Microsoft Office gets support for new ODF and Open XML file formats

Microsoft Office gets support for new ODF and Open XML file formats

Summary: The upcoming version of Office will fully support Strict Open XML and Open Document Format (ODF) 1.2, while Word 2013 will also be able to open and edit PDF files

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The next version of Office will fully support two new file formats, Strict Open XML and Open Document Format 1.2, Microsoft has announced.

In a blog post on Monday, Office standards chief Jim Thatcher said the addition of the new formats would give users more choice. He also reiterated that Word 2013 users would be able to open and edit PDF documents — a feature apparently known as "PDF Reflow".

Office doc types
This table shows the evolution of file format support in Microsoft Office. Image credit: Microsoft

"With these enhancements, Microsoft Office now provides full read and write support for the most commonly used document format standards," Thatcher wrote. "So no matter which of these formats your documents are in today, you will be able to work with them in the next release of Office."

The history of Microsoft's Open XML standard and its rival Open Document Format (ODF) is long and painful, as many in the open source community saw Office Open XML (OOXML, as it was called at the time) as an attempt by Microsoft to stave off the properly open ODF with its own pseudo-open format.

The situation came to a head in 2008, when OOXML won formal approval, albeit through a process that some claimed had been rigged. The debate was so heated that International Organization for Standardization (ISO) sessions covering the process drew physical protests outside the building.

The early version of the standardised Open XML was formally known as 'Transitional Open XML', as it relied on Microsoft-specific data types. Its successor, Strict Open XML, does not rely on such data types — it was supported in Office 2010 to the extent that users could open and edit documents in the format, but they could not save them in that format.

In the upcoming version of Office, users can save to Strict Open XML. They can also open, edit and save documents in the ODF 1.2 format, which was standardised last September and which adds features in fields such as accessibility and digital signature support. Excel 2013 will also for the first time be able to benefit from the OpenFormula spreadsheet standard that is supported in ODF 1.2.

However, users of the upcoming version of Office will no longer be able to save to the older ODF 1.1 format.

As regards Word's newfound PDF-editing capabilities, Thatcher was keen to stress that "the goal is not to make Word into a PDF reader or PDF editor". This echoed what Word program manager Tristan Davis said at the end of July, namely that Microsoft was not going for "full-fidelity" PDF functionality.

"The goal is to help you to bring the contents of PDF files back into an editable format using Word 2013," Thatcher said.

Topics: Microsoft, Open Source

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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51 comments
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  • The best just keeps getting better

    But I doubt I'll get it as 2010 does everything I need it to, so I can't see upgrading at this point in time.
    NoMore MicrosoftEver
  • Gawd...

    Docx is a rubbish format that a lot of non-MS apps have trouble converting cleanly. Microsoft misrepresented OOXML and approval for it -- which never should have occurred in the first place -- should have been rescinded when it became painfully clear to even the most clueless that approving it as a standard was a dopey mistake.

    Also, the PDF situation is getting just as goofy. Companies are using it more and more like some bizarre alternative to Word files, and it's still a serious malware vector. That needs to be replaced with something much more stringently documented and secure.

    On the plus side of office suites in general , Softmaker finally just released a Linux version of its SoftMaker Office 2012. It's in beta but it's a free as of the moment. I never quite understood why SoftMaker's stuff doesn't get mentioned more often -- they are much leaner and faster than Microsoft's bloated rubbish, as well as being much, MUCH faster and easier to use than OpenOffice and its derivatives. While the current version is not free aside from betas, it's cheap, especially for students and teachers and when they have a sale, and they offer up their older versions for free.
    JustCallMeBC
    • No thanks

      I prefer MS Office on Windows. Sure, it is more expensive but you get what you pay for and Office + Windows is so much better than SoftMaker + Linux.
      toddbottom3
      • No

        If you want to get things done and quickly, MS Office is an inferior product and has been for some time. I've been setting it up and troubleshooting versions of it since version 95 on all sorts of platforms, and the result is that I personally would never, ever use it as my primary software app package for anything, especially for word processing. In fact, if I'm on someone else's PC and need to type up something quick, I always pull up WordPad regardless of what version of Word is installed.
        JustCallMeBC
        • That's fine, use whatever you want

          I'm really happy that there is real competition in the OS and Office Suite markets. You prefer Linux and SoftMaker, I prefer Windows and MS Office. We both win. Fantastic news.
          toddbottom3
        • Could you please give us the reason

          for not using Word on someone else's pc? I never thought of it as dangerous. What am I missing?
          ForeverSPb
          • The reason is speed and convenience

            A while back I came across a word processor called Atlantis Open Mind (now just called Atlantis) that was so much more faster and reliable than any other Windows word processor, that it became painful to deal with the likes of Word again. Long before Word had a poor imitation of it, with Atlantis I could unplug the computer in the middle of a document, replug and start up the computer, restart Atlantis, and there is my document like nothing happened. Not even a prompt - it knows it was shut down in the middle of something so simply automatically reloads the last backup file it had (which is done every few minutes). The latest version handles Docx files with no problems and can even generate a portable version of itself on a USB drive.

            So I use WordPad because I'm just not patient enough to tolerate Word anymore, especially the 2007/2010 versions. SoftMaker's TextMaker is the next best thing to Atlantis and has more features.

            Also, wile on the topic of TextMaker, Word 2010 has this bug with printing with manual duplex that Microsoft never saw fit to fix -- the solution I came up for one office who switched to the Docx format was to have them use SoftMaker's free TextMaker Viewer 2010 to pull up the Word Docx file and then print with that when they needed manual duplexing. I thought that was good sign of SoftMaker's software quality.
            JustCallMeBC
          • It's a shame you didn't compose your post in MS Word...

            It would have highlighted your spelling issues, eg "Also, wile on the topic of TextMaker...."

            In seriousness, Atlantis does sound like a useful word processor; worth a look.
            mountjl
          • Ignore him!

            He's an ignorant, Microsoft-hating troll. I doubt the fool has even seen Office or Word, much less used it. He probably is a paid shill for that awful program he is promoting.
            jhammackHTH
          • Yeah

            Of course that's exactly what I am -- why would I or anyone ever disparage the fine, most excellent work of Microsoft? When I unbox a new Windows PC and hit the Internet, I have nothing to fear but fear itself.....
            JustCallMeBC
        • Funny, I (and most others) haven't had any real issuse with Office

          If it really was any close to as bad as you claime, would Enterprise, small business, and consumers have made something else the number one selling suite in the world?

          Funny that you've had to set up and troubleshooting versions of it since version 95 on all sorts of platforms. (what is all sorts of platforms? I Know of Windows and OS X, are there other versions for Linux and Unix?)
          William Farrel
          • All sorts of platforms?

            You mean like Windows 95, 98, 98SE, 2000, XP, Vista, Win7, and in virtual machines and via WINE and CrossOffice -- they don't count as "platforms"? If not, please forgive my ignorance. Also I wasn't aware that not very techie business people and average computer users in general were prone to use software different from what everyone they know uses -- how many them even know of alternatives to Word or even Adobe Acrobat Reader (never mind those who still think that blue "e" is "The Internet"?)

            Only real techies generally bother to go beyond conventional software choices and see what's out there on a regular basis (if you don't do that, you're not a real techie) and there is a lot of good stuff out there that should be in greater circulation, but....I've noticed that having Internet access doesn't contribute to greater knowledge and understanding quite as much as we all hoped it would back in the day....
            JustCallMeBC
          • The Office Suites you speak of

            are okay but they are no match for Microsoft's office Suite. Maybe that's why there isn't much chatter about them. I saw nothing faster about them and to be honest, there are a poor knock off of Microsoft Office. And by the way, I am not a techie, just an everyday computer user.
            eargasm
          • Ummm...no

            Atlantis is ridiculously faster than Word, and TextMaker is much faster than Word, no ifs or buts. And they are no more than a knock-off of Office than Word is a knock-off of Ami. The SoftMaker interface is a classically clean, no frills interface that dates back for decades. And I can tell you're not a techie with that "I saw nothing faster about them" rubbish.
            JustCallMeBC
          • Sorry, I still with LibreOffice

            Simple, free (just download and install), open almost any kind of file, and you can use it on Windows, Mac, Linux and BSDs. On windows you even have a PortableApps version (just download and extract on a pendrive - office to go!)
            HufflepuffBR
    • Agreed, ...have you ever try to fix a corrupted Office document?

      Office will refuse to even open these. I just use Libre/Open office to open those files and resave them. Works every time.
      linux for me
      • @linux for me

        Have you ever tried to repair a doc corrupted by OpenOffice/LibreOffice?

        I have and it SUCKS! While I may be able to recover the content of a doc, the formatting is often obliterated and requires significant re-work to repair.
        bitcrazed
        • No . . .

          . . . I haven't ever run into that problem. LibreOffice simply works.
          sporkfighter
          • Please!

            LibreOffice sucks too.
            jhammackHTH
          • And is about as fast as frozen gravy!!!

            n/c
            eargasm