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Office To Become Fully Open XML Compliant (at Last) 110

Posted by Soulskill
from the super-fast-turnaround dept.
Andy Updegrove writes "Between 2005 and 2008, an unparalleled standards war was waged between Microsoft, on the one hand, and IBM, Google, Oracle and additional companies on the other. At the heart of the battle were two document formats, one called ODF, developed by OASIS, a standards development consortium, and Open XML, a specification developed by Microsoft. Both were submitted to, and adopted by, global standards groups ISO/IEC. But then Microsoft never fully adopted its own standard. Instead, it implemented what it called 'Transitional Open XML,' which was better adapted for use in connection with documents created using older versions of Office. Yesterday, Microsoft announced in a blog entry that it will finally make it possible for Office users to open, edit and save documents in the format that ISO/IEC approved."
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Office To Become Fully Open XML Compliant (at Last)

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  • Doubtful. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @02:46PM (#40987579)

    Several of the complaints registered by members of the ISO approval committee (which were ignored by the paid-off chair), involved sections of the specification that caused it to be physically impossible to actually implement.

    • Several of the complaints registered by members of the ISO approval committee (which were ignored by the paid-off chair), involved sections of the specification that caused it to be physically impossible to actually implement.

      How bizarre! So what exactly is it that makes it impossible to implement?

      • Re:Doubtful. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Xtifr (1323) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @03:56PM (#40988635) Homepage

        I suspect he's referring to the many tags whose only functional definition is by reference to undefined behavior of earlier MS products. Which is not so much impossible to implement (obviously MS can do so) as it is impossible for anyone but MS to verify. Which makes it a little hard to call it a standard.

        • Re:Doubtful. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Gadget_Guy (627405) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @05:03PM (#40989665)

          That is disappointing. I was hoping for some amusing inconsistencies in the spec, and it turns out that it is just a few optional elements in there to support ancient packages and which the standard recommends that you don't actually support!

          Is this really the reason that the entire standards organisation is denigrated, and that this format said to be impossible to implement? That is pretty lame. Why does everyone worry about compatibility tags that date back to Windows 3.1 days when the ODF spec neglected to document the spreadsheet functions at all? If you are looking for an impossible to implement standard, then that would be a more likely candidate.

          • While not the best way of doing things, in the case of ODF spreadsheets, well, the code is available to be copied(or data extracted from) for use in a new implementation. I don't think anyone would have minded if MS gave out the source to that part of word, for reverse engineering purposes.

          • by Lupu (815408)

            That is disappointing. I was hoping for some amusing inconsistencies in the spec, and it turns out that it is just a few optional elements in there to support ancient packages and which the standard recommends that you don't actually support!

            Is this really the reason that the entire standards organisation is denigrated, and that this format said to be impossible to implement? That is pretty lame. Why does everyone worry about compatibility tags that date back to Windows 3.1 days when the ODF spec neglected to document the spreadsheet functions at all? If you are looking for an impossible to implement standard, then that would be a more likely candidate.

            The whole point in standards is to provide compatibility between different implementations of that standard. If MS Word produces documents that qualify according to the OOXML specification, but rely on the deliberately vague parts referring to older document formats, any other implementation would not be able to process said document properly.

            • by dk90406 (797452)
              And having a vague standard that only MS can follow will allow MS to "rightfully" claim "Our is the only product that implements the whole standard", thus FUDding the market.
            • That is only going to be a problem when converting a document written in a 20 year old version of Word. How many of those do you come across these days. And does any version of Word actually emit these elements. They are only now getting full compatibility with the standard, so we don't know if they supported those attributes. It will be pretty hard to test.

              And what difference will there be? In the example quoted elsewhere in this thread autoSpaceLikeWord95, you might see a slightly different kerning when j

          • If you're going to tell that story at least tell the whole thing. When the OpenDocument Format included OpenFormula [dwheeler.com] with version 1.2, it became the very first format to have a standard for spreadsheet formulas. Prior to that, there were no standard or other formats with a standard way of defining formulas. ODF was the first.
        • by jvillain (546827)
          It is Microsoft's standard method of corporate operation. Does that help? Bottom line is OOXML was aborted at birth and you would need to be insane to adopt it.
          • Didn't stop the Australian Government adopting it as their standard word format for all government departments. :/
      • Re:Doubtful. (Score:5, Informative)

        by gerddie (173963) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @03:59PM (#40988681)

        Several of the complaints registered by members of the ISO approval committee (which were ignored by the paid-off chair), involved sections of the specification that caused it to be physically impossible to actually implement.

        How bizarre! So what exactly is it that makes it impossible to implement?

        He probably meant impossble for anyone not being Microsoft. There is, for example a tag called autoSpaceLikeWord95 standing for Emulate Word 95 Full-Width Character Spacing; and there is more [robweir.com].

        • by Dahan (130247)

          He probably meant impossble for anyone not being Microsoft. There is, for example a tag called autoSpaceLikeWord95 standing for Emulate Word 95 Full-Width Character Spacing; and there is more [robweir.com].

          That's a pretty old blog post... it's from 2007, but ISO 29500-1 wasn't officially standardized [iso.org] until 2008. IIRC, the issues he's talking about were problems with the draft standard that MS submitted. They were cleaned up for the final spec. The real ISO standards cost $$$ to get, but a quick Google search shows that MS has documented autoSpaceLikeWord95 [microsoft.com] as:

          9.7.3.4 autoSpaceLikeWord95 (Incorrectly Adjust Text Spacing for Specific Unicode Ranges)

          This element specifies adjustments (detailed below) which sho

      • Re:Doubtful. (Score:5, Informative)

        by hAckz0r (989977) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @04:51PM (#40989457)

        How bizarre! So what exactly is it that makes it impossible to implement?

        Well, for one, the OOXML specification allows binary blobs to be imbeded in the XML document, and many of the Microsoft specific blobs they embed are NOT documented anywhere. In fact, when Microsoft paid Novel to implement the OOXML specification for OpenOffice (so that MS could say theirs is not the only implimentation) the Contract dictated that Novell was NOT allowed to touch/render/interpret any binary blobs that Microsoft was currently using in their own implimentation. If you can't interpret or render everything then you can not possibly implement "the standard" in any working product. Complying 100%, with "the standard", without cheating, gives you an unworkable product right out of the gate.

        http://www.groklaw.net/staticpages/index.php?page=20051216153153504 [groklaw.net]

    • Re:Doubtful. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Pope Raymond Lama (57277) <gwidion@noSPam.mpc.com.br> on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @04:12PM (#40988879) Homepage

      To whoever missed the "format wars" they are nicely (And fervently) documented on Jomar Silva's (A.K.A. Homembit) blog -
      ending at 2008-09 entries: http://homembit.com/2008/09/popular-participation-on-international-standardization-process-opening-the-black-box.html [homembit.com]

      Jomar, a core contributor to ODF, was one of Brazil's envoy to the ISO group in which Microsoft format were aproved, trying to prevent it from happening as it went.

  • ISO/IEC approved. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    But the "standard" still is a travesty.

    • by unixisc (2429386)
      Is ODF an XML compatible format? Both LibreOffice and CalligraSuite support ODF. Is there anything in OXML that cannot be ODF compatible, or vice versa?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @02:53PM (#40987685)

    Warning:
    Features you have chosen in this document
    are not compatible with OpenXML,
    for best results please save in Microsoft format,
    you may lose work if you continue.

    [save in Word Format ][cancel][continue]

    • by Anpheus (908711) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @03:06PM (#40987867)

      I just tried opening up the most complicated template in Word 2013 that I could find (the annual report template looked pretty busy) and I threw some charts in with data and tried saving as Strict Open XML.

      It saved without any prompt.

      • by hpa (7948)
        But still not by default, what it sounds like, which means it is still marginal at best.
        • by aliquis (678370)

          Didn't sounded like that to me.

          • You can save your files in the new strict format, in the same way you can save your files in a decades old WordPerfect format.

            Doesn't mean anyone does it, let alone knows it exists.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by casper75 (44745)

          You can set it as the default in the options dialog if you want. And I'm sure companies that use group policies could set it as the default company wide if they want.

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          Uhhh...so what? LO and OO.o save in over 2 dozen formats so why should anybody care? Most folks don't NEED to have their files in ODF or OXML, all they need is the person they are sending it to to be able to open it. For those that DO need ODF or OXML I'm sure they'll be smart enough to pull down a single list box and choose it or even go into the settings and set it as default.

          If you wanna bitch about the whole ISO mess? Right there with ya pal, and it just shows how useless these "standards" are when th

          • by jvillain (546827)
            Which is what you would have with ODF especially after Microsoft said they would implemented it as part of one of their antitrust suits. But then they produced a broken implementation of ODF in office proving once again that the legal system really doesn't involve them.
            • by hairyfeet (841228)

              But why would we care EXACTLY, unless we believe in the "free as in freedom!" dogma? .Doc works just fine for the millions and millions of people out there with MS Office, and more importantly we don't have to download or mess with shit as it "just works" and does this quite well. I have shared complex docs made with my MS Office 2K with users of Office 2K3, 2K7 and 2K6 for Mac and NO problems, in fact the only problem we had was one guy insisted on trying to work in Open office and it kept trashing the for

      • I just tried opening up the most complicated template in Word 2013 that I could find (the annual report template looked pretty busy) and I threw some charts in with data and tried saving as Strict Open XML.

        It saved without any prompt.

        Try it with OneNote

        • by Anpheus (908711)

          AFAIK, there is no document standard for note-taking applications. Neither OpenOffice/LibreOffice, the Open Document Foundation, or any competitors (Google, Evernote, others?) seem to be inclined to create a standard format.

          And why would they? People don't share their personal notes - if you're sharing produced documents your needs are likely better met by a collaborative document solution. Otherwise if you just want people to see your notes, save to PDF/XPS?

  • any major multinational corporation in drafting a standard is preposterous. none of the largest technology companies in the world mentioned in the summary have a vested interest in ensuring interoperability between competing products at any level. Each will be forced to create their own bullshit standard when a truly open standards group gains enough participants, or they fail to steer a decent standards group straight into the ground or into their pockets.

    between 2005 and 2008 a completely successful
    • by ichthus (72442) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @02:58PM (#40987741) Homepage
      Yeah, this is why both Google Docs and Open/LiberOffice utilize and support ODF. Sure, it's just hand-waving.

      Please.
    • by characterZer0 (138196) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @03:09PM (#40987917)

      IBM, Oracle, and Google all have a vested interest in an interoperable format. IBM and Oracle are professional services companies. Interoperable formats means it is easier for them to implement custom services and provides more surfaces for them to provide integration services. Google wants to know everything so it can advertise everything, and a better format is easier to get information from.

      Microsoft is a vendor-lock-in company. OpenXML is designed to lock you in to their platform. They are they ONLY company that benefits.

      • by jbolden (176878)

        Microsoft is a vendor-lock-in company.

        The claim above was much broader. Far more accurate would be: "Microsoft is a OS vendor-lock-in company" because Microsoft is incredibly open in the areas of: application software, hardware, parts, accessories, web services....

    • by jimicus (737525)

      You'd better tell all the members of 3GPP. Most of them are companies that make equipment used in the mobile phone industry.

      Allowing a single multinational corporation to draft the standard all by themselves, however - yeah, I'd agree with you there.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      the thought of involving any major multinational corporation in drafting a standard is preposterous

      Ummm ... most standards I've ever seen have come out of industry groups all working to arrive at a workable solution -- IEEE 802 group being a fine example of this. Do you think a bunch of guys in academia come up with a reference standard that people actually adopt?

      Now, in this case, this should never have really been called a "standard" in any way shape or form, since Microsoft had never actually implemente

    • by jbolden (176878)

      any major multinational corporation in drafting a standard is preposterous. none of the largest technology companies in the world mentioned in the summary have a vested interest in ensuring interoperability between competing products at any level

      Of course they do. They often have a strong interest in interoperability everywhere but where their core profits come from. So for example the entire success of the PC platform is based on the Intel / Microsoft / Western Digital Standard for x86 which has allowe

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @02:56PM (#40987721)
    Meanwhile ODF already has a huge seven year foothold, and all of this time the format and its applications have been in production use, and have become more and more robust.
    • by bhcompy (1877290) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @04:05PM (#40988771)
      To minor effect. The people who give a shit about standards are the people that post here. The people that don't give a shit and just want their spreadsheet to work could care less if there is some industry supported open standard don't. You know, CEOs and grandmas and stuff.
      • by supercrisp (936036) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @04:41PM (#40989335)
        Well, I may be no true Scotsman, but I care about the standards because it means my students can use many more word processors, and it levels the playing field for students whose parents are wealthy and for those who are not.
    • by jvillain (546827)
      Yet every one wants you to send them documents a word95 format.
  • by denis-The-menace (471988) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @02:56PM (#40987727)

    Yay, another format change.

    Bought for you by Microsoft.

    **History lesson: How MS got Office Open XML approved**
    MS paid the ISO membership fees for a bunch of new ISO members for that one critical ISO vote.
    The new members were so happy, they voted to approve Open XML.

    This way, the secretive and patent laden file format could be used in government bids where ISO file formats where required.

    Soon after this outrageous manoeuvre,
    ISO lost it's reputation and became known as I Sold Out.

    • by HappyHead (11389) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @03:27PM (#40988181)

      Soon after this outrageous manoeuvre,

      ISO lost it's reputation and became known as I Sold Out.

      Not only that, but soon after this outrageous manoeuvre, the vast majority of these new ISO members Microsoft had bought never showed up for another meeting - meetings requiring of course, a minimum percentage in attendance to actually approve anything, which then, due to the bulk of members having no interest in the committee except for casting their pro-MS vote in order to receive their bribes, did not have enough members present to actually do anything.

      And this is the story of how Microsoft broke the ISO, so they could fake their way into government contracts by falsely claiming that their office software supported an ISO standard (which even Microsoft didn't actually support).

    • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @03:29PM (#40988205) Homepage

      What this story doesn't tell you is that Office 2012 is going to be cloud-centric. Remember, they're trying to compete with Google (which, oddly, does not support ODF format on Drive). They are pushing Office Online pretty hard, and even Exchange wants to act as an auxiliary source to Office 365 now.

      Microsoft very much wants to control your data in the way that desktop apps and "personal computing" prohibit - and that Google is now able to do through Drive/Gmail/etc. They previously attempted doing so by locking down the file formats to maintain your continued purchases - the stick approach.

      Now they're trying the carrot approach to control. They've been interested in this model for at least 14 years (I remember reading it in PC Magazine prior to Windows 2000 coming out). They want their products to be SaaS. They noticed early on what a fiscal bonanza SaaS was for antivirus companies, in contrast to Microsoft's constant need to upsell their latest and greatest candy dispenser. With the iStore, iTunes, Steam, Android Market/Play, et cetera, this has become all the more apparent - particularly in light of many previous customers migrating from things like in-house Exchange systems to Gmail.

      Never underestimate the buying power of a free lunch.

  • by killmenow (184444) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @02:57PM (#40987729)
    It'll be fully compatible. It'll just be one big block like this:

    <![CDATA[...]]>
  • by Shompol (1690084) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @02:59PM (#40987759)
    Google Documents (Drive) happily accepts .doc and .ppt and converts them to a Google Doc format, but not ODF. So to create a presentation in Libre Office I need to "Save as Office 2003 ppt", followed by import into Google Docs, for the obvious reason that no computer in a typical conference room can open an ODF presenation.
    • by mx+b (2078162)
      This has baffled me as well. Actually ODT is reasonable (can export ODT with decent success), but Google Presentation has no idea wtf an ODP is. I do not get it. Any googlers out there, please add support asap!
    • by fa2k (881632)

      Well, OpenOffice is a competitor to Google Docs. There would be no surprise if Microsoft chose not to support a format for competitive reasons (partially what TFA is about)

    • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @04:37PM (#40989245) Journal

      Ironically, Office Web Apps (the thing that lets you open/edit Word and Excel documents on SkyDrive), does support ODF, though I'm not sure about the version.

      Also, I don't get the story. MS Office was able to open, edit and save ODF 1.1 docs since 2007 SP 1. Yeah, it was an interop mess vis a vis OO.org for spreadsheets because the formulas weren't covered by the spec, and they implemented that differently. But it was still technically an ISO/IEC format.

      The real news here is that Office 2013 supports ODF 1.2 (there is a table in the blog post linked from TFA). Which means that spreadsheets should now be fully portable between MSOffice and other ODF implementations. With that there, who cares about ISO OpenXML?

      • by Shompol (1690084)
        There is a document somewhere on Groklaw quoting a contract between Microsoft and Novell, which shows that MS Office is "somewhat" compatible with ODF, and that MS intentionally makes sure that it stays that way.

        Not only is the compatibility is almost guaranteed to be broken, but I also need to open each and every document in MS Office to verify that the charts are not dropped, and fonts did not float away, etc. This is an expensive extra work for me, and also not an easy task given that Microsoft never
  • by camperdave (969942) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @03:02PM (#40987799) Journal
    In a related move, Microsoft has removed Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, and Publisher from its Office suite, and is replacing them with the more popular Notepad, Calc, and Paint software.
  • Just because they are implementing the functionality, does not mean they have to make it work well.

    • by jimicus (737525)

      Quite the reverse - this isn't the format used by OpenOffice natively, this is Microsoft's own format. The problem is that for all practical purposes, it's virtually impossible for anyone who isn't Microsoft to implement.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        It is impossible. Their "spec" wasn't complete as it was using internal Word APIs and binary dumps. There has never been a reference implementation. MS successfully destroyed the chance to have an open format where we can share documents without shitty filters and breakage, thus killing businesses, education and the great unwashed masses from moving over to free/open software.

  • Not much use (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wbr1 (2538558)
    Unless it is the default save option. Otherwise it will be little used.

    Remember though, in Soviet Russia, standard chooses you.

  • by Tough Love (215404) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @03:17PM (#40988027)

    Words are cheap. Should these words translate into verifiable fact then I will care. Otherwise, considering the history of this particular bad actor I must regard this announcement as just so much wide eyed spin aimed at slowing the exodus of potential customers to free, open and trustworthy alternatives.

    • Words are cheap. Should these words translate into verifiable fact then I will care.

      Office 2013 beta has been out for a month now. Install it and verify to your heart's content.

    • by PPH (736903)

      I'll believe it when I see cars fly [slashdot.org].

  • by kwerle (39371) <kurt@CircleW.org> on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @03:38PM (#40988351) Homepage Journal

    What country/large organization is refusing to use their products without this stamp on it?

  • Correction (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rueger (210566) * on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @05:55PM (#40990219) Homepage
    Office To Become Fully Open XML Compliant (allegedly)

    There, fixed that for you.

    I'll believe it when I see it.
  • by Osgeld (1900440)

    Call me when open / libre office calc does more than 1024 rows, then I will care about compatibility of MS files, cause I might have a reason to use something other than MS office

    • by Anonymous Coward

      LibreOffice can handle 1,048,576 rows, and has been able to do so since version 3.3

  • Just Hold down shift and F5 while scrolling through the ribbon, select the change format from the hidden ribbon, click formats, then compatibility, then change. Uncheck 6 boxes, then click on 4 others. Do this for every document you have to save because it wont save the preferences and you to can have compatible documents!!!!!

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