Error in the Office 12 File Format FAQ (sorry)

Going into the announcement about the new formats last month there was just a ton of content that had to be reviewed. There were a couple of whitepapers, an FAQ, the press release, etc. I actually thought I'd done a pretty good job of reviewing the stuff and that it was all in good shape. Sure enough just this morning someone in the newsgroup pointed out that there was a glaring error in the FAQ that we posted up on the buzz site. Here's what it says:

Q. Is this the first time Office will support XML?
A. Yes. This will be the first time Office will use an XML-based file format.

I can't believe I missed that one. I e-mailed the folks that run the buzz site and they'll update it ASAP. For anyone that has worked with XML in Office, or even been reading my blog you know that that is just dead wrong. This is the first time we will use XML as a default format, but it is definitely not the first time we've done work with XML. The first time we worked with XML was in Office 2000 (development started in 1997). Actually, there was an SGML add-in for Word that was built before that, but I don't remember the exact dates. In Office 2000, XML was used in the HTML file format to represent some features that did not exist in the HTML standard at the time (meta data and vector markup for example). In 1999 at the beginning of the Office XP project, the Excel folks started working on an XML file format called SpreadsheetML. SpreadsheetML shipped with Excel 2002, but it was not full fidelity so it was not recommended to be used as a default format. Office 2003 was a huge step forward in XML support. That included the introduction of WordprocessingML which was a full featured XML format for Word, a new application called InfoPath for gathering data in an XML format, and support for customer defined schemas in Word, Excel, and InfoPath. Office 12 is really just the next step forward for XML support in Office. There are also some more changes this time: the PowerPoint format is brand new, Excel's format is changing a bit to become for robust and full fidelity, and all three formats will consist of multiple XML parts that are wrapped up in a ZIP container. Office 12 will also continue to support the XML formats from previous versions, so anyone working on solutions with WordprocessingML or SpreadsheetML, those will continue to work.

The FAQ will probably be updated soon and will most likely resemble what I just wrote. I'll try to be more diligent with reviewing the content in the future 🙂


Comments (2)
  1. Andrew says:

    I have a question about these new formats as far as other app compact for example Adobe Acrobat. At the current moment you could not use the current office 12 formats and drop them on Acrobat distiller and have them convert to PDF format. How does MS plan to keep things working with older version of these types of applications ?

  2. BrianJones says:

    Andrew, there are a couple of options for applications that already support the existing binary formats (I think that’s what your question was about). Office 12 will of course continue to support the existing binary formats (.doc, .xls, .ppt), they just won’t be the default format anymore.

    The new XML formats will be significantly easier to work with, and should be viewed as a positive by anyone that wants to build tools that work with the Office formats. We made the announcement about the formats so early in the project cycle so that folks could be prepared. If they want to support the new formats, then they will need to do some work. Otherwise they can continue to use just the binary formats.


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