Microsoft's Office 2013 ODF 1.2 support could be true catalyst for OpenOffice adoption

Microsoft's Office 2013 ODF 1.2 support could be true catalyst for OpenOffice adoption

Summary: Microsoft insists that it has built robust support for ODF 1.2 and PDF in Office 2013. It has offered support for ODF 1.1 in the last rev of Office but 1.2 support is said to offer better support for spreadsheet formulas. The next version of Office is due to launch later this year. How will OpenOffice backers respond with Microsoft Open XML support?


Microsoft on Monday indicated in a blog that its next version of Office 2013 will offer robust interoperability with ODF 1.2 and PDF and this could be a nice deal for OpenOffice backers. 

In a blog,  executives said Office 2013 will offer interoperability support for all ODF 1.2 specifications including spreadsheet formulas and digital signatures, two of the most significant advancements in the OASIS Open Document Format 1.2 standard formally published in January. 

The Redmond, Wash software company claims it made the code available last spring for open source advocates in Belgium to test and it reportedly passed. (I don't recall. Anyone out there care to offer a report on this?)

 In April, Microsoft hosted the 8th ODF Plugfest in Brussels, Belgium, where representatives from most ODF implementers gathered to test interoperability of our implementations of ODF 1.2," Microsoft wrote on Monday, noting that the new Office version allows users to open, edit and save  Although we had not yet released the public preview of the new Office, we provided a web server for other Plugfest participants to submit ODF documents that were then loaded into the new Office, which saved the files as PDF, Open XML, and ODF files and returned the results to the submitting participant. This allowed participants to see how the new unreleased version of Office would render ODF files from their applications.

This could be a huge win for Apache OpenOffice, LibreOffice and any other iteration of the open source Office suite that supports ODF 1.2 -- but more work is needed. 

Naverage Reader HD, a startup founded by former OpenOffice developer Florian Reuter, reported to me in June that top OpenOffice suites from Apache and LibreOffice support Microsoft's old formats very well but they are still playing catch up with Microsoft's newer Strict Open XML formats. 

For those of you who lived through the Microsoft Open XML vs ODF war, it's natural to feel a little skeptical. I recall how vigorously Microsoft fought to kill ODF acceptance, as I suppose any proprietary vendor would do whose cash cow was so threatened. 

Microsoft fought Massachusetts' planned adoption of ODF (over its Open XML) so vigorously that it got the state's very cool CIO fired for allegedly unrelated reasons -- on paper, for traveling globally to open source conferences. Really?

It's not a first: Microsoft has offered support for ODF 1.1 in its Office 2007 SP2. But this round of support -- offering the ability to read, edit and save ODF documents in Office 2013 -- is expected to be more robust.  .

Still, enterprise skepticism along with Office's deep entrenchment among users (not to mention conflicts within the OpenOffice community) have kept OpenOffice's market share in the low single digits for some time. 

But that could really change this time around, if the Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice marketing machines make the most of it, and the interoperability works as advertised. 

Microsoft is changing, albeit slowly. The proof is in the pudding: Linux workloads are supported on Azure and Microsoft has worked with many top open source projects and released lots of interesting code into the open source hemisphere in recent years. Skype is offered on Linux. 

The launch of a wholly -owned subsidiary Microsoft Open Technologies is not just designed to advance Microsoft's role in opne source projects but also in standard bodies such as OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards). Microsoft did participate in the creation of ODF 1.2 and promises seamless and transparent interoperability between Microsoft Office and OpenOffice. 

"With these enhancements, Microsoft Office now provides full read and write support for the most commonly used document format standards, including ISO/IEC 29500 (Strict Open XML and Transitional Open XML), ISO 32000 (PDF), and OASIS ODF 1.2," Microsoft's Jim Thatcher wrote this week.

"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. And you will be able to save your Office documents in any of these formats, providing the broadest options for document format interoperability."

Of course, one wonders if this translates into full bidirectional interoperability support. Microsoft has created two variants of its Open XML -- Transitional, which supports previously defined Microsoft specific data types such as .doc and exe, and another variant known as Open XML Strict. 

Microsoft, for its part, said previous versions of Office have supported reading and writing of Transitional Open XML and Office 10 offers the ability for OpenOffice users to read Strict Open XML documents. With Office 2013, they've added "Write" support.   The chart indicates users can read, edit and save for both Transitional Open XML and also for Strict Open XML. 

"Prior versions of Office have supported reading and writing Transitional Open XML, and Office 2010 can read Strict Open XML documents. With the addition of write support for Strict Open XML, Office 2013 provides full support for both variants of Open XML," the blog said. 

OpenOffice users: please test the preview version of Office 2013 or wait until Office 2013 is released later this year to see how seamless the interoperability is -- spreadsheet formulas, digital signtaures, and macros as well. Again, the proof will be in the pudding. 




Topics: Open Source, Microsoft

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  • Is that all?

    Is there something missing at the end of this article? It just trails off with an incomplete sentence.
    • The year of OpenOffice on Desktop

      And 2013 is the year of OpenOffice on Desktop...

      Just like the year of Desktop Linux.
      • Yes

        We have Valve, so its good year for "desktop" Linux, time will tell if Valve will want to bringe year of "console" Linux or some other year of Linux too. ;)

        Problem with MS OO to this date is that it ignore any/all formulas in ODF (and they where standarized only in ODF 1.2), even though MS could add support for LO formulas. Now that that is gone, migration to and from LO should be easier.
      • RE: The year of OpenOffice on Desktop

        @wmac1, loved your troll post!

        For those of us that use desktop GNU/Linux, *EVERY YEAR* is the year of Desktop Linux.

        And OpenOffice is just one of four FOSS office suites. The others are LibreOffice, Calligra Suite and GNOME Office. FOSS office suites don't have to bury Microsoft Office. Instead, they merely have to remain viable.

        Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Microsoft's Office 2013 ODF 1.2 support could be true catalyst for OpenOffi

    It could be but it won't. Do you know how many ODF files I've come across? None. Do you know how many ODF files people have asked for? None. This support won't do anything for OpenOffice. Its not the ODF support, its just that OOo just doesn't have all the features one would need to be productive in an office environment. I hate to break it to you OOo fans, but people do more than just write up a simple text file.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • No Man Is An Island

      I sometimes worry about the insularity of your world; the mistaking of a moat for an ocean.

      I don't think this will be The catalyst because people have to buy Office 13 to get the compatibility. Will the compatibility sell Office 13? Doubtful. If the compatibility is backported to earlier versions of Word, that'd be cool. But a net neutral as to whether people adopt (or LibreOffice).

      With regards to Mr. Davidson-, I converted a couple of architectural practices to, but, being small businesses, they don't have the IT bureaucracy and have the agility and cash motives to try the arguably less powerful but far less expensive OOo. So, I'm an evangelist and an ABMer, big whoop, right?

      Well, I provide administrative services to a residential construction management firm and this year I started seeing invoices emailed as .odt files. Having learned something from the scientists in my family, contamination had to be ruled out before accepting result data. So I asked the managing Architect if, in the course of our efforts to have subs make their paperwork more professional, had he suggested OOo to the subs. Nope.

      It may not be something but it's not nothing.
      • 100% correct as of now...

        But when MS OO 2013 will become common, than institutions will have open option whether upgrade to successor of 2013 or maybe migrate to LO.

        Also it will remove some pressure of "network" effect, if institutions will be able to send ODF documents regardless of adoptions of LO (or other editors capable of ODF) in the receiving institution.
      • My world

        Admittedly, it's a small world of around 35K employees, but we don't use any OO. No ODF. If an ODF doc comes in, it's rejected. everything is Office format, or we don't do anything with it.

        It's only one world, but if a contractor sent our procurement group a bid in ODF, they lose because we won't accept it. it's Office format or nothing.

        Since the contractors and vendors tend to make money from us, they use Office formats.

        The ability of MS Office to open ODF won't help much either. The contractors take the chance we won't be able to read it properly (different applications do interpret the same file differently), so they'll continue to use MS Office formats.

        Just simple rules of making money.
        • You reject business because of ODF?

          That's absurd. Still, your company chooses to indulge in such ridiculous NBM behavior I suppose that its own business. Which company is that, please? I would like to avoid it.
        • Why would you...

          ...insist documentation be provided in a closed format and reject an ISO standard open format? That's like turning down information because it's ASCII-encoded.

          Most people understand that Office format is vendor lock-in, but what you describe is Stockholm Syndrome - you're helping to increase the lock-in and spread it to others.
    • Re: Do you know how many ODF files I've come across?

      How would you tell? Could you even tell you were actually using LibreOffice, and not Microsoft Office? I know--they told you it was Microsoft Office, just to shut you up, right? Probably themed it a bit with the Fisher-Price Windows XP look, made it randomly log you out every few days to make it look like it was crashing, just to make you feel at home. But really you were using ODF all this while, and never noticed.
      • How about the OpenOffice Logo?

        There's a big difference between the MS Office & OpenOffice logos...or had you not noticed?

        And having used both suites, the applications [b]do[/b] look different when they're opened.
    • Logic disagrees with you, again.

      The inclusion of ODF 1.2 in MS Office 2013 implies all functions of Office 2013 are supported by ODF 1.2, which in turn implies all ODF 1.2 compatible office suites can do all the functions of MS Office 2013.

      Therefore, logic dictates Open/LibreOffice support all the same functions as MS Office, so unless you are impling MS Office is only good for text files, you should retract your statement.
      • @ anothercanuck

        You are ahead of yourself in your argument.

        There is no logic in associating inclusion of file format in one application as interoperability between that application and another application supporting the same file format. A zillion things can go wrong in how exactly that standard is really implemented. OpenOffice supporting ODF 1.1 or ODF 1.2 has jack nothing to do with MSOffice supporting ODF 1.2. For that matter OpenOffice even supports docx format and has been since a long time. But are they compliant enough to interpret MSOffice docs in all scenarios possible? I think the factual answer is no.

        OpenOffice was my goto free office application on desktop - both Linux and Windows - but I was sick of its lack of support of a lot of advanced or even basic functionality in a seamless way. MSOffice may be relatively overpriced (talk about iPhones) but it does what it says. And I have been using a grudgingly bought MSOffice 2010 pretty well for the last two years.
        • Without factual evidence, its nothing but another opinion.....

          “But are they compliant enough to interpret MSOffice docs in all scenarios possible? I think the factual answer is no.”
    • You are not the center of the universe

      Many world governments are now passing regulations mandating the adoption of open data formats and in others the use of open source where possible. The city of Munich, Germany recently finished switching 20,000 desktops over to desktop Linux and LibreOffice ahead of schedule. They also report a slight drop in support desk calls. :-) Maybe you should e-mail Munich and explain to them that they can't be doing what they're doing. Oh, and Peugot also runs desktop Linux and LibreOffice for several years now. They might need to be informed that they can't actually function either.

      Oh, and while you're at it, you might want to look up one of several papers published over the last ten years by statisticians revealing that Excel is riddled with statistical bugs to the point where some functions return results with zero digits of accuracy! In some instances, the bugs have gone resolved for 10 years, and others were "fixed" by making them worse. One paper even asked, "Does Microsoft Fix Bugs In Excel?" Papers have also shown that the open source spreadsheet Gnumeric fared tremendously better in testing, and when small problems were found the handful of unpaid volunteers who develop it were able to fix them in six weeks! OpenOffice/LibreOffice of even a few versions back bested Excel in accuracy as well and also proved very responsive to bug reports. Statistical papers have gone from advising statisticians to not run Excel at all to now having a list of types of statistics that should and should not be attempted in Excel. You might need to write to the statisticians too and inform them that they can't possibly do their work with Gnumneric or LibreOffice or OpenOffice Calc and that they should resume obtaining zero digits of accuracy with Excel immediately.
  • I'm sure MS think you're wrong

    If Steve Ballmer had thought for a minute that ODF support in MS-Office would spur OOO adoption and thereby threaten MS' market share; he would no doubt have vetoed it instantly.

    Or maybe he's trying to anticipate what Mitt Romney will do should be be elected President (Mr. Romney was, after all, governor of Massachussetts when that state adopted ODF as it's official file format).
    John L. Ries
    • Not to bring politics into this

      But Google up a 2005 article by Bob Sutor titled "Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney comes out in support of OpenDocument Format decision" and then note the title of the no longer available CRN article it references. Given the plethora of somewhat more recent articles that include the words "Romney" and "distances," it's kind of amusing (if you're into that sort of thing.)
  • Could this be the catalyst for OpenOffice adoption?

    We've heard that phrase for 5 plus years.

    Hasn't happened.
    William Farrel
    • Really?

      "According to Valve Corporation, 14.63% of Steam users have installed on their machines as of July 2010."
      Sure - it's home users, but MS Office used to dominate that segment too. Now - no reason to shell out even discounted OEM price for it.