OOXML gains compatibility via ISVs

Since its ISO ratification, Microsoft's document format has garnered support from third-party applications. But developers say it's not ideological--it's just business.

Now that Microsoft's OOXML (Office Open XML) has been ratified as an ISO standard, third-party effort to support the document format has been ramping up.

While many third-party document editors support ODF (Open Document Format), widely regarded as OOXML's main competitor, developers appear to be taking a pragmatic approach to supporting OOXML, largely putting it down to customer demand and market forces.

Online office suite, Zoho, is in the midst of implementing an OOXML import filter. Currently, its word editor is only able to export in the format. Zoho supports importing and exporting in ODF.

Raju Vegesna, Zoho evangelist said in an interview with ZDNet Asia, Zoho received a "decent set of requests for [OOXML format] .docx".

"It took us a few months to implement OOXML. It's a work in progress. We have a team focused on this compatibility of different formats," said Vegesna, adding that Zoho intends to implement OOXML support in the suite's spreadsheet and presentations applications.

Open source document editor, AbiWord, is building an OOXML import/export filter.

The AbiWord team said, of OOXML, in an interview with Red Hat Magazine: "It’s just another file format we have to support, with all its good and bad parts. In the end, it doesn’t matter a single bit if it’s ISO approved or not.

"Millions of people around the world [use] Microsoft Office and thus create documents that people expect us to support...As Microsoft Word 2007 will start being used more and more, the number of .docx documents floating around the net will pick up dramatically. Our users will expect us to be able to handle those," said an AbiWord developer.

Google, which has an online office suite called Google Docs, appears to remain opposed to the OOXML format, but remained vague on its plans to support the format, when ZDNet Asia inquired.

Zaheda Bhorat, open source program manager at Google expressed disappointment in OOXML's ISO ratification and pointed to "numerous technical issues" outstanding, and said, of OOXML: "Along with much of the global technical community, we maintain our belief after technical analysis that OOXML would be an insufficient and unnecessary standard."

Other examples of third-party applications which have released OOXML-supporting filters are Novell's latest edition OpenOffice and Corel WordPerfect Office X4.

Sun, too, is developing an OOXML import filter. The open office proponent has maintained support for ODF on its blog saying: "Does the development of OOXML import filters mean that we have changed our mind regarding ODF?...No. We strongly believe ODF is the only file format that provides the level of interoperability and choice of products that our customers want."

Microsoft has recently announced it will support ODF in Office Service Pack 2 for Office 2007, due in the first half of 2009, and build ODF support into the next major version of office, code-named Office 14.