Article on Proposal for Massachusetts to move to OpenDocument


I just read this article today about Massachusetts wanting to move away from closed formats and standardize on open formats (OpenOffice’s XML and PDF). While it’s not mentioned in the article, from what I’ve been told there is not yet a decision made, rather a proposal brought forward and is under consideration.


I think that a number of the points raised in the article are really great. Moving to document formats that are open, documented, and royalty-free is actually really valuable. I’ve been talking for awhile now about the benefits people will get now that we are moving to open XML formats in the next version of Office. This is really a big deal. The default format for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in Office 12 will be completely open, meaning you aren’t tied into Microsoft software to access your files. They will now totally belong to you and you have control over them. I’m extremely excited about the opportunity this gives to people to build solutions that operate on Office documents and it’s royalty-free (no cost). 


I’m a bit stunned by the overall proposal that was brought forward to the State though as it seems to be a bit short sighted and unnecessarily exclusive. I question why the proposal has this exclusivity given the fact that there has been no thorough research into the open XML formats for Office 12. The reason I say that there hasn’t been thorough research is that we won’t have our first Beta for another couple months, so I doubt they could have looked into it much. If they had, I can’t imagine that they would have made this decision as it actually provides the easiest path of moving from proprietary binary formats into open XML formats.


The Microsoft Office Open XML Formats will work for all those billions of Office documents that already exist today. We are going to provide bulk upgrade converters that allow you to easily convert from the binary formats into the XML formats. Everything that you could represent in the existing binary formats you will be able to represent in XML. This means all features and functionality that people have come to expect from their office products will be stored in XML. This was actually a huge undertaking. The Office applications are very large, and while most people only certain features, each person uses a different set, and in the end all features are used. Trying to lock out those documents and forcing people to lose data and functionality is not really a great idea.


-Brian

Comments (96)

  1. Siva says:

    I read somewhere around the net (cant remember where, now) that the office xml license allows only government produced documents to be read using non-MS software. Correct me if I am wrong…

  2. <p>Something like that, Siva. The XML file format license does not allow developing interoperable programs that are GPL-licensed. Check this <a href="http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1829355,00.asp">eWeek article</a>. If Brian were honest, he would not be as "stunned" and he would see why the proposal is not "unnecessarily exclusive". He could counter the GPL-argument by telling us how it is not a problem, e.g. because there is loads of open-source software that is not GPL-licensed, or by telling us that the XML file format license has been misread by GNU.</p>

    <p>Instead, even though he must be aware of these issues, he ignores them and is "stunned" instead. That uncovers his posting as nothing more than FUD. A person interested in discussion and resolving of issues would aknowledge the other party’s concerns and either give counter-arguments or concede that there are problems left. He did neither.</p>

  3. chris says:

    actually, the fact that feedback from the commonwealth of mass. led to changes in the office 12 xml schema license agreement is mentioned explicitly in the office 12 xml schema faq (http://www.microsoft.com/Office/xml/faq.mspx) indicates to me that Mass. is not being short-sighted and have indeed put a lot of thought and research into which formats and software soltuions they want to use in the future…

  4. Ross says:

    Groklaw are claiming it is now ratified, rather than just being a proposal (http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20050831202118904).

    I think maybe they chose Oasis OpenDocument without evaluating the new Office formats because they want a format that is not mandated by a company with a vested interest. I could be wrong.

    Out of interest is the new XML format going to be the default format for saving files from within Word 12? If not, what is the argument for not doing so?

  5. Um…why would Mass. consider a product and a file spec that is unavailable outside of a tiny number of downloads and a very small number of carefully controlled demos. Outside of Redmond and the Mac BU campus, Office 12 is vapor. You make your decisions on what you have available, not what the king of empty promises is promising.

  6. Perhaps Brain will correct his comments on the "short-sighted" nature of the Massachusetts decision in light of their pre-beta participation in the dicussion of Office 12?

    Or is MS so arrogant to consider any non-MS Office 12 decision to be "short-sighted?" Perhaps it is licensing and schema decisions for Office 12 that are the "short-sighted" ones in this discussion.

  7. Yuri says:

    Patrick,

    Yeah, right, and maybe Bill Gates will correct his FUD about GPL. Last year he showed up at Berkeley and fed the audience the standard line about the impossibility of using GPL in business. What’s most amusing is that one of the microsofties there sounded all sympathetic and promised to investigate this. Yeah, we are still waiting for a correction. 🙂 See http://www.freewisdom.org/gates/

  8. Josh says:

    Ross – yes, the default format for Office will be the open XML format, as stated in every article/press release/mention of the new formats, including this post.

    "The default format for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in Office 12 will be completely open, meaning you aren’t tied into Microsoft software to access your files."

  9. From my blog at this link: http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=1800,

    "My open question for Brian is, can you or will you support and default to OpenDoc instead? That would end the whole controversy? If not, why not? Not only that, is it true that we’ll have to wait for Office 12? With all those programmers in Redmond, surely someone up there in the Pacific NorthWest can write an upgrade for the current versions of Office."

  10. John M says:

    I current work at a vendor selling to state and federal governments; and these questions of interoperability come up in at least half the meetings I go to these days.

    I’m sure in a release or two Office will be supporting standards based documents; because once you get beyond the smallest internal project for a single government agency interoperability across systems so all agencies participating can access the data is practically the most important criteria.

    It’s a shame the current office doesn’t support the standards but I’d bet a lot that the next one will – at least for select customers.

  11. John M says:

    Josh: "the default format for Office will be the open XML format, as stated in every article/press release/mention of the new formats, including this post."

    Most articles I’ve seen point out that

    despite being called "Office Open XML Formats", they’re really closed formats with quite restrictive licenses:

    http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1829355,00.asp

  12. The answer is simple. Just add read/write support for the format. The same way you do for WordPerfect etc.

    Problem solved ! Wasn’t that easy !

    The *only* reason for not doing so would be to prevent interoperability with non-Microsoft software. And I have read many press releases from Microsoft saying how interested you are in interoperability, so you *surely* can’t be suggesting that, can you :-).

    Jeremy Allison,

    Samba Team.

  13. S. Colcord says:

    John M: "…despite being called "Office Open XML Formats", they’re really closed formats with quite restrictive licenses."

    Precisely. Governments should not store the public’s data in a form with potential licensing encumberances. Even if the license grants exceptions for government use, doing so causes Network Effects (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_effect), which give the format an unfair market advantage over its rivals. Since Microsoft has already been proven to possess monopoly power, this is doubly undesirable.

  14. Jay Painter says:

    If Microsoft has no interest in writing the code to support OpenDocument, would MS be willing to enable (by providing the necessary development tools) a group of open source developers to write

    a OpenDocument plugin for Office 12 under a license like the Berkeley Licence? Would MS be willing to include this plugin in Office 12 if it worked well enough?

  15. Anonymous says:

    This is easy to understand:

    1. OpenDocument can be implemented by any developer, using any license, without any restrictions or royalty payments. Microsoft can implement it, as can GPL’ed software.

    2. OpenDocument was developed and maintained by a vendor-neutral standards body (OASIS). Microsoft’s XML format wasn’t, and isn’t.

    Microsoft can choose to do what it likes. But customers want a completely open standard, and if Microsoft fails to provide what its customers want, it shouldn’t be surprised to find out that the customers choose something else. Microsoft can, at any time, choose to implement OpenDocument; it doesn’t need to lose any business. But if Microsoft chooses to ignore the needs of its customers, then it shouldn’t be surprised to find it has lost its customers.

  16. S. Colcord says:

    Brian Jones: "The Office applications are very large, and while most people only certain features, each person uses a different set, and in the end all features are used. Trying to lock out those documents and forcing people to lose data and functionality is not really a great idea."

    I believe this statement is misleading. These people are not "locked out" of their documents. Rather, their documents are "locked in" to Microsoft. If Microsoft truly had these people’s interests at heart, all it needs to do is document those document formats and release all IP claims on them. Then they could be read and written with any program these people wanted.

  17. Rafael says:

    Is there a finishing school that upper management in Microsoft must attend before they can work there?

    I’m sorry but all these MS talking heads with their "unbiased" studies really just end up making me feel nauseated.

    Are these MS drones actually aware of how they sound to the masses? How disconnected from reality they seem?

    All I have to do is read some post by a MS employee and I get a feeling of deja vu, one that reminds me of seeing the press releases of the Iraqi Information Minister.

    As a long time Windows user (certifications, etc…) the only thing that has driven me away from MS based products are MS’s own actions. Imagine that.

  18. BrianJones says:

    Thanks for all the interest. It always excites me to see that this topic isn’t just important to me and that there are a large number of strong opinions out there. I think we can all agree that open documented formats are extremely important. That’s why we did the XML formats in Office 2003, and it’s why we are moving to default XML formats for Office 12. We also made the decision to provide updates for Office 2000, XP, and 2003, so that everyone with those applications can also read and write these new XML formats.

    A number of the questions and concerns raised have already been discussed earlier this summer. You can read this post: (http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/archive/2005/06/13/428655.aspx) if you want to hear more about why we currently aren’t planning to support the OpenOffice format. You can also read this post (http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/archive/2005/06/02/424517.aspx) if you want to know more about the licenses. I think you’ll find if you read the license or the FAQ that it’s pretty sweet.

    I’d love to reply to everyone’s concerns directly, but I’m actually on vacation right now and I’ll get in trouble if I spend too much time online. One of my best friends is getting married on Saturday and we have pre-wedding stuff going on today and tomorrow leading up to the wedding. I guess it was a bad idea making that post the night before heading out, but I had just read the article and wanted to put in my 2 cents. I’ll try to pull together another post early next week. I’ll also be at PDC the entire following week, so if anyone is there please swing by and we can talk about it.

    -Brian

  19. Sean DALY says:

    Long-term archiving of electronic documents in large organizations is a deep concern of many thousands, if not millions of people. I myself run an institutional multimedia database with over 20,000 films and I rely on MPEG standards for the long-term storage of my archives.

    The evidence is overwhelming that Microsoft takes little interest in this problem, placing higher priority on crushing competition by any means available – in particular, secrecy surrounding data formats and interconnection protocols – weapons which, sadly, leave customers and users wondering if they can still access a document from five years ago, let alone twenty or fifty. Poor compatibility with vendor-neutral industry standards – the worst example being Internet Explorer – effectively protect the Microsoft monopolies while creating daily difficulties for people who use software to get things done. Security is awful in Microsoft products precisely because good security post-MS-DOS has not been necessary to build the empire. The bottom line is, people do not trust Microsoft.

    One hundred years from now, this decade will be known as the end of the dark ages of closed, proprietary file formats, protocols, and software. Our descendants will applaud this decision as a milestone in the safeguarding of our documents.

    Sean DALY

  20. Anon says:

    If a document needs to be universally accessible, the rendering application should ALSO be available on most OS platforms freely. Just openness of the format is not enough. Even if government starts distributing Office 12 open XML documents you can’t expect people to go out and spend $$$ to buy Office just to render them when all they have is their cheap Linux PC from Wallmart. This should sufice why Office 12 Open XML formats is no big deal in this space.

  21. tecosystems says:

    Thanks to the efforts of some of the folks from Waggener Edstrom, I’m hopefully going to be speaking with Microsoft about the Massachusetts announcement soon. I’m likely to dig into the second question from my original entry – about potential…

  22. Alfred says:

    There are a lot of comments asking why Microsoft can’t just support the opendocument standard? Brian’s original post answers that in a very obvious way by stating that the OpenDoc standard does not support all of the features of Office. And, again from TFA, sure not ever user uses all of the features of office, but all some features are used by all users. So why shoot yourself in the foot and kill off features that are relied on by a percentage of your user base?

  23. Brian’s answer, that the open document format doesn’t support all the features of Office, is misleading and designed to obfuscate the real issue.

    No one is insisting that Office *always* save in the open document format and that be the default, we just want to see it as an option in the "Save As" dialog box.

    Does Microsoft Word refuse to save as plain Text because it will remove the "advanced formatting information" ? No. In the same way is is also happy to save as RTF. It doesn’t seem to bother you that you’re losing the "advanced formatting information" in that case, so it shouldn’t bother you here either.

    Supporting the open document format would be just another choice for your customers to help promote interoperability. You do remember interoperability don’t you ? You’ve been spending a lot of marketing dollars saying how much you care about it.

    Time to put up or shut up. Add the open document standard as an *option* for your customers.

    Or is your refusal just a smokescreen to protect the monopoly ?

    Jeremy Allison,

    Samba Team.

  24. irtz says:

    What would prevent MS from adding in a save as option for the openDoc format, but to do a botched job of conforming to standards such that openoffice.org does not render properly, but when this same file is opened in word it will open properly? It seems this would be trivial to implement and could muddy the opendocument standard in the same way that html used on the web is far from the open standard it was meant to be (with both old netscape and MS introducing extensions and non-standard rendering of pages)

  25. AC says:

    Oh Brian come on…if you intended this blog to be a propaganda site why’d you bother (besides getting paid to do so)? You say you are stunned that the government would choose an open standard, why aren’t you stunned at all the documents locked into MS Word that can’t be accessed unless you a) Pay for Windows or pay for Apple and b) pay for Office. Not everyone has $500+ to throw around just to open up a document sent to them. Why don’t you implement the OpenDoc format? No one is stopping you, unline people who would have to implement your standard. You’re quick to point off to that FAQ, but last I checked that FAQ doesn;t have a statement by your lawyers saying that your format is compatible with the GPL. Sure FSF lawyers might say that it’s compatible, but you can always argue and win in court later by saying they aren’t. If instead you guys say that it is, then you can calm and reassure everyone that they won’t be sued into the ground by implementing your doc. But you won’t do that of course, because your aim is not interoperability.

  26. Crux says:

    They have chosen to endorse OPEN standards instead of Microsoft’s idea of what an open standard should be (hint: cost-free is necessary but certainly not sufficient).

    Microsoft’s ‘open’ formats might be technically superior but the govt shouldn’t have to rely on Microsoft alone (obviously you don’t feel that way, but almost everyone else does). If your license isn’t ‘use this info for any purpose whatsoever, yes, even for Free and Open Source software’, then it isn’t good enough.

    The cost (both in freedom and in money) of ease of migration AWAY from current tools is now a major part of the decision portfolio of any responsible IT management, and you’ll just have to deal with it instead of whining.

  27. Eduardo says:

    Brian says that Microsoft’s XML is open. Others dispute this, but even if it is so, it doesn’t solve the problem.

    What is to stop Microsoft from deciding that Office 13 will go back to a completely closed format?

    Remember how Microsoft swore on a stack of bibles that it would never produce a closed version of Kerberos, and then one day, with no warning, they did it?

    Or how about how Microsoft signed a contract with Sun to produce a cross-platform version of Java, and then purposely made it Windows only?

    Most people learn by, say, age 6 that if you want people to trust you, you have to act in a trustworthy manner. Microsoft executives seem to have never learned this lesson.

  28. Joe says:

    First I want to say sorry for all of the sites that are complaining about you. Personally I think it is a bad idea for mass. to switch from office. First office is a standard, most people have office, and most people know how to use it. Switching to another system is going to be more then a nightmare, it is a train reck waiting to happen.

  29. John M says:

    Brian in a posting wrote: "I think we can all agree that open documented formats are extremely important. That’s why we did the XML formats in Office 2003"

    1. Nice careful choice of words! Although you say "we can all agree that open documented formats are extremely important" it’s too bad that Microsoft can’t agree that "open formats are important". While I applaud your open publication of the document describing the format, you miss the point that an open format is what people – especially large organizations where interoperablility is important – really want.

    2. And you’re missing the point about doing XML formats in 2003. No one really gives a damn that it’s xml so long as it’s patent-encumbered XML with licences restricting your largest competitors from interoperating with it. If you guys had created an open format instead of just putting "Open" in the name of the format, the whole industry – including Lotus and Open Office would be supporting you. Instead you choose to play in your own sandbox locking yourselves out of markets with cross-platform needs.

    No doubt this will help extract upgrade revenue out of your existing customers; so I suppose you do have a fiduciary responsibility to your shareholders to do this — but long term you’re really just helping the competition with these games.

  30. Craig Ringer says:

    It seems both "sides" to this have different views on what’s an acceptable license for an open document format.

    It may well be a good idea for some MS folks to try to get in touch with some OO.o developers, and discuss what problems with the current license would prevent them from implementing it. If there is an honest desire for interoperability and openness with the Office XML formats, this would make sense. OO.o folks are fairly easy to contact on the OpenOffice mailing lists and on IRC, so this is not an especially difficult proposition.

    Currently, there are open questions about:

    (a) GPL compatibility

    (b) whether any patents would require each end user or developer to execute a license with Microsoft (royalty free or otherwise)

    (c) whether Microsoft legally guarantees to make new licenses available perpetually under the same terms as currently offered (this is *not* the same as giving a perpetual but non-transferable license to an individual)

    Microsoft has no shortage of lawyers, and there are people who are experts in common Open Source licenses who would be happy to help with anything they needed to know about those licenses. Given this, it seems likely that Microsoft’s unwillingness to state in clear terms that:

    (a) The license is GPL compatible; and

    (b) that the license and any associated patent licenses, present or future, are transferable and redistributable without restriction; or

    (c) that Microsoft offers an implicit (ie no explicit execution of the license with microsoft required) license to any user of their technology, under perpetual, royalty free terms

    … tends to suggest a lack of desire in Microsoft to make those issues clear, and imply that Microsoft does not intend the above to be the case.

    In particular, the phrase "We are acknowledging that end users who merely open and read government documents that are saved as Office XML files within software programs will not violate the license" appears to bother a lot of people. If the license is truly open, why is this exception necessary – and why does it explicitly mention *government* documents? Who is an "end user"? Does the end user have the right to edit and redistribute those documents? etc.

    I suspect that if Microsoft is interested in seeing preferred adoption of its formats, rather than alternatives such as the OASIS OpenDocument format, better communication with those who care about licenses and formats – particularly governments and open source developers – may be necessary.

    I can’t speak for their current communication with governments, but communication to the public (and thus OSS developers) leaves much to be desired in terms of clarity and explicitness.

    I have a personal interest in this, as I do open source development on a desktop publishing application in my spare time, and the ability to import the Microsoft formats would be of interest. This would be impossible, however, without explicit confirmation of GPL compatibility (most OSS projects do *not* have a lawyer to examine these issues). We’d also need explicit confirmation that we could distribute the import support without requiring our users, or anybody who wishes to further modify and distribute our code, to directly take out a license with Microsoft. Without those guarantees, it becomes impossible to distribute code implementing the Microsoft formats under the terms of the MS license under the same license as the rest of the application, and imposes considerable difficulties on distributors who wish to include the application as part of a larger package.

    I am extremely interested in seeing some clear and honest communication about these issues. I can be reached with the email address craig@postnewspapers.com.au . I am in personal contact with some of the OpenOffice team, though I haven’t discussed these issues in detail with folks at OO.o. I can get any required contact details within the OpenOffice team that may be required to help you open discussion with the OO.o project on these issues.

    I realise that you, Brian, are a developer on the Office team, rather than a lawyer and policy maker. I would be surprised, however, if you were not in a position to get in contact with Microsoft Legal rather easily if required, or to forward enquiries like this one to people who are in a position to act.

    I’ve sent this by email as well.

  31. BWAHAHAHA says:

    You deserve this! I hope its followed by govts around the world.

    You now have 3 choices:

    1)Open up your own doc formats completely (put them essentially in the public domain) with a guarantee that they will remain so in perpetuity.

    2)Just implement OpenDocument filters already!

    3)Lobby/bribe local politicians, give local schools ‘free’ Microsoft software, etc.

    Gee, I wonder what you’ll choose? Enjoy climbing the greasy pole.

  32. TanNg says:

    They have 4 choice

    4) Dont sell Office to Massachuset. Lets them use OpenOffice and fail. Massachuset will be a symbol of failure. Case of competitor failure is very effective marketing tool.

    ————-

    You now have 3 choices:

    1)Open up your own doc formats completely (put them essentially in the public domain) with a guarantee that they will remain so in perpetuity.

    2)Just implement OpenDocument filters already!

    3)Lobby/bribe local politicians, give local schools ‘free’ Microsoft software, etc.

  33. doolittle says:

    —————–

    Quote:TanNg

    They have 4 choice

    4) Dont sell Office to Massachuset. Lets them use OpenOffice and fail. Massachuset will be a symbol of failure. Case of competitor failure is very effective marketing tool.

    —————-

    MS is a business, and businesses like to make money. Lots of money. They fear mass. w/o office will not fail. The mass. gov’t is simply setting up a scenario to where they are not locked in to ms office, so if and when a time comes to cut an IT budget MS Office will get the axe and not any mass. gov’t employees.

    I recall reading about a Wisconsin school system that had a desktop computer in every room, and MS reps forced them to renew the os license. The WI-DOE responded to the increased costs with "we will remove MS and install linux" and the MS reps were in shock. Overall it was better for WI since they didn’t have to let any teachers go jobless just to renew software licenses.

  34. Rob says:

    I’d give a little more credibility to this if it wasn’t all air. All very nice to talk about how ‘open’ Microsoft’s format is, and how MA ‘locking in’ users by requesting open standards, but please provide;

    1) evidence that Microsoft’s definition of ‘open’ permits usage unencumbered by license terms incompatible with open-source competitors,

    2) a list of all competitor’s software currently using Microsoft’s ‘open’ ‘standard’,

    3) an explanation of how an open, unencumbered by patent or license issues, freely distributable and standards compliant format is ‘exclusive’,

    4) why you would even care, given that Microsoft was specifically offered a chance to provide a truly open solution, and declined to do so.

    As long as Microsoft continues with their attitude that being a monopoly constitutes a ‘standard’ and the rest of the world simply should follow along like good little sheep, then they will continue to garner skepticism, and reasonable people will continue to look for alternatives to vendor-lockin. Multi-billion dollar cash reserves may be very good at buying media coverage to preach FUD, but it doesn’t guarantee that people will believe it. Please search google for wisdom regarding leading horses to water…

  35. Eduardo says:

    Folks, this is frustrating, but let’s remember that we are winning and Microsoft is losing. For decades, Microsoft has kept its formats closed because it was essential for maintaining their monopoly. And for decades users passively accepted this.

    Now many users have wised up and are insisting on open formats. Microsoft is threatened by this and so they have responded with a new format they say is open but is really closed. Massachusets saw through the trick and decided for genuine open standards. No doubt many other organizations will do likewise. This puts Microsoft a tight spot. If it stays closed, then many organizations will switch over to OpenOffice. If it makes its formats truly open, then non-MS software will be able to read and write them, and organizations will wonder why they need Office. In the long term, Micrsoft is going to be forced to switch to true open formats.

    Much of Microsoft’s success is due to its having fooled people into doing things they wouldn’t choose if they were better informed. However, this strategy is beginning to fail. People are catching onto Microsoft’s tricks, and they are aware there are more and more alternatives available.

    The fact that a high-level Microsoft executive like Brian would try to mislead people about open formats indicates to me that the company has not yet woken up to the fact that they can’t fool people like they have in the past.

  36. TanNg says:

    Remember IT application is both profit center and cost center. When you look at it as cost center you will want to cut cost, but when you look at it as profit center you will want to spent at product that allow you to increase your productivity.

    You, opensource jealots think that opensouce application will get better if you criticize Microsoft? No, it will get better only if you devote your time and resource to improve opensource application. Competition is about creating value, not destroying value of other.

    That is the office applications but not document format will help you to increase your knowledge worker productivity. Massachusette will fail, because it decided to exclude best player from the game. Their productivity will be lowered because of

    — Low quanlity office software used.

    — Heavy cost on

    — Heavy migration cost

    If Massachuset really want to use open document format and still care about their productivity

    I suggest that they should

    — Use MS office as office application to keep high productivty

    — Hire a company or opensource project that develop plug-in that allow MS office save docuement in OASIS format

    — Use OASIS format as default document format

    — Fostering widely OASIS document plug-in

    That way they can hit MS but not hurt their productivity themself. Massachusette CIO must be fired for his short sighted mindset.

  37. TanNg says:

    Massachuset will not die without MS office, but they will lost their productivity. And it would be great marketing case for Microsoft againts OpenOffice. I know your big desire to kill Microsoft, but to kill a 800 pound Gorrilla you should have more than desire, you must be smart.

    Do you remember Munich? Now their voice is lowered. Do you know IBM? They definitely hate Microsft more than you, but still not drop MS office. So, open source dreammer join the real world, you cannot change it until you are in it.

    ————————–

    quote: doolittle

    MS is a business, and businesses like to make money. Lots of money. They fear mass. w/o office will not fail. The mass. gov’t is simply setting up a scenario to where they are not locked in to ms office, so if and when a time comes to cut an IT budget MS Office will get the axe and not any mass. gov’t employees.

  38. Pete says:

    ‘Open’ standards controlled by one organisation when that organisation has a virtual monoploy do not actually help anyone.

    With the R&D budget of Microsoft you take MSOffice XML version 1, publish the ‘standards’ when the product is released. By the time the rest of the industry has caught up MS brings out version 2, and office 14, which is subtley incompatible – but of course to the benefit of new features that everyone needs.

    No other organisation, open source or not, stands a chance of implementing the moving target of these ‘open’ formats.

    Open means a lot more than published and freeley available. To be useful people are overlooking the fact that they can’t be solely controlled by the one organisation that dominates the industry.

  39. Abom88 says:

    PDF = Open??

    Since when is Adobe PDF and open file format? You have to have a license to their SDK to write to it and I *think* that unlike the Office XML it is not free of fees on the license. PDF is extremly closed. It seems like the state of Mass just has something against Microsoft in saying they are open selecting XML but then being closed in using PDF.

  40. Craig Ringer says:

    Abom88, I think you may be mistaken with regards to PDF.

    There are many programs that write to PDF without any license I’m aware of. They include OpenOffice.org, GhostScript (http://ghostscript.com), Scribus (http://www.scribus.net), and many many more.

    PDF is certainly royalty free, and the specifications are open to the world. In particular, (I’m no lawyer, but as far as I know) you don’t need to execute a license with Adobe to work with the PDF format.

    That said, PDF *is* strictly under the control of Adobe and only Adobe. Even so, I’m very happy with the format, and I can easily believe MA’s decision that it qualifies as an open format for their needs. Adobe’s licensing is liberal enough to make that judgement sensible.

    I’d be happy enough to see Office XML licensed under similar terms – unless I’ve misunderstood something about the PDF license, in which case I’m in trouble because I work on apps that produce PDF 😉

  41. John says:

    It seems that this is being blown out of proportion.

    Truth of the matter is Office Viewers have always existed will continue to exist and they are free to anyone. You just cannot "edit" the document.

    .PDF’s same thing. They belong to Adobe and the reader is "free" however, to edit or change you need to purchase Adobe Acrobat.

    So as a file format, true it belongs to Microsoft but that has not prevented anybody from viewing the documents. The viewers are free.

    This is more of an issue of one point over another not the practicle truth of the condition.

    Further, converters have existed for MANY MANY years. The problem has always been the capability of one product over another. I.e, if one product can embed an image and another cant then how do you "conver" more importantly it means that one product is not as powerful as another.

    Therein lies the true issue. Would you consider Mainframes and their data propriety I dont see many people accessing govt mainframe computers.

    You can save as a .TXT file but why dont people the format is not robust enough…

    This is just a power play between two entities.

  42. Francois says:

    Dear Brian,

    You wrote:

    "They will now totally belong to you and you have control over them."

    This has to be understood as "until then, they dont ?"

    Interesting!

    Regards,

    F

  43. Wow, there were a ton of great comments on my last post. While there were a large number of them, there…

  44. Tom says:

    The dyas of Microsoft giving everyone the shaft are soon to be over. I dont know if you fine folks who work for the EVIL Empire know this or not but, WE ARE SICK OF THE STUPID CRAP………I use Linux and im FREE to do what ever the hell I want to do.. I’m sure there are IDIOTS in this world who need there hand held, and for you *shits* to feed them crap. I’m not one of these people.

    Linux = Freedom

    M$ = Lock-in and distrust!

    Vista = Virus,Instability,Spyware,Trojans,Adware

  45. Smitty says:

    If I understand this correctly, there is nothing open about the Office 12 format. Microsoft has applied for and received a patent for the XML format. MS Office supports many formats that do not support all of the office 12 features such as Word 2002, 2000, 97, WordPerfect, Text, RTF, etc. You get the point. Mass. State is not asking them to make OpenDocument the default format, just to support it as in save to and open from. Office already opens from and saves to other formats that do not support all of the office 12 features and they always have in the past. So why exclude the OpenDoc format? The reason is supporting OpenDoc further legitimizes the Open Source / Open Standards community and Microsoft views this as a threat.

    The patent they have on their xml office 12 format gives them a loaded weapon that they can pull out and kill any threat (open source / open standards software) that needs to read that format in order to give people alternatives.

    Microsoft will allow only non-threatening software to use the format and license the open source community or any other competition out of the Office 12 arena.

    The whole xml thing in MS Office is a clever scheme to appear open, take the attention away from the importance of OpenDocument formats, and actually exclude software that is truely open from using their patented format.

  46. Michael says:

    You claim that MS Office XML is an open document format superior to OASIS open document format because MS Office XML is able include all features of MS Office.

    Is it not so, that to be able to do that MS Office XML uses embeded binary information which requires specific components from MS Office to display – in technical terms deserialize?

    With the above in mind how can you then say that MS Office XML is an open document format? Are you ready to open the specifications for how MS Office XML embed

    extended features and how it should be deserialized?

    Have you ever tried open an RTF formated document which have embeded extended "features" beyound the RTF specifications in any other RTF complying application?

    If you have you would know that this is not possible onless you have MS Office installed are thereby making this format useless as a way of exchanging documents.

    My guess is that history will repeat itself and that MS Office XML will end up like MS RTF: A promise to the world of interoperability but when the next version of MS Office see the light of day you have added features to the format which breaks interoperability.

  47. Wesley Parish says:

    A detail, minor, perhaps. Rob said:

    "I’d give a little more credibility to this if it wasn’t all air. All very nice to talk about how ‘open’ Microsoft’s format is, and how MA ‘locking in’ users by requesting open standards, but please provide; […]

    2) a list of all competitor’s software currently using Microsoft’s ‘open’ ‘standard’, "

    OpenDocument isn’t just used by OpenOffice.org. Its xml-and-zip-based predecessor is available for OpenOffice.org’s competitors such as AbiWord and KWord. It can even be implemented on that greatest of all Macintosh word processors, Nisus, and if you were dedicated enough and had the source, on Claris’ MacWord. Ditto for Wordperfect 5.1, still the ultimate DOS wordprocessor, and even Wordstar, if that pulls your chain!

    That’s what I call an Open Standard. But, a "standard" that only one company can fully implement, one that relies of gotchas in its license, doesn’t strike me as Open in any way worth considering. It does however, strike me as being absurdly mystical where it should be practical, and invites comparison to the Tumblebug in one of James Branch Cabell’s hilarious Poictesme novels, the "Biography of the Life of Manuel" – not "Figures of Earth", not "The Silver Stallion", I think it was in "Jurgen". Anyway, you’d know if you’ve read the aforementioned books, just what I was alluding to, and you’d quite possibly be angry … 😉

  48. Wesley Parish says:

    Ah, yes, "The Judging of Jurgen":

    Now a court was held by the Philistines to decide whether or no King Jurgen should be relegated to limbo. And when the judges were prepared for judging, there came into the court a great tumblebug, rolling in front of him his loved and properly housed young ones. With the creature came pages, in black and white, bearing a sword, a staff and a lance.

    The insect looked at Jurgen, and its pincers rose erect in horror. The bug cried to the three judges, Now, by St. Anthony!1 this Jurgen must forthwith be relegated to limbo, for he is offensive and lewd and lascivious and indecent.

    And how can that be? says Jurgen.

    You are offensive, the bug replied, because this page has a sword which I chose to say is not a sword. You are lewd because that page has a lance which I prefer to think is not a lance. You are lascivious because yonder page has a staff which I elect to declare is not a staff. And finally, you are indecent for reasons of which a description would be objectionable to me, and which therefore I must decline to reveal to anybody.

    Well, that sound logical, says Jurgen, but still, at the same time, it would be no worse for an admixture of commonsense. For you gentlemen can see for yourselves, by considering these pages fairly and as a whole, that these pages bear a sword and a lance and a staff, and nothing else whatever; and you will deduce, I hope, that all the lewdness is in the insectival mind of him who itches to be calling these things by other names.

    The judges said nothing as yet. But they that guarded Jurgen, and all the other Philistines, stood to this and to that side with their eyes shut tight, and all these said: We decline to look at the pages fairly and as a whole, because to look might seem to imply a doubt of what the tumblebug has decreed. Besides, as long as the tumblebug has reasons which he declines to reveal, his reasons stay unanswerable, and you are plainly a prurient rascal who are making trouble for yourself.

    To the contrary, says Jurgen, I am a poet, and I make literature.

    But in Philistia to make literature and to make trouble for yourself are synonyms, the tumblebug explained. I know, for already we of Philistia have been pestered by three of these makers of literature. Yes, there was Edgar, whom I starved and hunted until I was tired of it: then I chased him up a back alley one night, and knocked out those annoying brains of his. And there was Walt, whom I chivvied and battered from place to place, and made a paralytic of him: and him, too, I labelled offensive and lewd and lascivious and indecent. Then later there was Mark, whom I frightened into disguising himself in a clown’s suit, so that nobody might suspect him to be a maker of literature: indeed, I frightened him so that he hid away the greater part of what he had made until after he was dead, and I could not get at him. That was a disgusting trick to play on me, I consider. Still, these are the only three detected makers of literature that have ever infested Philistia, thanks be to goodness and my vigilance, but for both of which we might have been no more free from makers of literature than are the other countries.

    Now, but these three, cried Jurgen, are the glory of Philistia: and of all that Philistia has produced, it is these three alone, whom living ye made least of, that today are honored wherever art is honored, and where nobody bothers one way or the other about Philistia.

    What is art to me and my way of living? replied the tumblebug, wearily. I have no concern with art and letters and the other lewd idols of foreign nations. I have in charge the moral welfare of my young, whom I roll here before me, and trust with St. Anthony’s aid to raise in time to be Godfearing tumblebugs like me, delighting in what is proper to their nature. For the rest, I have never minded dead men being wellspokenof. No, no, my lad: once whatever I may do means nothing to you, and once you are really rotten, you will find the tumblebug friendly enough. Meanwhile I am paid to protest that living persons are offensive and lewd and lascivious and indecent, and one must live.

    Then the Philistines who stood to this side and to that side said in indignant unison: And we, the reputable citizenry of Philistia, are not at all in sympathy with those who would take any protest against the tumblebug as a justification of what they are pleased to call art. The harm done by the tumblebug seems to us very slight, whereas the harm done by the selfstyled artist may be very great.

    Jurgen now looked more attentively at this queer creature: and he saw that the tumblebug was malodorous, certainly, but at bottom honest and wellmeaning; and this seemed to Jurgen the saddest thing he had found among the Philistines. For the tumblebug was sincere in his insane doings, and all Philistia honored him sincerely, so that there was nowhere any hope for this people.

    Therefore King Jurgem addressed himself, as his need was, to submit to the strange customs of the Philistines. Now do you judge me fairly, cried Jurgen to his Judges, if there be any justice in this mad country. And if there be none, do you relegate me to limbo or to any other place, so long as in that place this tumblebug is not omnipotent and sincere and insane.

    And Jurgen waited…

  49. john says:

    *I question why the proposal has this exclusivity given the fact that there has been no thorough research into the open XML formats for Office 12. *

    The answer to that is simple and one that MA full recognizes. Microsoft has the tendency to take any "standard" and make it incompatible with the original.

    Your question is wrong. The question should be why shouldn’t Microsoft be expected to comply 100% with a standard ? You know the answer.

  50. Hop says:

    This argument is not about applications. It’s about a document format. An open document format does not prevent one from using Microsoft products. If Microsoft supported a truly open document format, there wouldn’t be much of a reason left for Mass. not to use MS Office, would there? It’s a no-brainer for Microsoft to include an open document format, unless Microsoft is really attempting to lock-out competition, but we already knew that, didn’t we?

  51. office says:

    Brian when you say:

    "I’m Brian Jones, a program manager in Office"

    Its very confusing. There are many other office suites. Could I suggest saying "Microsoft Office".

  52. David Sherman says:

    I think that the State of MA wants this standard is to open up their files/records to the that live and do business in MA.

    Open Standards means Open Records. The only reason to adopt this standard is help the folks in MA have better government.

  53. mash_morgan says:

    $ms is like a prostitute…

    Legs wide "open"…tempting u to come in and then … bang .. you owe me cash…

    Not that I have any experience with prostututes ;-?

  54. SM says:

    >>Friday, September 02, 2005 10:41 AM by TanNg

    They have 4 choice

    4) Dont sell Office to Massachuset. Lets them use OpenOffice and fail. Massachuset will be a symbol of failure. Case of competitor failure is very effective marketing tool.<<

    You are not Microsoft’s Windows OEM licensing manager by any chance are you? This is a strikingly similar strategy to Microsoft’s OEM licensing policy which got Microsoft a criminal conviction.

    It won’t work in this case though. I’ve used both and OpenOffice is better than MS Office. No macro viruses either, and Massachusetts will save a bootload of money, and be able to offer customers a free fully functional reader/writer as well.

  55. From_HERE says:

    Some one said Massachuset CIO must be fired for losses on productivity that means money for the gov. But who will pay for the MS liceses?? That’s the one who must be fired for the all that money spent, by the way the Massachuset citizens money. And finally its not about productivity but interoperabillity: if I were a Massachuset citizen do I must buy an MS Office to read a gov document? or if I have a complain do i must write it on MS Office? Massachuset gov can not put a lock on users freedom.

    (sorry for my english…)

  56. Tom says:

    "Truth of the matter is Office Viewers have always existed will continue to exist and they are free to anyone. You just cannot "edit" the document."

    "So as a file format, true it belongs to Microsoft but that has not prevented anybody from viewing the documents. The viewers are free. "

    True today because of reverse engineering. But it won’t be true tomorrow with a file format containing a encrypted patent schema. And the free viewers in the OSS world are not perfect. There are formating problems often. Is that your idea of a viewer?

    These "free" commercially produced viewers you’re talking about only work on Windows platform. And you had to buy a license for that. Now will Microsoft write a "free" viewer for my *BSD or Linux box now or in the future? Hardly think so.

  57. Samalander says:

    I’m stunned that anyone at Microsoft could be stunned by the Massachusetts announcement.

    Brian says "I’ve been talking for awhile now about the benefits people will get now that we are moving to open XML formats in the next version of Office." The problem of course is that noone who has had to deal with Microsft products in the cocumnetation arena for the last 20 years belives that Microsoft can be "open", even if they say they are open. The usual Microsoft excuse for lacking openness is that they are doing us all a favor by "extending" capability. Everyone of the extensions locks out the competetion and transforms what would have been an open standard to a closed proprietary format that noone else can penetrate.

    Why is this impression so strong? In my humble experience with a major corporation when my responsibility included publishing 5 million pages to the web every year, MS’s version of an improved HTML was an unnecessary deviation away from something that worked, to a proprietary format. Ditto ASP, ditto VB in documents, etc. etc. etc.

    It would be nice to believe that Office 12’s XML will be always readable by OpenOffice, KOffice, StarOffice, but previous painful expensive experience indicates to me that some sort of MS improvement will make that impossible. It wold be somewhat more beleivable if Office itself was capable of being OS independent — but that’s ridiculous isn’t it — which means that if we want to bet on interoperability and adherence to standards, we have to bet against MS Office 12.

    I mean, given a continuing loss in market share in office apps, who cann believe, based on 20 years of MS imposed pain, that MS Office 13 would be truly open even if version 12 was?

    To much money involved, too much previous experience, to much pain and suffering: I for one cannot afford to believe the anything MS says about being "open".

    I’ll wait until MS Office 15 or 16 and see if a random sample of 20 to 100,000 pages in that format can be opened, validated, and proven to be open before considering the next question: is MS Office worth the price? How exactly? For how many people in the organization? What will it cost me to cope with the very small number of people who need this or that feature that is not supported by the OpenDoc standard in a competing Office suite?

    Guess Microsoft should’a fixed the list numbering problem in Word ’95 and made it possible to get stuff in and out of PowerPoint ’95. It’s a little late to change tunes now.

  58. Eduardo says:

    Hey, guess what, Microsoft condemns OpenDoc as grossly inferior, but it’s a member of the group that developed it!

    http://www.theinquirer.org/?article=25933

    Brian, how about an explanation of this?

  59. tuco says:

    FTA: "They will now totally belong to you and you have control over them. I’m extremely excited about the opportunity this gives to people to build solutions that operate on Office documents and it’s royalty-free (no cost)."

    Brian

    We’ll never see eye-to-eye on this subject. You see an "open" file format from Microsoft. I see a file format with a patented XML schema and "royalty-free" license that only applies to applications which render MS formats according to Microsoft’s specification.

    Yes, I suppose in the Microsoft sphere that is your idea of "free", "open" and the user owning the file. It certainly isn’t mine.

    Now why does Microsoft worry about supporting an additional file format? Why does being "inferior" matter? MS supports plain text which is obviously "inferior". If you have a good product, you don’t have to worry about all this legal mumbo-jumbo surrounding the file format. People will use Microsofts products if they truly win in the market place. And if you’re concerned that because FOSS has no initial cost to the customer and that bars normal competition, then you should relaize that a product of this nature is now a commodity.

  60. Rick Stockton says:

    If Microsoft wants to be open, you are certainly free to offer COMPLETE documentation of your file formats — without licensing restrictions. But, while you offer a license without a charge in $$$$, it is highly restricted.

    How "Open" is your XML when you continue to hide everthing in undocumented Binary Elements? How "Free" is your license, when licensees are required to keep track of each individual distribution of their programs, and can’t allow recipients to re-modify this code and distribute their changes?

    The answers are clear. Massachusetts has challenged Microsoft to provide complete documentation of its data formats without restriction (as several competitors do). And, Massachusetts has even taken a great deal of time to discuss their concerns with you in person, rather than mail you an RFP.

    There are obvious financial reasons why Microsoft may choose to continue with the current policy… A policy of NOT providing its data formats without onerous licensing terms. Massachusetts has determined that storing data in such formats, based on restricted licenses which can change at the whim of the vendor, is not in the public interest.

    You should try to meet their needs. Open your formats, with *complete* documentation of all contents, without any restrictions on use of those formats. And guarantee that no restrictions will be imposed at any future time.

    That’s what the competitors do. Can you do as well?

  61. Rick Stockton says:

    Adobe publishes the complete specification for PDF documents, and AFAIK doesn’t impose ANY restrictions on the use of that information. The software under discussion here, Microsoft Office, creates PDF output files (for Word Documents and Excel Spreadsheets) at the touch of a button. OpenOffice.org can do it to. A large number of non-Adobe programs (xpdf, etc.) can view them.

    Lots of these programs (e.g., XPDF) are GPL licensed, allowing you to modify the code and distribute your modifications per the GPL.

    Were you just guessing?

  62. Just my two pennies worth from the UK….

    I have worked on space programmes using the NASA Planetary Data Systems standards, they are about long term archiving of science data (for all mankind etc if you want to be dramatic…). They do not allow use of MS Office formats. The basic common denominators are text, and comma seperated value (CSV) type file formats. A while ago PDF was ratified as being "open" enough for inclusion as a "supplementary" format, the same data still has to be saved as .txt for example. So MS stubborn behaviour on this is locking them out of academic efforts on long term digital archiving.

    My University is different from most, we are a distance learning institution, so for us the production of course materials using XML as a native format is a big deal – we can render as required to PDF, HTML whatever we need to publish the information via a specific channel. We tested MS XML a la Office 2003, and decided it was not an option. Instead we worked, initially with MS, and finally with consultants to produce a customised version of Word that saves native XML as per or own XML schema’s. This customisation was done using MS developer tools and public domain documentation. So if we can do it (an UK Universities do not have big budgets) then certainly MS could probably write an OpenDocument XML filter in fairly short order. If they wanted to……..

  63. Lars Hansen says:

    For me it is very simple.

    As a person employed in the IT business, I want to make sure that our data is not locked down in a proprietary format, so that we can read and manipulate our data, across platforms.

    As a citizen, I want to be able to communicate with my government, no matter if I have MS Office installed or not, and no matter what OS I might be using.

    Rather than dealing with a bunch of proprietary communication protocols, we TCP/IP has wisely become the defacto protocol. Even if TCP/IP clearly has its shortcommings.

    In the end the market will decide, that commoditized fileformats is the only way to go. With or without the help of Microsoft…..

  64. tecosystems says:

    Although I promised you a summary of what I discussed with Microsoft last Friday, much of it’s already been told – if not discussed. Like CRN’s Paula Rooney, I got the chance to connect with Microsoft’s Alan Yates (GM of…

  65. Walter says:

    You can fool some of the people all of the Time

    And all of the people some of the time

    But you cant fool All of the people All of the Time.

    I think it was "Abe Lincon" said that!

    w

  66. Hans Bezemer says:

    Well, I haven’t been using MS Office in years and my productivity has only boosted. Using LyX I can write and let the computer take care of the layout. LyX’es format is plain ASCII. Pretty portable as far as I am concerned. It is quite small as well. My documents are printed in PDF, PostScript, ASCII, HTML. It works quite well for me. I don’t have any crashes, my documents aren’t bloathed and images stay where they are. I remember that being very different with MS Office.

    Open Office I use only when having to work in an MS environment. Productivity is about the same as with MS Office, I don’t see any significant difference (apart from the crashes).

    All in all, I don’t think Massachusetts will fail as some suggested. Take a look at the many posters here: http://blogs.pcworld.com/techlog/archives/000857.html

    They didn’t fail! I guess some of the posters here never worked with OO.o or any FOSS software for any length of time. I have. Over five years it is now. It was like someone gave me my computer back. And this brings me to my final point.

    It isn’t and never has been in the interest of Microsoft to relinquish control on *any* aspect of their product portfolio. So why should they now? As a matter of fact, all you see lately if quite the reverse: productkeys being checked all the time, constant changing of SMB to shake off Samba. And Microsoft has a nice history to go with as well, remember Novell, Stack, DR, etc. etc. The list is endless..!

    I trust you once, I trust you twice, I don’t trust you anymore. Beware of Romulans bearing gifts…

    Hans

  67. David Laufnick says:

    The willfull ignorance is astounding. Why do MS employees pretend they don’t understand what people want? This is not about using the word "open" in the format name, it is about BEING open to use and modification.

    The standard line of MS BS is right on track.

    Rember as kids they tell us "it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game"?

    MS is not playing in a way that can be looked upon in any good light. The willful ignorance of MS executives and mouthpieces is pathetic and only fools the pointiest headed.

  68. Marbux says:

    Brian, if you truly do not understand what is wrong with the Microsoft Office 2003 XML Schemas license in the context of government procurement contracts, you might take a look at my in-depth analysis at <http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20050330133833843&gt;.

    In summary, Massachusetts would violate the international Agreement on Government Procurement should it approve Microsoft’s restrictive license.

  69. Michael Munsell says:

    I am not surprised at the decision as "thoughtless" as it is. Remember Massachusetts is a state that continues to re-elect a murderer and a drunk, a BX sailor and a fraud, a member of the dark side and a communist, and condones gay marriage.

  70. SPM says:

    >>>I am not surprised at the decision as "thoughtless" as it is. Remember Massachusetts is a state that continues to re-elect a murderer and a drunk, a BX sailor and a fraud, a member of the dark side and a communist, and condones gay marriage.<<<

    And what sort of immoral and corrupt organisation would buy from a convicted felon, racketeer, and unrepentant serial offender like Microsoft Corporation, and lock in access to it’s entire information base to the mercy this convicted felon who shows every intent to repeat it’s criminal activities again, pray tell?

  71. SM says:

    >>>I am not surprised at the decision as "thoughtless" as it is. Remember Massachusetts is a state that continues to re-elect a murderer and a drunk, a BX sailor and a fraud, a member of the dark side and a communist, and condones gay marriage.<<<

    And what sort of immoral and corrupt organisation would buy from a convicted felon, racketeer, and unrepentant serial offender like Microsoft Corporation, and lock in access to it’s entire information base to the mercy this convicted felon who shows every intent to repeat it’s criminal activities again, pray tell?

  72. Paul says:

    >>> We are going to provide bulk upgrade converters that allow you to easily convert from the binary formats into the XML formats

    Are you going to provide full documentation for those formats, in case Massachusetts decides to stop using MicroSoft products?

    Are you going to ensure there are free programs for reading and writing those documents, so as to avoid barring poor people from interacting with their government?

    Are you going to ensure that the format will be wholly free of IP entanglements, so the state can use its information to interact with its citizens as it sees fit?

    Unless you can give a hearty "Yes" to all of those questions, it really doesn’t matter what your new format is going to be like—it will not be what the state needs or wants.

    Get used to it – it’s likely other governments will follow suit.

  73. Kadin says:

    I just think it is SO funny that NOBODY AT FREAKIN’ ALL likes Microsoft. It’s not surprising at all, but it is definitely funny.

  74. Vlad Kissler says:

    Interesting how I see all these cries about the supposed lost productivity when moving from Office.

    While it’s true that VBA won’t work outside of MS Office, most government offices have those features turned off (and remember the macro virii?)

    But back to the point, I was recently at a site and the secretary (who had been using MS Office for years) had an issue with MS Word switching to a greek symbol font (or automatically translating the text to greek symbols instead of english characters) it wasn’t a font issue alone, since switching the font to Arial just gave square blocks.

    The answer, (which increased her productivity)?

    Open Office 1.9 (Beta for 2.0) I set the default save as to MS Word 97 and she’s been able to work again. This was in an office that employes (I am just a consultant, so I have more lattitude) a lot of Microsoft Certified Master Degree and above software people and they all had problems with resolving this (how much $$$ lost, estimate over $2000 of time as her documents had to continually be redone, the time that was taken from other projects to help resolve her problem, the CEO of the company berating her for breaking the perfect MS Word program).

    If the switch for 90% of the people is as smooth as I have seen it, I don’t know how Microsoft is going to cope. It’s a losing proposition. It took me 5 minutes to get her documents fixed in Open Office.

    So how is this a problem again?

  75. BrianJones says:

    Thanks for the anecdote Vlad. It’s hard to comment directly on the issue you reference since it’s not clear which version of MS Office you are referring too. We’ve done a lot of work to make it really easy to format a document, but as a result, people can often introduce functionality that they didn’t intend to. That’s most likely what happened with the document in question. We’ve done a lot of work around trying to make it easier to "debug" a document as well as prevent folks from getting into this situation in the first place which is why I’m curious to know what version you are referencing.

    Kadin, while there are a number of very vocal folks here who probably won’t be inviting me over for dinner anytime soon, there actually are a ton of people who love the work we’ve been doing to open up our formats and support their schemas in our applications. Of the thousands of people who read this blog entry, less than 1% felt the urge to post a negative comment. It’s a lot easier (and definitely more fun) to post a negative comment where you disagree with the author though than it is to post something in agreement.

    Paul, have you read through the information about the XML formats? All of your questions have already been answered. Yes we fully document the formats and make that documentation freely available. Yes there are free viewers and editors (it’s just ZIP and XML). Yes we freely license the formats and the IP behind the formats.

    For folks who are more interesting in the licensing details, I just posted more on that topic here: http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/archive/2005/09/22/472826.aspx

    -Brian

  76. Thomas Lee says:

    The decision taken by the state of Mass is dissapointing. But the decision by MS _not_ to support opendoc is even more dissapointing.

    I can fully understand that OpenDoc is considered inferior by MS in that it does not support some of the really cool new features in O12. But if MS can provide a way to save Office 12 documents in earlier formats (complete with the dialog box indicationg what the user will lose by doing to), why can’t it do the same thing with open doc?

    Mass is just the tip of the iceberg – what they have done is to blaze a path for public agencies to follow and dump MS. I am certain that public bodies around the world are reading the Mass docs carefully.

    As a supplier, if we want to send stuff to a client, such as the state of Mass, we would today have to use a non-MS product. And if we are using it for work related to a single client, we would probably use it for all of our clients.

    As the PC World article suggests – this is not just a trickle, it’s a potential Exodus. I hope someone is actually listening at MS.

  77. hubris v3.01 says:

    "The reason I say that there hasn’t been thorough research is that we won’t have our first Beta for another couple months, so I doubt they could have looked into it much."

    That must be true – how can there be thorough research into your product, if you don’t have a product? Customer’s fault, for sure.

  78. Mitch 74 says:

    I’ve been a serious user of both Microsoft and Sun office suites, for MS: starting with Office 97 up to MSO 2003 sp1, and StarOffice 5.2 – then OpenOffice.org 1.0 and beyond. I did use ALL intermediary versions for both (including developer builds for OOo 2.0). Then ONE thing that made me at least keep a copy of OOo installed on whatever computer I was using at any given time: it could open MS broken files. For example, Office XP (basic version, no service pack) had a tendency to crash while saving a document, corrupting it and preventing its opening under ANY version of MS Office. Well, that same incomplete document could be opened using OOo, saved in MS binary format, and re-opened under an (because I usually patched the MSO version at the same time) updated Office version.

    The last time I had a similar problem with OOo, it was a developer build (not beta, not RC, not release, but DEVELOPER build). So, frankly, can you tell me how I could consider enjoying MS XML formats if I need to wait for its first Service Pack to be USEABLE? And no, it wasn’t only a problem with that version of MSO.

    Now, right now, I can have an XML-capable Office suite for free; with a file format which is free as in speech, derived from a 5 years-old format augmented by very various bodies, which has been reviewed, tested, recognised as stable… And I’m not talking about OOo 2: I’m talking about Koffice. OOo2 isn’t ‘released’ yet…

    On the other hand, I have Microsoft, promising a not completely free format, UNTESTED BY THE PUBLIC, reviewed by one (1) body: itself, a format which MAY be stable, can be integrated in any office suite provided it isn’t competing with MS office suite (sic), and which MAY not vary in the future; the office suite itself, given the track record of its predecessors (4 of them in almost 10 years now) is NEVER stable upon release, and can corrupt documents, and costs AT LEAST 250€ apiece…

    Should I choose stability and openness for free, or pay for unstability and unguaranteed future?

    I really appreciate the fact that you take time to discuss the future MSO release, I understand that you defend your work and take pride in your piece of art, however you may also understand that users may just be getting bored with Microsoft’s unwillingness to listen to its customers. In fact, most well constructed flames come from people who have had enough of Microsoft’s policies, and who appreciate the fact that you provide an unprecedented view into that big black box of Redmond’s…

    If you can make MSO 12 rock stable from the beginning and guarantee 100% compatibility with all binary formats starting from Word 95, then you’ll have accoplished something grand – and shut up many flamers.

    Cheers!

  79. Segovia says:

    It’s pretty amusing to see MS squirming when their brute force tactics no longer bring everyone to their knees.

    Wake up and smell the coffee Brian. Have you been living in a cave? MS is probably THE most hated/untrusted company in the world. And this is just another example of why.

  80. Will says:

    I work for a publishing company, and we’re already using the new Office XML formats to speed up our process considerably.

    Open Office has its place in many venues; however, many companies will continue to benefit from full-featured Microsoft products over their open-source couterparts. I am by no means a Microsoft apologist, and I could care less what Massachusetts does, but I think we can all agree that the MS bashing is beyond trite at this point.

    So take all your passe comments and bashing to some Open Source board where the people who read it might actually care. I read this blog to find information about developing MS products for my job – by the way Brian, more documentation for InsertXml is needed. Specifically, regarding the insertion of a combination of WordML with a custom schema into a structured WordML/our-schema document (it seems to change the XML)?

    So, everyone else who apparently has all this time on their hands: go have a LAN party or play D&D or something. Busy people have work to do.

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