OOXML: The Wins

by Miguel de Icaza

Regardless of where you stand on the outcome of OOXML becoming an ISO standard, it is worth pointing out that the opposition to OOXML pushed Microsoft into more open directions.

If you are sulking because OOXML was approved, it is worth looking at what actually was accomplished since December of 2005 when the process begun.

Before OOXML came to ISO and the global review of it begun:

  • Microsoft moving away from their proprietary file formats to open, and XML-based (easier to manipulate, produce and consume) file formats.
  • Novel raised a record number of issues on the specification, many of which were solved before the spec was approved by ECMA.
  • About 700 pages worth of descriptions for the formula specifications (one of the major issues from our end when we joined ECMA TC45 in December of 2005).
  • The OOXML specification placed under the OSP.

Once OOXML went for discussion at ISO, a number of good things came out and are major community wins:

1. The specifications for the old binary file formats were published under the OSP (February of 2008).

2. The above documents were backed up by the British Library in case Microsoft ever stops publishing them (announcement).

3. Microsoft is funding the development of a translator between the old binary file formats and OOXML which should assist folks that have experience in one format and want to understand the other, or just want to convert documents back and forth. If your app lacked support for OOXML, but had support for the old formats, you can use these tools.

4. Microsoft agreed that future versions of OOXML will be covered by the OSP a concern that some people had about future versions of the document.

5. Microsoft pledged to modify future versions of Office to implement the ISO version of OOXML.

6. working group was created to look into harmonization of OOXML and ODF, something that many developers involved in office suites have been advocating for a long time.

7. Microsoft pledged to support features to support other file formats as native file formats in their office suite:

Last year we sponsored a translator project that gave people the ability to read and write ODF files from Microsoft Office. Last month we announced that we would update the Office product so that the ODF translators could natively plug into Office and give people the same options they get from the other file formats. People will be able to set ODF as the default format in Office if that's what they want by simply installing the translators and then changing their settings.

8. Lots of clarifications went into the spec, and people should be happy about that.

9. And finally, now that OOXML is an ISO standard, as Patrick Durusau implied there are many winners.

Anyways, I wanted to keep this short and uplifting, this seems like a win for everyone all around.

Preemptive-reply-to-the-above-paragraph: I will not reply/approve any flames, FUD or half-truths.

Posted on 02 Apr 2008