Ecma Standard 376 – Office Open XML formats

It's finally official. Today the Ecma General Assembly voted almost unanimously to approve the Office Open XML formats as an official Ecma standard. They also voted to submit the standard to ISO for fast track certification. The official press release from Ecma International can be found here:

Here's a quote from Jan van den Beld, the Secretary General of Ecma International:

"The broad spectrum of sponsors from the industry and public institutions ensure the creation of an open standard that can create a wide range of possibilities for document processing, archival and interoperability" said Jan van den Beld, Secretary General of Ecma International. "The Open XML standard recognizes the benefit of backward compatibility preservation of the billions of documents that have already been created while enabling new future applications of document technology."

As I blogged about back in early October when we finalized the draft, it was a ton of hard work by around 20+ individuals from about 12 corporations, but it was well worth it. The dramatic improvements that the specification has undergone over the past year show it all. I was just looking back at one of my earlier blog posts from last year when we first submitted the Open XML formats to Ecma for standardization. It really is amazing that the group was able to accomplish so much work this past year. I can't wait to see what we're able to accomplish as we start working on the next version.

There are a few things that will be pretty fun to watch over the next few months. The one I'm most excited is the huge growth we're seeing in the Open XML developer community. We already have larger corporations/applications like Apple, Corel, Novel, Intel and Microsoft either participate directly in the standardization, or publicly comment on upcoming support for the Open XML formats. This is cool, but not the piece I'm as excited about. I'm looking forward to all the smaller companies (like the folks participating up on that take advantage of this interoperable format as a building block for rich solutions that create and consume documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and other document types we haven't thought of yet. There are simple tools out there like the docx converter ( There is the open source project up on sourceforge for converting from Open XML to ODF and back ( There is even the MindManager tool that converts mind maps into wordprocessing documents. The possibility are infinite… who knows how long it will be before we even see things like rich spreadsheetML files with branding, charting, pivot tables, etc. being output directly from hardware devices (like medical imaging equipment) rather than a basic CSV file.

Next step is going to be ISO certification, and here's hoping that IBM doesn't try to push too hard against this too. They've already said they were the only ones who voted against the Ecma certification which is a shame. Having a complete spec that outlines every piece of the Office file formats and is publicly maintained is a good thing. We shouldn't have to waste time arguing about that (unless we're in training to be a politician or something). Open XML may not be the best format for every use, but what is? HTML is great for some things, but really limited for others. XML is great for some things, but really limited to others. The same goes for these newer formats like ODF an Open XML. Microsoft had no problem with ODF becoming an ISO standard for instance, and didn't put up any roadblocks. It was a good thing. Hopefully IBM will be able to say the same about Open XML, but we'll have to wait and see. I haven't seen any public comments on that yet.

So, to all of my colleagues from TC45, congratulations! I think these stats say it all in terms of your hard work:

  • 72 presentations were given to the technical committee explaining the existing behaviors of features so that discussion on how to best structure and document it could then take place.

  • 66 hours of live meeting discussions (starting at 6am every Thursday for those of us on the west coast of the US)

  • 88 schema files

  • 128 hours of face to face meetings held in Brussels (ECMA); Cupertino, CA (Apple); London (British Library); Sapporro, Japan (Toshiba); Redmond, WA (Microsoft); Trondheim, Norway (StatOil)

  • 6,000 pages of documentation between the 5 parts of the standard

  • 9,422 different items to document (3,114 attributes, 2,500 elements, 3,243 enumerations, 567 simple types)


Comments (19)

  1. I’ve just learned through the blog of Brian Jones that the Office Open XML spec has been accepted as

  2. Der erste Schritt ist geschafft. Das Office Open XML Format wurde von der ECMA als Standard anerkannt.

  3. Hi Brian,

    Congratulations for this success! I’d like to point out an issue related to Open XML and extensibility that I reported on the ODF Converter Team blog ( Any suggestion will be appreciated!

    Best regards,


  4. JasonG says:

    That’s great, hopefully ISO soon to follow.  LOL at the IBM sour grapes. 😉

  5. Ghibertii says:

    Brian- you know, as well as everyone else,  that MS didn’t put up any road blocks to ODF because they knew once they released Office with Open XML as the default file format, ODF would be relegated to "second tier" status. (Minus the hardcore ODF supporters) Also, it is not really a surprise Apple or Novel supports it. What were you expecting them to say, "Hell no we aren’t going to support Open XML, we don’t need Office support?" Honestly.

    Open XML = Standard by default

  6. Brutus says:

    I just read that IBM voted NO to making Open XML an ECMA standard.  Fortunately, they were the only NO vote.  I knew that IBM’s ODF folks were petty beyond belief, but this really takes the cake.

    CNet’s story:

    IBM’s Bob Sutor trying to justify himself:

    Really pathetic.  My respect for IBM just got cut in half.

  7. Joe On .NET says:

    ECMA Finally Approves Open XML Formats

  8. Read here Brian Jones: Open XML Formats : Ecma Standard 376 – Office Open XML formats .

  9. Francis says:

    It is funny how the IBM people always forget ODF’s StarOffice heritage when talking about how forward-looking ODF is.

    Would they prefer that MS stay with closed, gobbledy-gooky binary formats and thus force IBM’s own programmers to continue to struggle with them?

    Besides, if they don’t like OpenXML they can always use a transform on it.

  10. Doug Mahugh says:

    What a week! First we had Novell’s announcement of Open XML support in OpenOffice , which came just after

  11. Cyril says:

    Kudos to all those who worked hard to make it happen. That’s a very impressive effort.

    This raises my Office programming experience to a level I wouldn’t have dreamed of two years ago.

    Keep up the good work!

    And shame on IBM:

    ODF is great, OOXML is great. Let the customers decide what’s best for their specific need and stop this "we’re right, you’re wrong" attitude.

  12. mario says:

    What is so difficult to understand again? ODF is a multi-vendor and multi-implementation specification.

    MSOOX has been hastily thrown together because Microsofts last two Office XML formats didn’t stick. And I’m pretty sure cross-plattform and multi-implementation fitnes wasn’t a goal for the spec.

    So why should it be useful as _recommended_ international standard? It’s probably okay for rescuing your data from former vendor lock-in, but that’s as far as that overly lengthy and quirky specifications advantages go. (Okay, I made that up. Don’t know it for real, because the final spec is not even available.)

  13. It’s finally official. Today the Ecma General Assembly voted almost unanimously to approve the Office

  14. Great info from Brian Jones on the Open XML standards as well interop solutions. Ecma Standard 376 –

  15. Great info from Brian Jones on the Open XML standards as well interop solutions. Ecma Standard 376 –

  16. Here they are: It looks like computers have finally got it over the humans with the defeat of Vladimir…

  17. I am sad that Microsoft has dominated our industry. I prefer open source options that allow people to adapt and modify code and not be locked into one vendor’s huge control over the format of what everyday users use and force us developers to conform to it or lose business. This is domination. I will persist in using open source options and reverse engineer the specification so I can write my own tools to import from Open XML Format into more usable formats.

  18. ChewyTest says:

    It’s finally official. Today the Ecma General Assembly voted almost unanimously to approve the Office

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