Microsoft: Developer interest fueling OOXML

Software giant has ramped up efforts on building developer tools for the Office Open XML document format, says a senior company executive.

Driven by developer interest in OOXML (Office Open XML), Microsoft says it has been intensifying its efforts to build developer tools for the document format.

In an interview with ZDNet Asia, Oliver Bell, Microsoft Asia-Pacific's regional technology officer, said the company has been focusing on building developer tools for server side applications.

He cited two examples of such tools. The first one called OpenXML PowerTools allows the OOXML documents to be created and modified without needing Microsoft Office installed. The other tool, OpenXML SDK, offers a kit to help developers create third-party applications that read and write OOXML documents.

"Developers worldwide have created hundreds of solutions building on the 2007 Microsoft Office system," said Bell by e-mail.

According to one developer, momentum has largely been driven by Microsoft's dominance of the word processing software market.

Ian Blackley, sales engineer at TX Text Control told ZDNet Asia: "[OOXML] is the de facto industry standard due to the fact that [it] is the default format in Microsoft Word...much of the demand over OOXML is because of this."

Microsoft's Bell confirmed OOXML is the default format set when Office is first installed.

Text Control produces a word processor software component for developers, and announced OOXML support earlier this month.

Blackley said via e-mail: "We expect a very high demand on the new OOXML format...We are already getting loads of requests regarding this format."

Interoperability is foremost on users' minds--and those with legacy applications, he added. With "most companies worldwide" using Microsoft Word and its older versions, many would be interested in porting documents from the old .doc format to the new OOXML .docx format.

Michael Mudd, director of public policy, Asia-Pacific, at CompTIA told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail: "We have observed that since the ISO has approved the standard, forward thinking governments have been reviewing their interoperability frameworks."

CompTIA is a trade body that certifies IT professionals and is funded by major vendors, including Microsoft.

Companies are looking for compatibility with their archives as well as interoperability with their customers in exchanging documents, said Mudd.

He said the healthcare industry and public sector have been actively adopting the document format, and are focusing on the format's ability to embed data into forms for manipulation later.

"[Software providers] claim that [OOXML] will provide consistency, stability and lead to reduced development time and costs to enable support for a number of office suites," said Mudd.

Microsoft's Bell mentioned in an earlier blog post OOXML's focus on embedding data consistently: "The [OOXML specification] defines a way to embed custom schema into the document that can represent just about any data you like, then guarantee that it will remain intact as one application or another opens the document, works with it then saves it out."