History of office XML formats (1998-2006)

I thought it might be interesting to look at a timeline of the past 8 years or so in terms of ODF and OpenXML. I had some of this stuff noted down already and looked up a few other statistics, etc.

Let me know if there are any additional things of interest I should add.


  • September - Beta version of Office 2000 released with HTML support in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. XML was used for vector markup (VML); metadata; thicket manifest; and presentation information.


  • June – Microsoft Office 2000 released leveraging XML for a number of features within the HTML formats.

  • Sun Microsystems purchases Star Division (maker of StarOffice)


  • July – Sun decides to open source StarOffice and calls the project OpenOffice

  • August - Beta version of Microsoft Office XP released with XML markup via smarttags and an XML file format for Excel called spreadsheetML

  • October – OpenOffice.org website goes live


  • March - Microsoft Office XP officially released with added XML support for representing spreadsheets and SmartTags

  • Spring - Microsoft begins work on Office 2003, and plans an XML format for Word similar to the already released XML format for Excel


  • May - OpenOffice 1.0 released with default XML file formats

  • October - First Beta of Microsoft Office 2003 released with a full XML file format for Word (wordprocessingML), custom defined schema support in Word and Excel

  • November - Sun submits OpenOffice XML to OASIS for standardization. The first meeting of the group is attended by 17 individuals, and the average attendance over the next couple years is just a bit over 7.


  • April - Microsoft Office 2003 officially released.

  • Summer – Microsoft starts development of Office 12 and investigates what improvements would need to be made to the existing WordprocessingML and SpreadsheetML formats for use as the new defaults.

  • September - Microsoft joins with the Danish government to announce royalty free licensing of the Office 2003 XML formats and public availability of the schemas.


  • May - EU asks Microsoft to submit it's XML formats to a standards body (http://ec.europa.eu/idabc/en/document/2592/5588)

  • August - Brian Jones gets married and for the first time in years actually gets to spend a week not thinking about XML and file formats. 🙂

  • September – Brian Jones has to go back to thinking about XML and file formats.

  • December – OASIS Open Office XML formats committee agrees to approve the specification and release it for a month of public review. This was done via an email vote and made official in one of the weekly conference call meetings (this one in particular was attended by 4 individuals).

2005 – busy year

  • January – "OASIS Open Office XML Format TC" renamed to "OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications TC" in order to show that the formats aren't just for OpenOffice.

  • May - ODF approved by OASIS as a standard. Over the course of the past 2 years there had been 2 main individuals involved in the work (those who attended at least 75% of the meetings) and 4 others who were present for at least half of the meetings.

  • May - Microsoft officially announces new default XML file formats for Word, Excel, PowerPoint. Brian Jones starts blogging about the formats.

  • October – OpenOffice 2.0 first product available to claim full support for the OpenDocument file format

  • November - Following EU's recommendation from May '04, OpenXML is submitted to Ecma international for standardization.

  • November - Microsoft announces improved approach towards licensing of the Open XML formats where a license is no longer required. Open source lawyers like Larry Rosen voice approval of the new approach.

  • November - ODF submitted to ISO

  • December – Ecma TC45 meets face to face for the first time in Brussels to agree on the charter for the group and to begin work. The meeting is attended by 20 individuals representing 12 organizations. From this point on the TC has weekly 2 hour conference calls and 3 day face to face meetings every 6-8 weeks.

2006 – very busy year 🙂

  • January – Corel announces that it will support the Open XML formats in the next version of Wordperfect Office suite. They don't plan to support ODF due to lack of customer demand (although that will change)

  • February – ODF Alliance created with the goal of marketing ODF to governments and public institutions

  • April – KDE provides second product to claim support for ODF with release of KOffice 1.5

  • April – Ecma TC45 has 3 days of face to face meetings at the British Library in London. At the meeting the TC agrees to release the first public draft of the OpenXML specification and to provide a mechanism for receiving public comments. The meeting was attended by 19 individuals representing 12 organizations.

  • May – After 6 months ISO votes to approve ODF (ODF officially becomes ISO standard later in the summer). Microsoft was a member of the subcommittee that reviewed ODF, but raised no objections to the ISO approval of ODF.

  • May – Gnumeric is first open source spreadsheet application to provide support for early drafts of the OpenXML SpreadsheetML format.

  • May – IBM announces that Lotus Notes will use the ODF format. 

  • June – Ecma TC45 has 3 days of face to face meetings in Sapporo, Japan (hosted by Toshiba). At the meeting the group agrees to release an updated public draft in order to get more up to date public comments. The meeting is attended by 19 individuals representing 9 organizations

  • July – Microsoft announces that it is sponsoring an open source translator project that will translate from OpenXML into ODF and from ODF into OpenXML.

  • September – Ecma TC45 meetings in Trondheim, Norway for 3 days and agrees to submit the final draft to Ecma international for approval. Attending the meetings were 21 individuals from 13 different organizations.

  • November – Microsoft Office 2007 released and is first product to claim full support for OpenXML format

  • November – Corel announces that by mid 2007 they will support ODF in addition to Open XML

  • December – Ecma officially approves TC45 final draft as Ecma standard 376. The final vote was 20-1 in favor of OpenXML with IBM as the lone opponent.

  • December – Ecma submits OpenXML to ISO

  • December – Novell announces that it will build in support for OpenXML into OpenOffice



  • Jan, 2007 (can't remember exact date) - Added May '06 milestone where IBM announced ODF functionality for it's Notes product. 

  • Feb 1, 2007 - Added May '04 milestone where the EU asked Microsoft to consider submitting it's XML formats to a standards body.

Comments (21)
  1. Robert says:


    I doubt your wife will appreciate the awkward wording "Brian Jones gets married and for the first time…"


  2. jones206@hotmail.com says:


  3. Alex says:

    I think you missed the stuff in 2003 and 2004, which was "OASIS Open Office XML TC work hard at improving the specification". On your timeline, ODF needed two years in committee before they felt it was ready.

    That’s twice the amount of time spent by ECMA on OXML, no?

  4. hAl says:

    It is definitly a timeline as seen from the eye of Brian Jones. However I guess the point is to show that the development of the OOXML formats used in MS Office are not just created out of the blue in 2006 as an answer to the ODF format but that MS has been developing the OOXML formats for years..

    However the standardization proces itself does seem an answer to the standardization of ODF but I guess also to the claims of vendor lock in and the political pressure from governments.

  5. EshwarS says:

    Hi Brian,

    A small request. This blog’s focus has become ODF vs OpenXML. Please don’t go down this path, its absolutely no use as people of different views will definitely not agree. Its just natural. So instead of going down this path please make this a blog that helps us get a better understanding of OpenXML and how it can be improved further (I think this was the purpose in the first place).

    The market will eventually decide which format will remain relavent and lets leave it at that. I urge you to present us more details about OpenXML instead of comparison between the two formats.

    – Eshwar

  6. Brutus says:

    Eshwar, the problem is that IBM guys like Rob Wier are constantly blogging about how great ODF is and how horrible OOXML is.  Most of the ODF campaign against OOXML is built on half-truths, FUD, disinformation.  And IBM is going around the world trying to convince governments to mandate exclusive use of ODF, based on that disinformation.

    The FUD charges leveled against OOXML cannot go unanswered, or else OOXML will die, not because of lack of merit, but because of a smear campaign.

    You say that the "market will eventually decide which format will remain relevant".  But IBM, et al, are trying to kill off OOXML before the market even gets a chance to decide.

    Note that Microsoft was on the ISO subcommittee that reviewed ODF and raised no objections against ODF becoming an ISO standard.  Contrast that with IBM throwing a temper tantrum at the ECMA OOXML standardization (getting out-voted 20 to 1), and are now trying to prevent OOXML from becoming an ISO standard.  IBM and the like want ODF to be the only standard, period.  They don’t WANT the "market to decide".  Quite unlike Microsoft, which has no objections to both ODF and OOXML being standards from which the market can choose.

    If you really want the market to get a chance to decide, then the ODF anti-OOXML smear campaign led by IBM must be responded to.

  7. grauenwolf says:

    You are missing a really, really important one.

    In May of 2006 IBM announced that Lotus Notes will support ODF.

    Prior to OpenXML:

      Lotus Notes supports the de facto standard, Word binary, and the new standard, ODF.

    After OpenXML (if MS/OpenXML "wins"):

     Lotus Notes supports an old version of Word that no uses any more and a ISO standard that no one uses.

    From what I have seen so far, if OpenXML becomes popular then IBM’s Lotus division is going to be hurt, badly.

    Jonathan Allen

  8. Dave S. says:

    Et tu, Brute?

    Your support for ODF may have gone un-noticed in Massachussetts. You remember, when Microsoft was anti-choice?

  9. jones206@hotmail.com says:


    We were never anti-ODF. In Massachussetts we were just asking them to consider OpenXML as a potential format in addition to ODF and PDF.


    I do want to focus more on the technologies, and I’m sure you’re aware that the large majority of my blog posts discuss technical issues behind the file formats. There has been a lot of FUD lately around the ISO submission of OpenXML though, and I wanted to try and clear some of that up. I’m also going to work on pulling together a post that explains the ISO "fast-track" process as there has been a lot of misinformation around that too.

    Jonathan and Brutus, thanks for the comments. You both raised a couple points I’ll add into the original post.


  10. Stefan Wenig says:


    you write: "Lotus Notes supports an old version of Word that no uses any more and a ISO standard that no one uses."

    Seriously, after getting through the binary memory-dump formats they already support, how hard can it be to build a new import/export filter that supports the same logical model, only with fully documented XML syntax?

    Also, considering that WordML and SpreadsheetML have been around for years, how hard can it be to adapt to a few changes and implement a ZIP-based container format? Hannover will have OpenXML support from day one if IBM really wants it.

    Their real problem is that they probably don’t support 100% of the information in the binary formats, because Hannover doesn’t have the necessary features. If the world standardized on ODF that would not be a problem, since customers would have the same problem with MS Office after converting everything to ODF. Guess who wins and who loses.

  11. Fernando says:

    Hi Stefan,

    "Also, considering that WordML and SpreadsheetML have been around for years, how hard can it be to adapt to a few changes and implement a ZIP-based container format? Hannover will have OpenXML support from day one if IBM really wants it."

    You are right on. The only reason IBM is not suppoting OpenXML right now is to not undermine their claim that "Open XML is a one-vendor standard that no one other than Microsoft can really implement". They could do it in a second if they wanted.

    On the other hand, Microsoft Office has tons of features that would require IBM years of development in order to be competitive. ODF is being used to make this features irrelevant in some market segments (like government).

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  18. Doug Mahugh says:

    It’s been quite a year for those who have been blogging about the Open XML file formats. Here’s a look

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