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

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?
Written by Paula Rooney, Contributor

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. 




Editorial standards