Microsoft Office dumped by Science and Nature

Microsoft Office dumped by Science and Nature

Summary: Respected academic journals Science and Nature will no longer accept manuscripts written in Microsoft's Office 2007 suite. The decision was made because the latest version of Word is no longer compatible with Mathematical Markup Language (MathML), the de facto standard for writing equations in text documents, according to recent notices posted on the Web sites of both Science and Nature journals.

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TOPICS: Microsoft
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Respected academic journals Science and Nature will no longer accept manuscripts written in Microsoft's Office 2007 suite.

The decision was made because the latest version of Word is no longer compatible with Mathematical Markup Language (MathML), the de facto standard for writing equations in text documents, according to recent notices posted on the Web sites of both Science and Nature journals. In Office 2007, Microsoft's own Office MathML (OMML) is used for equations.

"Because of changes Microsoft made in its recent Word release that are incompatible with our internal workflow, which was built around previous versions of the software, Science cannot, at present, accept any files in the new .docx format produced through Microsoft Word 2007, either for initial submission or for revision," Science journal stated on its site.

Likewise, Nature said: "It currently cannot accept files saved in Microsoft Office 2007 formats [because] equations and special characters -- for example, Greek letters -- cannot be edited and are incompatible with Nature's own editing and typesetting programs."

Murray Sargent, an Office software development engineer, noted on a Microsoft developer blog that Microsoft had looked at the need to maintain robust performance when it chose to integrate its OMML instead of MathML.

Sargent said: "Naturally there's been a lot of discussion as to why we even have OMML, since MathML is really good."

However, he said, the main problem is that Word needs to allow users to include Word-oriented features, such as images, comments, revision markings and formatting into maths zones, but MathML is geared towards allowing only mathematical data in maths zones. Maths zones are areas in which users can input mathematical components and equations.

"A subsidiary consideration is the desire to have an XML [document] that corresponds closely to the internal [standard] format, aiding performance and offering readily achievable robustness," he said, adding that since both MathML and OMML are XML-based, they can be converted from one into the other. "So it seems you can have your cake and eat it too," Sargent said.

However, Science maintains that Word 2007 users should be aware that equations created with the default equation editor included in Microsoft Word 2007 and used in revisions will not be accepted by the academic journal, "even if the file is converted to a format compatible with earlier versions of Word".

Science said 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".

Responding to the issues highlighted by Science and Nature, Sargent said in a separate blog posting that Word 2007's new mathematical facility is a huge improvement over previous approaches. "But anytime such big improvements occur, there can be, and evidently are, problems with upgrading," he said. "I think the trouble is well worth it in both user convenience, and the marvellous typographic quality."

Microsoft was unable to respond by press time.

Topic: Microsoft

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6 comments
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  • Aaargh! Why do you do it Microsoft?!!?

    Why?! Why?! Why?!?! There is obviously a standard in place, why does Microsoft continue to blatantly forks-up to the standards!!?! They've done it with every browser they've ever made and now they're doing it with software that people have grown accustomed to! GET WITH THE PROGRAM MS! It's standards all the way for a better future!!
    anonymous
  • Re: Aaargh! Why do you do it Microsoft?!!?

    Standards should be put it place, there should be an international consortium to set standards that all
    programs and OS's should follow.

    I must say though, any serious scientist uses LaTeX, word documents are so cumbersome for figures, layout, etc.
    anonymous
  • They do it because they are afraid of ODF.

    One reason they do it (granted, there are others) is because they want to make it difficult for other companies to compete. If all word processors used .odt files (Open Document Format aka ODF) then Microsoft would no longer be able to control the market as easily. Microsoft hates standards because standards allow fair competition. MS would rather Science, Nature, and others spend a lot of resources on supporting OOXML than putting time into a real open standard like ODF. And MS doesn't want to put their own efforts into making their product work well with ODF.
    anonymous
  • re: Microsoft Office dumped by Science and Nature

    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: http://www.dessci.com/en/company/press/070622.htm.

    Paul Topping
    President & CEO
    Design Science
    anonymous
  • no response from microsoft by press time

    They make an article without a response from microsoft and then people wonder why microsoft is so evil (they never get to explain themselves).

    OOXML should be easier to produce equations from, but the processes need to change a bit because the format has changed. The answer is to use the MS-provided XSLT from OMML to MathML. Here's a post by one of the designers of MathML: http://dpcarlisle.blogspot.com/2007/04/xhtml-and-mathml-from-office-20007.html

    ZDNet seems to have a problem producing reasonable and balanced articles about Microsoft. They're usually too much one way (rah! rah!) or the other (boo!).
    anonymous
  • If, as Anonymous claims Microsoft are being shafted by ZDNet then goodonya ZDNet! No seriously, as another replier above said Microsoft hate open standards. I think they should not only support open standards, but default to them. It does boil down to money.
    Major Wedgie