Microsoft to support ODF with plug-in

Microsoft to support ODF with plug-in

Summary: The devil is always in the details.

TOPICS: Microsoft

Who says you can't beat Microsoft? 

Governments around the world have forced Big Green to back-off its refusal to support the open source Open Document Format.

Brazil, Denmark and Belgium are among the national governments using the standard, and Massachusetts' attempt to move toward ODF became a political issue and was reversed.

Pressure for ODF, however, has been on the increase since the Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) approved ODF as a standard in 2005, and it is now supported by IBM, Sun and Novell.

ODF is the format used by OpenOffice, the free challenger to Microsoft Office based on StarOffice.

Don't go cheering yet. The devil is always in the details. Microsoft has agreed only to support the Open XML Translator, a project on Sourceforge which currently offers translations only between ODF and Word 2007, although Excel and PowerPoint are on the drawing board. The code is offered under a BSD license.

There is also this from the Microsoft press release. "Certain compromises and customer disclosures will be a necessary part of translating between the two formats." Uh-huh.

Topic: Microsoft

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Open source guys tend to bend the truth

    We'll see how many organizations will end up supporting ODF. When they see the performance and capabilities of ODF v/s Microsoft formats, no one will want to use ODF.

    Thats the reason why Microsoft is not developing its own ODF converters. Let an open source development community do it, let everyone use it and see that it really sucks.

    Here's an example of an L'unix guy who talks the talk (just like most OSS guys including you Dana) but when it comes to deliver, I see wet diapers.

    • What's being said.

      Calm down man.. lol Will everyone move to ODF? I'm sure that might be the intent of some. However, Some.. use it and MS has devised a tool to help interoperate document formats. Very cool! don't ya think?

      So, MS understood it's users needed to read and write in other file formats and devised an XML tool for ODF. It also supports other formats also.

      BTW, I don't think the ODF was intended to challange MS or because it's a better format. People want to and need to exchange documents with on another.
      • I think you need to calm down

        And also Dana and Paul Murphy need to stop lying. They find it very convenient to lie and twist statements which definitly speaks a lot about themselves. Not to mention their failure to give answers to technical questions shows their incompetence.

        "BTW, I don't think the ODF was intended to challange MS or because it's a better format. People want to and need to exchange documents with on another."

        People can exchange documents with any format thats a standard. Microsoft Open XML formats are a standard and any software company could implement the specs to read/write Microsoft formats.
        However the instance by MA to use on ODF, shows that their stand was purely an anti Microsoft stand.

        However I give credit to you for getting the most important aspect right which is "ODF isnt a better format". Couldnt agree with you more on this.
        • Personal attacks are a sign of weakness

          Whenever anyone attacks someone personally rather than the point they're making, it's the sign of a weak argument.

          Microsoft's formats still have considerable support in the desktop world, but increasingly governments are looking toward standards which don't cost them money to support, like ODF.

          That's just a fact. That's all I'm saying. It's not a "lie." But by calling me a liar (and Paul Murphy, who I'm honored to be lumped in with) you distract from the facts and lead us off into name-calling.

          I'm not going there. I'm not calling you or anyone else a liar.
          • more microsoft puppetering!

            i'm glad to see governments and companies start going toward a more open standard that will actually have standards that are followed, rather than the microsoft standard that changes every 45 seconds. this is something corel and apple should really look at as well - the pages file format is too bloated, and wordperfect documents are more limited than wordperfect software is. and maybe after people realize how much some parts of office 2008 are going to be weird, the transfer to openoffice won't be so bad. (why did i call it office 2008? let's be realistic, people.)
        • Facts?

          BT: Have you [i]read[/i] the proposed "Office Open XML" standard? All 6000 some pages of it? It is a mess. It is a too large, arbitrary, poorly structured mish-mash of elements, some of which are not fully specified. In order to be freely implementable, it must be fully specified.

          ODF has its shortcomings, many of which are being addressed. The standard allows for extensions, and maintains compatibility with other ISO standards. OpenOffice had a similar format to ODF, and that is what was used as the starting point, but ODF is not the same as the OpenOffice (or StarOffice) document representation.

          If Microsoft had proposed a representation that met the criteria, even in the face of the "anti-Microsoft" hordes, it would have won approval. The fact is that they did not.

          By the metrics of XML dialect design that I'm familiar with, ODF is a better format for document representation. It is cleaner, is fully specified, does not interfere with other related standards (namespaces, name collisions, etc.), and the document information structure is well defined. ODF is suited to scanning by non-visual information processing (such as accessability aids for the visually impared) in ways that "OOXML" is not.

          On the other hand, "OOXML" has a richer set of representations, can handle more document types than existing ODF, and works well with legacy Microsoft documents. All of these can be addressed in ODF given the cooperation of Microsoft. Microsoft chose not to contribute to the OASIS ODF effort, they were not excluded.

          "OOXML" doesn't even meet Microsoft's own stated goals. It does not (and this is important) provide compatibility with legacy Microsoft Office documents. What it specifies are flags that control specific legacy version application specific behaviors in applications reading the XML representation. Since these behaviors are not fully specified (or even described), no vendor other than Microsoft can hope to correctly interpret them with a high degree of confidence. It is Microsoft's own applications (and only Microsoft's own applications) that provide the compatibility claimed for the format.

          "SpaceLikeWord97" is not the way to move forward; the application writing the XML should be able to provide the spacing information within the XML representation. Same with almost all of the other similar tags in "OOXML".

          I could go on. I was paid to do just this a while back, which is why I waded through the entire "OOXML" specification. My client wasn't (and isn't) anti-MS. They were not an Open Source or Free Software company -- most of their infrastructure is Microsoft based. I was not asked to (nor did I) compare it to ODF.

          It doesn't matter that some of the opposition to the proposed standard are looking for a competitive advantage; what matters is that the proposal, as currently formulated, is deficient, and therefore should not become an ISO standard.

          A better path, in my opinion, would be for Microsoft to support ODF directly (no need for it to be the default file format, just available at install time), and to build an XML representation that is sufficiently rich to encode Microsoft Office documents in a manner that does not contradict so many other ISO standards, preferably on top of (and backward compatible with) the ODF defined structure. They should also participate in the OASIS group to get their extensions adopted, and be willing to make changes in their proposals based on technical merit. It is, unfortunately, quite unlikely that Microsoft will persue this course.
      • you got this one wrong

        "BTW, I don't think the ODF was intended to challange MS or because it's a better format"

        ODF was intended to challenge MS Office.
        The reason being IBM, SUN would not get even a 0.05% of the office application market. Hence to throw a wedge into Microsoft they came up with ODF and the part about sharing documents is just BULL, just an excuse.
  • Dont make claims and run away
  • BrutulFUD and bluster from the MS fan base

    Citizens of the rest of the world (that's the 199 countries on this world which are NOT north America) are getting a bit tired of having the convicted monopolists Microsoft (that's convicted on 7 counts of illegally maintaining their monopoly) dictating the terms over the format of PUBLIC - I repeat PUBLIC - information. Information which belongs to everyone must be accessible to everyone, not just people who buy Microsoft Office products. It must be accessible now, in ten, twenty, fifty, one hundred years time.

    If Microsoft refuse to support an open data FORMAT - repeat data FORMAT (not an application), simply because they don't own it and can't control it, or use it to lock in more users, then - TOUGH. Welcome to the real world.

    Of course the Microsoft party faithful will be ever close, ready to shill, shout and scream their displeasure at the undermining of their beloved monopoly's powerbase. Ahhhhhh, poor babies.
    • At least we won't have to put up with you

      Please use another format - especially in using this forum, then hopefully the 95% of the world that uses Windows won't have to read your stuff anymore.

  • Standards

    Don't get too excited.

    Microsoft never said they would be supporting the "Open XML" standards which other products tend to utilize. I'm sure they will be utilizing their own XML standard which may create it's own set of "interesting" issues as time rolls on.
  • Standards

    Standards are what most people use. Inventing an open source format doesn't make it a standard, nor has it 'forced' Microsoft to comply.

    Just because something is OSS doesn't mean it's good, necessary or even wanted.
    • ODF is not "open source"

      ODF is a [u]standard[/u], not a package of source code. It is a description of key characteristics used in a computer document format; it is up to developers to implement the documented standard in their own software. has one implementation. AbiWord has another, KWord another, IBM another, and so on.

      The key is that the standard is both completely open and fully described so that any vendor -- including Microsoft -- can implement the standard. OOXML is neither completely nor fully described, which limits its utility as a "standard."
  • MS more concerned with Wall Street than the Real Street!

    MS's moves are more and more seemed to support more to the liking of Wall Street than the real investors. The investors of time and effort into their products and using them. That's you and me. If MS isn't making money on it hand over fist, they want to change it until they do. Is that the best way? If so, explain how.
  • Eurotopians can stuff it

    Because of Europe, were now have a bigger file format mess than ever existed before. Just ask anyone involved in collecting resumes for a major company.

    It used to be 95% doc format, and maybe some rtf.

    Good job to everyone involved. Based on the irritation at my company (people constantly ask, why do we need to save the file a different way?) this is open standards / open source stupidity at its worst.
    • I've always wondered...

      What's the benefit in insisting that resumes be submitted in MS-Word format? I don't see that it helps anyone; the submitter can't be certain that the recipient's installation of MS-Word will render his document exactly as intended, the .doc format can carry malware macros that might compromise the recipient's computer, &etc.

      Do HR departments have a need for resumes to be in an editable format? Wouldn't editing an applicant's resume be unethical?

      What's the problem with a true cross-platform document presentation format like pdf? None of the above objections would apply for pdf documents.
      • True, but...

        Really, unless special precautions are taken (something a job applicant is unlikely to do) PDF can be readily changed with other Adobe tools. With the 30day trialware, it doesn't even cost anything!