back to article A week in the life of Open XML

The main players in the ongoing row over the approval of Microsoft’s Open XML (OXML) file format as an international standard ended the week further apart than ever. Microsoft spent much of the week talking up its plans to bring a little bit of “harmony” to the divided file format community by again banging the tried, but not …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Jeff Deacon
    Paris Hilton

    Why are we surprised at Microsoft's actions?

    Surely this is just a simple case of Embrace, Extend, Extinguish in full flight.

    They refused to take part in the ODF development because they couldn't take control and make it proprietary. Now they can negotiate from a position of strength. Having their own proprietary standard approved, means that during the negotiations "to bring order to the situation" they can demand certain aspects of their proprietary standard be incorporated. It will be fun to open a book on which bits of the ill defined "standard" they try to push in so that they can control the lot! Then the move after that is to make the open standard unworkable by anyone, so that we all have to shift back to Microsoft's own formats again "because they are the only formats that work".

    Either the ISO has the round objects to stand up to this, or all international standards should be open to be bought by any wealthy bully.

    Paris knows what to do with a bully.

  2. Jack Harrer


    I only hope that EC will have balls to send official recommendation to use ODF by all governments in EU. Not ban MS, as that would be little over the top and would result in international lawsuits (free trading pacts come to mind).

    Of course this kind of recommendation wouldn't do much you say? It would. If EC mandated use of ODF internally all offices dealing with them would need to use it also. That would of course started chain reaction that, with major MS Office competitor being free, would convince some officials they can save some cash.

    But do we live in a perfect world?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Same old suspects

    Why is it , when ODF is reported it is always said that it is is used by IBM and Sun?

    This is just echoing MS claims , that the whole opposition against OOXML is a IBM+Sun conspiracy. is probably the most popular application using ODF and that is certainly in no way connected to IBM or Sun. The reason lots of highly qualified people have voiced opposition to OOXML is that the specification is a horrible convoluted mess and MS Open Specification Promise is just another tool used to exclude FOSS software and a threat to anyone having the impertinence to write or use such software. So stop echoing MS FUD and doing their dirty work for them.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    "Open XML"

    A M$ tour de force of colossal dimensions. Who owns the trademark?

    As XML is an open standard, this label has the effect of implying in a complete inversion of reality that everything else is (a) non-standard, (b) closed and proprietary, ergo (c) evil.

    Come kitty, kitty, feed from M$'s hand...

  5. Adam Azarchs


    OpenOffice is supported by IBM, and derives a good part of it's code base from StarOffice, which is Sun. It is NOT really independent. Also, ODF might be a "standard" in the sense that it's approved by ISO, but if you go by what people actually use it's far less of a standard than even old-fashioned microsoft office formats.

    Also, FYI, Office 2007 can read and save to ODF just fine, with a microsoft-supported plugin. And Openoffice can read and write OOXML. I really don't see what the big deal is. If you want to complain about there being too many redundant formats, why not look to the audio codec market first? It's a much more severe problem there.

  6. Julian

    @Adam Azarchs

    I think you mean that OpenOffice can read .docx files as, of course, can MS Office 2007. Careful about misinformation. I'm sure that Microsoft wish to perpetuate exactly that misunderstanding to promote MS Office as the 'only' viable choice, but, as stated in an earlier comment, Microsoft are unlikely to progress OXML as an open standard, thus leaving us exactly where we were before, using Microsoft current proprietry formats by default.

  7. Edward Rose

    I was waiting for it.

    OOXML, make people think I did a lot, and I've heard many others say this too.

    Now it has been accepted, name change to OXML.

    Make people think OfficeXML

    Oh, they call it OpenXML in the media, but lets face it. What is the world going to call it. And what do people mean when they say Office?......

    Users are our own worst enemy. We need a high profile TV soap using Ubuntu (not my personal choice, but seems easy for end users) visibly on some computers for a while. Then start actually referencing it.

    Also, any LUGs fancy getting some of the less bearded ones (no offence guys, I like you - but you scare the children) suited and booted, or jeans and shirts going into schools to demonstrate Linux to the masses, and helping the schools set up a small 'Linux' corner. Diversity is the key word to push. Along with future and 'ahead of the pack'.

    Say 5 PCs, and each time the school gets some new software, a project is started to find some for Linux. MS started with schools. So do many other 'trends'.

  8. Peter X
    Gates Horns

    @Adam Azarchs

    Whilst the legacy binary MS Office formats are certainly in wider use than ODF, I believe I am correct in saying that ODF has greater use than OOXML.

    And regarding the Microsoft ODF plugin, I believe that this provides import/export, but not native support on the open/save dialogs. Consequently, ODF cannot be configured as the default save format.

  9. James Loughner
    Jobs Horns


    Actually no WP uses OOXML Office 2007 is not compliant with the OOXML standard either.

  10. Paul Gress


    Just thought I'd clarify. Sun and IBM both contribute to OpenOffice. Sun derives it's StarOffice from the codebase of OpenOffice, the only difference is a commercial spell checker and support services.

    How can I read and write OOMML in StarOffice or OpenOffice? Where is this plugin? Last version of OpenOffice I downloaded (3.0 b5), only extracted the text, no formating at all. This also is being done by reverse engineering, they cannot use the standard (OOXML) because of the binary submissions being controlled by the OSP for personal use only.

    If you look at all different people who use standards, you can see ODF is the true standard.

  11. Laxman

    OXML will be the de facto standard anyway.

    Depending on how fast the new Office 2007 format spreads, most documents will be in the OXML format soon (Unless ODF becomes the default MS Office format)

    Plus, I find the MS argument that ODF didn't support things like tables within tables or images within tables (something like that) quite valid.

  12. Mark

    @Adam Azarchs

    No, Star Office derievs almost all its code from OpenOffice. Not the other way round. This is why Star Office lags behind OpenOffice on features. Because OpenOffice code is used in Star Office.

    Also, FYI, Office2007 cannot read and save with a microsoft supported plugin: the plugin is a third pary application and Microsoft do not gurantee any form of compatability. MS state that ODF doesn't support many Office requirements, so how can MS be supporting it? OpenOffice will be able to read and write MSOOXML but it will be unable to imlpement many of the processes since MS have patents on them and will refuse to license them for use in OpenOffice. Some items in MSOOXML, like dates, have been "fixed" to include two representations: the broken one that assumes 1900 is a leap year and the proper one. However, MSOffice will use the broken version and if other applications don't use the bug will accuse the application of not being MSOOXML compliant (which then can take away the promise not to sue...).

    And there is Ogg Vorbis, which is free (BSD style free), though for some reason not used in the big name items (iPod/Zune/etc).

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    get the name right!

    It's not "Open XML" or "OXML" ... its "Microsoft Office Open XML", shortened as "MS-OOXML" or just "OOXML".

  14. Chris W

    @Adam Azarchs

    Are many of these codecs ISO standards?

    Try going back and reading some of the past few months Register articles on OOXML (sorry, OXML) and ODF to see why (a) it is a problem having two standards for what should be the same thing and (b) why it's an even bigger problem one of these being the OOXML 'standard for recreating Office bugs'. The issue is far wider than just what format files MS and Open Office can read. Correct, neither ODF nor OOXML have become de-facto 'standards' as the old Office binary formats did. The whole point of the ISO process is to produce standards based on technical merit rather than market monopoly and popularity through ignorance.

  15. stizzleswick


    is also used by, among others, KOffice, Papyrus, Abiword (IIRC), and more are currently in the process of dropping their previous proprietary file formats in favour of ODF. Nobody is switching to (O)OXML AFAIK.

    As for MS' "supporting" the ODF filters for MSOffice, they only did that after an OpenSource set of filters was already existing that threatened to exclude Microsoft from controlling how they were implemented. The original press release on the matter was a clear statement that MS would "never" support ODF.

  16. Andre Caldas
    IT Angle



    You are making some confusion. It is a different situation having many formats and all of them being a ISO standard.

    You also ignore the fact that being a de-facto standard (which OOXML is not) is no excuse for being approved as ISO standard over some corrupted/broken process. No technical merits (if you insist in believing them) is an excuse for corruption. It IS VERY RELEVANT if ISO is being used just to leverage market dominance in detriment of others.

    To keep converting files using plugins is really stupid. It's always ODF users the burden to convert forth and back (and fix the conversion problems). I have a policy not to convert ODF documents for others. I always suggest them to install Open Office in order to use ODF.

    André Caldas.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Adam Azarchs

    Adam, part of the problem is exactly "what people actually use", as USER X (say your valuable client) has *zero* idea about standards, file-formats, interoperability etc., but he will happily save to whatever "standard" their software offers as default and then YOU are supposed to work with it. They'll send you DOCs and give you blank stares if you ask them if they intended it to look like crap because that's what it looks like at your end. We still live in a world where people encapsule their pictures in Powerpoint format for exchange without a second though. Never forget that.

    "Redundancy" is not the problem Having a "standard" that is not completely open or near impossible to implement by anyone but Company X and therefore ending up with you

    a) spending an awful lot of time educating lusers, disgruntling clients, cleaning up their fallout, all translating into loosing money

    b) being pushed into buying Software X by Company X in order to avoid a) and keep up your workflow


    This does not even touch the issue of the strange proceeding around the ISO votes yet.

  18. Jonathan Richards

    Oh, jeez

    I just read more about OOXML^W OXML elsewhere and realised that I made an arse of myself. If that previous comment gets moderated to oblivion, I wouldn't much care. Sorry.

    I still think that dropping the word Office is a crap way of trying to convince us all that Microsoft gives a toss about interoperability.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    "two stanards for the same purpose"

    "it is not in the interests of users like you and me to have two standards for the same purpose”.

    While I'm not defending MS, why did the open sauce community decide to invent a new format as well to sit alongside all the other formats that already existed for "documents"?

    E.g. what was wrong with extending good old RTF that has been around for yonks?

    Oh yeah, sorry, must be because RTF is not XML and enterprisey enough for the cool kids to play with.

  20. Krzysztof Kosiński
    Thumb Down

    Re: OpenOffice can't read OOXML as of now. OO.o 3.0 with some support for Office 2007 file formats (but that's not really OOXML...) will be released in September 2008.

    New Office formats aren't too annoying yet, because even those who use Office 2007 usually know that others who have older versions of Office are not able to read them. What annoys me more is that in my country, people think that sending Corel Draw files when you ask them for their company's logo is "professional". Forget that SVG is supported by nearly every vector graphics program in existence, hell, even by Firefox - .cdr files are more "professional".

  21. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    You're all idiot children

    Microsoft's proprietary binary formats will always be THE de facto standard at the end of the day. Like it or not, Office interoperability will always work because everyone will HAVE a copy of the latest offering from Microsoft.

    The default file format (REGARDLESS of how it is structured) will always be readable.

    The alternative is marked-up ASCII which most users don't have the savvy to deal with.

    This is a whole big waste of time.

    BTW, *RTF still works*, folks.

  22. SpitefulGOD
    Gates Halo


    Sorry i forgot that only open source hippy freaks can have standards, you lot blow ass.

  23. Zac

    Can we agree on something?

    That we use the term 'Office XML', then we'll be regarding it as what it truly is.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Standard standard.

    Didn't Tanenbaum say "If you can't find a standard that fits, just create a new standard"?

    From a SW point a view we can convert from A to B and back with ease (when the standard in published!) The only 'war' here is that M$ is vying for the European Governments (tax payers) ca$h. I suppose they don't care really, just that they can say it's an ISO standard and then some poor stoopid person* government lacky will believe it and spend my (tax payers) money on it...

    Oh why don't the government invent their own standard standard and we would all live in harmony.

    I get my standard coat and leave.

    *Stoopid people don't read el reg and get excited easliy... if they they call it OXML 2.0 we are screwed!!

  25. Lozzyho

    Microsoft get it in the neck again

    Seems a prime example of damned if you do, damned if you don't!

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Can we agree on something?

    Zac wrote: That we use the term 'Office XML', then we'll be regarding it as what it truly is.

    It's not "Office XML"... it's "Microsoft Office XML" or MSO-XML.

    /getting my coat and heading back to pick more grapes.


  27. Bad Beaver
    Black Helicopters

    RTF?! Say whAt?!

    Since looking at the last batch of comments I am under the growing—and kind of creepy—impression that other people live an alternate reality in which RTF actually works cross platform, meaning our favourite monopolist did not screw up the format years ago.

    Whoaa, goosebumps!

  28. TeeCee Gold badge

    FFS people!

    It's a standard. Feel free to either use it or ignore it and use something else.

    Of course, if there were no other standards that were either irrelevant, obsolete, incomplete, unusable, unused or originally sponsored by A Big Corporation, there might be a point to this.........

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    I for one am happy...

    I for one am happy that they dropped the word "open" from the name - OfficeXML it is.

    Paris would make a better document standard...

  30. Albert

    Enterpise Documents

    In the bigger scheme of things the individual documents created in OpenOffice or any other word processor are of limited consequence.

    What is at stake here is the format for storage and document interchange between big enterprise systems.

    If you think of all the documents that are stored in data warehouses that are system created then it is essential to have a standard format that can be created and read by different systems as well as being supported into the future. How many WordPerfect documents from the 80s are still archived but cannot be read.

    As companies share more information and government bodies become more connected the file format they use to share this information becomes critical and the goal of having a single standard becomes essential.

    On the topic of backers. OpenOffice is free and is more leading edge than StarOffice, but my understanding is that the core development team are paid Sun employees.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    Phew, than god for that...

    I'm so glad we only have one picture format; one audio format; one (computer) video format...etc etc...

    Anyone heard of the phriase competion is good?

    If the was one standard, it would be come a stagnant piece o crap in 10 years time (Netscape anyone?)

    MS needs the Open people to give it a kick, just like O/S needs MS to keep them on their toes.

    AMD / Intel

    MS / Linux

    nVidia / ATI

    All these batle with each other and it is the consumer that wins.

    Otherwise, everything would just grind to a halt, no real need to push the boundries, just the same old, same ol...

  32. Chris Richards

    @Greg Fleming

    and so the vicious circle begins.

    'Everyone' has to have a copy of M$s latest offering because they need to open documents that office staff who have just managed to pass their ECDL created.

    So M$ use the fact that 'everyone' is already using this document format as a reason for it to be standardised.

    Come later next year, or whenever M$ fancy rewriting a small section of office which somehow makes it run 5x slower, yet adding no new functionality they make every office across the world shell out for a new copy - and why? Because otherwise they won't be able to read their precious 'standardised' documents into which, no doubt, they'll have imported several proprietary namespaces that OO and other competitors won't be able to handle.

    The flame because that's the treatment *.doc attachments get!

  33. Mark

    Re:Standard standard.

    "From a SW point a view we can convert from A to B and back with ease (when the standard in published!)"

    Not any more.

    You've got patents and copyrights and NDA's (and for closed source applications you have to replicate the operation of) Trade Secrets (and DMCA/EUCD issues in cracking them open!) all of this (along with the usual crappy definition: that's why you put complex schemes up for YEARS to be argued about with LOTS of people, because it's only when someone else looks at your document that they spot you misspelled a word, or repeated the wrong one).

  34. This post has been deleted by its author

This topic is closed for new posts.