Science and Nature both reject MS Office 2007 file format

Science and Nature both reject MS Office 2007 file format

Summary: While I am a big fan of Office 2007 and it has been received very well by our students, it is not being received so well by others because of inherent incompatibilities.

TOPICS: Microsoft, Software

While I am a big fan of Office 2007 and it has been received very well by our students, it is not being received so well by others because of inherent incompatibilities.  Given the new XML-based file formats used in the latest incarnation of Microsoft's Office suite, even our students have had to learn to save their documents in legacy formats if they wish to share their documents with teachers who have not upgraded or edit them at home, since most students don't have the software on their home PCs.  Obviously, the stakes are much higher when submitting for peer review and publication in two of the largest scientific journals in the world.

Both Science and Nature have recently updated their publication guidelines and note that native Office 2007 file format documents will not be accepted for initial review or revision.  While users can obviously save documents in the legacy versions, the  Science instructions for authors go on to state:

Users of Word 2007 should also be aware that equations created with the default equation editor included in Microsoft Word 2007 will be unacceptable in revision, even if the file is converted to a format compatible with earlier versions of Word; this is because conversion will render equations as graphics and prevent electronic printing of equations, and because the default equation editor packaged with Word 2007 -- for reasons that, quite frankly, utterly baffle us -- was not designed to be compatible with MathML. Regrettably, we will be forced to return any revised manuscript created with the Word 2007 default equation editor to authors for re-editing. To get around this, please use the MathType equation editor or the equation editor included in previous versions of Microsoft Word.

Nature also notes some specific incompatibilities, even when files are saved in older versions:

We currently cannot accept files saved in Microsoft Office 2007 formats. Equations and special characters (for example, Greek letters) cannot be edited and are incompatible with Nature's own editing and typesetting programs.

A very interesting exchange on the MSDN blogs chronicles one user's attempts to seek a solution for this.  The end result?  Maybe if you  jump through some hoops of fire and beg scientific journals to change their workflow and accept Microsoft's new standard, you'll get published.  Really, you should click the link - If you've ever been  involved in a publication, you'll get a kick out of it.  Something to keep in mind, certainly at the university level, but also in K-12 as people running on a variety of platforms try to share documents.

Topics: Microsoft, Software

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • I got a good laugh out of the discussion

    I really liked the comments there, they should change their workflow etc. etc. just to accomodate people using Word 2007. If they only had used MathML or supported it in Word, most of these problems would have been mitigated.

    On the other side, I wasn't aware that people where actually using word for this kind of stuff. Most people I know in the Academic community use Tex/Latex. Just because they want to be able to output in a lot of different formats and most scientific magazines provide with templates...
    • That was great, wasn't it?

      The last time I published in a peer-reviewed journal was in 2001, but even then the biostatistics and epidemiology departments at my university favored Word (and WordPerfect) for the ease with which a variety of end users could contribute and edit. Students, secretaries, and crazy old professors were on a fairly level playing field with Word. We had also written a bunch of code to get SAS to output in ways that looked pretty nice in Word and PowerPoint. I think it may be different among the "purer" sciences, but the applied sciences are definitely making use of desktop publishing tools.

  • Changing their workflow

    Considering that part of the problem is that MS is demanding that the rest of the world change character encoding, mathematical notation, and several other well-established standards to something that [b]only[/b] one program on Earth handles, just which is the tail and which is the dog?
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • Arrogant

      I'm no Microsoft basher, by any means, but this did seem particularly arrogant. My favorite line from [i]Science[/i]:

      "...the default equation editor packaged with Word 2007 ? for reasons that, quite frankly, utterly baffle us ? was not designed to be compatible with MathML."


  • To paraphrase a fellow instructor....

    To paraphrase a fellow instructor in the North Carolina university system:

    "I'm not going to advocate for MS Office 2007. Instead, I'm telling my departments to strongly consider dropping MS Office and switching over to Open Office. I am also recommending there be no upgrading from WinXP to MS Vista, but instead, re-consider installing Linux.

    "There no longer exists a rationale to pay the high fees to MS, nor is there a rationale to compel my students to purchase MS Office 2007."

    It will soon be a moot point, though. Google's ready to release their off-the-web apps and a host of who knows what's coming tomorrow goodies, coupled with the Dell-Linux partnership... hey! With waves of high school and college students starting out at the bottom of the money pile, the intelligent majority will always opt for the free, cheap and whatever is gratuitously available.
  • A need for a true industry standard

    • We have it already: ODF

      MS-OOXML is nothing but a Microsoft product specification. ODF is built for the future, free, and not encumbered by Microsoft's legacy formats and coding errors (still written into MS-OOXML!). Anyone using a Microsoft product from this point forward must justify its use and its cost, in the face of open source alternatives like OpenOffice and any number of Linux distros.

      I'm not paying higher taxes just so some 5th grader at the local school can have Office 2007. Let mommy and daddy buy that, not me.
      • Wish more would think like you do.

        But our parents actually pushed for Windows and Office so the kids could be trained in what they think is the industry standard; all so they could get those really good-paying jobs out there in the real world that require familiarity with Windows and Office...
        Yeah, I didn't get it either.
  • And to THINK just last night I considered upgrading from 2003 to 2007...

    because the Student/Teacher version (what I use and all I have need of) is on sale for almost half price at one of the local BB stores...

    HOWEVER, since Vista is KIND ENOUGH to be completely compatible with at least this ONE legacy application, and I'm plenty pleased with what I'm getting from it, I'd decided I had no real reason to buy the newer version. Now I have some really GOOD REASONS not to!

    Great news story!
    Jeff Hayes
    • It's too bad...

      ...because Office 2007 is such an outstanding product in so many ways. However, this is a pretty big deal...Glad the post helped. I'd like to believe that M$ will sort this out, but I can't see that they have much incentive since people are adopting left and right.

  • Here's one Technical author that won't be adopting MS Office 2007

    Here's one Technical author that won't be adopting MS Office 2007
    MS should try to achieve consistancy in formatting of successive versions of MS Office. Commercially the interchange of documents requires this and the continual tinkering with the formats at each edition makes life awkward. Some small compnies cannot afford to keep updating at the prohibitive prices we have to pay for MS products. In UK we pay around 40% to 60% more for MS software than you do in US, and it is not due to shipping costs. Generally the additional features one gets when upgrading are not worth more than $10. Why do they cost so much? MS being greedy? Another example of MS and its devious sales policies.
    MS please note, if I upgrade again it will be into OPEN OFFICE and change my OS to LINUX. At least with LINUX I will reduce the number of crashes that occur with MS products. I cannot afford the losses engendered in time spent recovering damaged files.
  • A clarification

    Just to clarify, Science and Nature's authoring guidelines only have a problem with Word 2007's new equation feature, not the Equation Editor that is included with earlier versions of Word as well as with Word 2007. Equation Editor is my company's (Design Science) product that we have licensed to Microsoft since 1991 and is a simplified version of our MathType product. Documents containing equations created with either Equation Editor or MathType, even ones in Word 2007's docx format should be acceptable to publishers as they can use Word 2007's ability to save to the old .doc format to get such documents into their workflow. Of course, an author should consult with the publisher to be sure. We have issued a press release that gives more details here:

    Paul Topping
    President & CEO
    Design Science