Office to finally fully support ODF, Open XML, and PDF formats

Office to finally fully support ODF, Open XML, and PDF formats

Summary: Office 2013 will, after years, finally fully support Open Document Format, Adobe's PDF, and, oh yes, Microsoft's own Open XML document standard.


Earlier this week, Microsoft Office standards chief Jim Thatcher quietly announced that Microsoft would add ”two additional formats for use: Strict Open XML and Open Document Format (ODF) 1.2. … [and] support for opening PDF documents so they can be edited within Word and saved to any supported format.”  It took Microsoft long enough.

As Andrew 'Andy' Updegrove, a founding partner of Gesmer Updegrove, a top technology law firm and standards expert points out, this “brings a degree of closure to a seven year long epic battle between some of the largest technology companies in the world. The same saga pitted open source advocates against proprietary vendors, and for the first time brought the importance of technical standards to the attention of millions of people around the world, and at the center of the action were Microsoft and IBM, the latter supported by Google and Oracle, among other allies.

Seven  years after proposing it,  Microsoft is finally ready to fully support its own standard format, Strict Open XML, as well as  ODF and PDF.

Updegrove continued, “More specifically, the battle had been joined between the supporters of the Open Document Format – ODF for short – developed by OASIS, and then adopted by ISO/IEC, and a format developed and promoted by Microsoft, called Open XML, which it contributed to ECMA for adoption before also being submitted to ISO/IEC. In due course, Open XML was adopted as well, but only after a global battle that, improbably, even inspired a public protest on the sidewalks outside a standards committee meeting.”

The battle was largely over Microsoft's desire to control “open” document standards. In the end, both ODF and Open XML were recognized as standards. Today, ODF is the default format in the main open-source office suites: LibreOffice and OpenOffice. Ironically, it's taken Microsoft more than six years to fully support its own 4,000 plus pages of the Open XML standard , never mind PDF and ODF.

As Updegrove wrote, “Famously, however, after expending such great effort to secure adoption of Open XML as a global standard, Microsoft itself did not fully implement that standard in its next release of Office, in 2007. Or its next. Or its next, although the ability to open and edit (but not save) documents in the ISO/IEC approved version of Open XML (which Microsoft called 'Strict Open XML') was added to Office 10. Instead, it implemented what it called 'Transitional Open XML,' which it said was more useful for working with legacy documents created using Office.”

Of course, “This was something of an embarrassment, because one reason that Microsoft had given for the necessity of ISO/IEC approving a second document standard was to facilitate working with the “billions and billions of documents” that had already been created in Office. Implementers of Open XML as actually approved by ISO/IEC therefore would not be able to achieve this goal.”

The ironic thing is that, while this was as hotly debated am issue in the mid-2000s as are mobile patents and cloud implementation is today, this news was barely noticed. That's a mistake.

Updegrove points out, “document interoperability and vendor neutrality matter more now than ever before as paper archives disappear and literally all of human knowledge is entrusted to electronic storage.” He concluded, “Only if documents can be easily exchanged and reliably accessed on an ongoing basis will competition in the present be preserved, and the availability of knowledge down through the ages be assured. Without robust, universally adopted document formats, both of those goals will be impossible to attain.”

Updegrove's right of course. Don't believe me? Go into your office's archives and try to bring up documents your wrote in the 90s in WordPerfect or papers your staff created in the 80s with WordStar. If you don't want to lose your institutional memory, open document standards support is more important than ever.

Related Stories:

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

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

Microsoft and IBM push OData standardisation

FOSS v proprietary software: image editing

Google's purchase of QuickOffice a strike at Surface RT

Topics: Microsoft, Collaboration, Enterprise Software, Open Source, Software, Software Development

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  • Yawn - non-issue

    Open documents created in the 80s with Word Star? Why? These docs are nearly 30 years old and if you haven't converted them yet, they have NO value!

    I used Word Star in the 80's, and don't have a single doc left in that format. All gone years and years ago.

    What about all those docs created on Wang's as well? What about all those other word processors? All gone.

    Seriously, you complain about Microsoft not adopting standards? Microsoft is the defacto standard just by market penetration. Even though other standards may exist, might as well use Word. Either Word or something that can read ".DOC" formats will be around for a very long time.

    Seems to me that ODF was the interloper, not Microsoft. ODF came later, Microsoft was well established. Nice to know how you twist everything.
    • Are you serious?

      Maybe whatever documents you personally have ever composed in the past, are composing now, and will compose in the future have nothing in them that would ever interest future archivists and historians; however, there are others like politicians, military people, poets, writers, musicians, intellectuals, scientists and such whose letters, compositions, and even rough drafts might be of interest. And it doesn't take that many decades for technology to change drastically and the common memory of past tech to become badly confused, hence causing gaps in the historical record.

      It wasn't *that* long ago that the WordPerfect WPD format was the defacto standard, but every new version of Word makes opening them up more problematic -- you can still do it, but not without some extra effort, and the formatting might be screwed up. There a lot of files in WPD format on floppies, tape backups, and the dark recesses of old file servers. And while about 99.99% are likely of no consequence...
      • 99.9% of no consequence

        Yup, you said it. 99.99% no consequence. So, on the off chance that the .01% of of some unknown consequence, you want to preserve everything?

        No, the docs on those formats are long dead. Floppies and tape backups sitting in drawers are probably unreadable by now. This stuff has a limited life and to try and preserve everything would be like saving every piece of mail and every newspaper you've ever received. You'd drown in a pile of junk.

        Better to throw out the .01% good stuff along with the 99.99% garbage and not drown.
        • The mass of men

          lead lives of quiet desperation *and* no consequence. It's that roughly .01% that is of consequence that makes these things important enough to be concerned about.
          • You need to investigate something called a "Retention Schedule"

            It's something businesses use to decide how long to keep a document. Time lines vary from 7 years to forever. If forever, the schedule should also have rules about how the document is formatted (plain text usually) so it can be read indefinately.

            If you son't have these kinds of controls, you drown in worthless data that hides the .01% you think you should be concerned about.

            Even the stuff the schedule says you should keep forever is mostly useless after a couple years. It's for the lawyers to defend the company or for other lawyers to sue.

            To keep everything, now that's a mental illness, the shrinks have drugs to help - The street term is, "Hoarder". You don't hord hoard newspapers from 30years ago, do you? There might be something useful in there. If you do, go get help.
    • Such a dope

      All my docs are ODF and PDF. What has the 80s got to do with anything? Maybe you still live in the 80s.

      Now that MS supports open standards, I might just consider buying Office.
  • What exactly does it mean to edit a PDF?

    Because that's a pretty big deal if it works with any sort of ease.
  • And in other news...

    ..while a bunch of technies and propellerheads were busy arguing over what standard should be adopted in what format and which TLA should be used to name what document format in what instance and what software features should be encompassed in said format and who should control the format and how should it be applied and what software is more compliant to what standard....

    ..Users were busy being productive using whatever software does the job best for them, and saving to whatever format that software uses..

    ..and simply not giving a shyt.
    • You sir are

      Absolutely correct. The end users really set the standards by volume of use. Since Office has been the defacto office suite for better than a decade, they, the end users set the standard document format as .DOC.

      If a person chooses to use something else, that's fine. Microsoft is under no obligation to support any format they choose not to. After all, if you follow the mantra of Open Source, it's all about choice.

      That means end users are free to choose whatever they want (majority use Word, so not much debate there)

      Microsoft is free to support whatever formats they want. All the whining by the ODF fans and complaining that MS doesn’t support ODF flies in the face of MS freedom to choose.

      Or is that little bit of hypocrisy lost on the ODF fans?
  • Office to finally fully support ODF, Open XML, and PDF formats

    Microsoft Office may support these formats but the only one to get used will be Office's own formats and PDF files. ODF will drift away as its not used. OpenXML will be more for backing up and compatibility for the future but won't be as popular as the binary formats of Office. A lot talk being raised about ODF for nothing.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Once again

      Microsoft disagrees with you.
  • Time to implement a standard...

    "Ironically, it's taken Microsoft more than six years to fully support its own 4,000 plus pages of the Open XML standard , never mind PDF and ODF. "

    That's what happens when you try to create a standard that needs to support a product with the level of features that Excel supports, nevermind the rest of the Office suite. The half-assed approach that is evident in the ODF specification doesn't cut it when you have actual customers who need the software to work to the same degree that it did before.

    Believe it or not, Microsoft is more concerned with servicing their actual customers than they are of developing some kind of dubious "standard" that really is a duplication of what the world is doing already (which is standardize on the .doc and .xls file formats).
    • So....

      ...did you look that up from MS press releases from 2005? Or did it occur to you as you were typing?
      John L. Ries
    • If MS Office were properly compatible wth MS Office, you might have a point

      Or you might not. :-)

      But as it is, even many MS shops find that, in practice, they need to keep OpenOffice or Libre Office on hand, to open those too frequent documents that were created with MS Office -- but that MS Office (same version, even) can't subsequently open.

      A quick re-save in MS format, and MS Office can cope with them again.

      Even MS has trouble conforming to its own so-called "standards", whether "official", "de facto" or whatever.

      Some "standards".
      • I'd love to see an example..

        ..I personally haven't ever experienced this, and I don't recall anyone who ever has, either.. And I work with a *LOT* of Microsoft shops who keep a lot of old documents lying around (I even have a number of files still sitting around from Office 97, and they open up in 2010 just fine)..

        Not saying it doesn't happen, but I don't think it happens quite as often as you seem to imply, here.
      • 20 years of using Office and never had a problem

        I'll agree with daftkey here. please provide an example. I've never had a problen in 20 years.

        This rumour has been around forever and no one has ever shown a real example.

        Put up or shut up time.
        • Wow - 2 flags?

          Guess someone's a little sensitive for being called on thier BS.
          • Yes, really sensitive

            Yes, I've noticed that when they can't defend their position with facts, they use the flags.

          • Some things just aren't worth arguing about

            And there are certain posters I won't name who appear to be incapable of saying anything not offensive, so I flag their posts as a matter of course.

            To cite an exteme example (and this particular troll should have had his account deleted years ago), I see no need to try to demonstrate that despite Hans Reiser's conviction, that it is not reasonable to assume that other open source developers are also criminals.
            John L. Ries
          • In this case...

            ..I didn't see anything even bordering on offensive - just a challenge to prove an assertion (and a very dubious one at that).

            You're probably right that it's not worth arguing about, but in this case, it's just because you don't have a leg to stand on.