? One reason for the length and complexity of OOXML is its failure to reuse existing standards. Programmers reuse existing tools and skills in the knowledge that these standards are well-tested and actually work. Examples of existing standards not used in OOXML include SVG for drawings and MathML for equations. Instead, OOXML “reinvents the wheel,” creating unnecessary complexity for programmers.

Do embedded binary formats make standards “modern”? Ecma TC 45's charter prevented members from making any changes that would be incompatible with Microsoft's existing proprietary binary formats. For these so-called “legacy reasons,” OOXML grandfathers in old implementations, including their bugs. For example, the date mechanism used in the Excel spreadsheet application, which caused days of the week before March 1, 1900 to be off by one, continues to be off by one. Such deficiencies should not be perpetuated. There should be no room in an “open” standard for embedding the bugs of legacy binary formats.

How can interoperability be achieved? As discussed above, the fact that OOXML was designed to be compatible with only one specific application makes interoperability more tenuous to achieve. An open standard for document formats should promote cross-vendor and cross-application interoperability. Given OOXML's length and complexity, it is likely that there will be only one implementation.

Do we need two standards to do the same thing? OOXML is in “evident contradiction” with other ISO/IEC standards. During the 30-day JTC 1 National Body (NB) review period, a NB may identify to the JTC 1 Secretariat any perceived contradiction with other JTC 1, ISO or IEC standards. The OpenDocument Format (ODF) is an approved and published international standard (ISO/IEC 26300:2006). Both ODF and OOXML were designed for the same customers (users of text, spreadsheets, and presentations) and use the same technical means (XML in zip archives).

RE: Do you smell that?
By TomZ on 2/6/2007 10:17:05 PM , Rating: 2
While we all appreciate your entirely idiotic attack on OpenXML, maybe you should read some views of an open-source advocate who actually has a brain.

RE: Do you smell that?
By Jack Ripoff on 2/7/2007 11:13:07 PM , Rating: 2
While I appreciate your insults, maybe you should read some views of an open-source advocate who actually uses his brain:

Is this true?
By gramboh on 2/5/2007 12:01:29 PM , Rating: 2
Files saved in Office 2007 are unreadable in older versions of Office unless the user specifically saves the files in an older, more compatible format.

Is that true? Sounds like the old days of Office 5-10 years ago. Very lame.

RE: Is this true?
By bldckstark on 2/5/2007 12:22:36 PM , Rating: 2
Office 2007 saves all files with a "x" on the end of the file extension by default. A Word document then becomes .docx I have tried to open them in Word 2003 to no avail, along with a few others that I unknowingly sent them .docx files.

Happily enough, there is an area in the MS Office programs where you can select the default format for saving your output. I changed mine to Office 2003 format, and haven't had a problem since.

RE: Is this true?
By masteraleph on 2/5/2007 12:30:53 PM , Rating: 2
Is that true? Sounds like the old days of Office 5-10 years ago. Very lame.

It's a much better format. .docx (and .xlsx and so on) files are actually zips of multiple xml files. One of them stores the text, another stores the styles, another images, and so on. The advantage of that is that even if you have a corrupted style or image, the document is still recoverable. They're also smaller, because they're compressed together. Rumor has it (though I have yet to try) that you can rename the files as .zip and open them in an unzipping program, letting you see the individual files.

Also, there's another new set of file name endings- .docm, .xlsm, etc. They're the same as .docx, except that they're designated as having macros within.

RE: Is this true?
By gmyx on 2/5/2007 1:15:34 PM , Rating: 2
You can rename the file .ZIP and look at the insides - MS is using that technique at their demos to show how to write .docx files without office being installed. Also, you are correct with the .docm. They are for documents with macros, they won't execute if the file extension is .docx.

RE: Is this true?
By TomZ on 2/5/2007 1:55:55 PM , Rating: 5
Microsoft has free add-ins for older versions of Office, that will allow them to read/write Office 2007 file formats.

So you have the benefit of the improved file format, as well as backwards and forwards compatibility. Nothing lame there.

Hope for the future
By Spivonious on 2/5/2007 10:46:14 AM , Rating: 2
Perhaps this means that the best Office suite will win, rather than the most used Office suite.

RE: Hope for the future
By ajdavis on 2/5/2007 3:45:41 PM , Rating: 2
Isn't that what decides who "wins"?

RE: Hope for the future
By Jack Ripoff on 2/5/2007 3:55:51 PM , Rating: 2
If by "best" you mean "the one with the most marketing", perhaps...

By Phlargo on 2/5/2007 10:46:23 AM , Rating: 2
Yes yes, Open XML.. blah blah blah heralds a new dawn in ODR XML interaction... blah blah.

She's so cute in that movie... Apparently the article poster agrees ;-)

All kidding aside, I know that my friend in web development has been having a lot of problems with this very relationship and will be happy to know that this interface will be soon better supported. It's kinda odd to see the name Microsoft associated with "Open" anything :)

RE: Scarlett...
By therealnickdanger on 2/5/2007 11:44:56 AM , Rating: 2
What are you talking about? Microsoft has always been very open. Every software and hardware developer on the planet is invited to adopt their standards. :P

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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