Back from vacation with good news

Well, I just got back from vacation this afternoon, and it looks like there were some great developments at the end of the month. I just saw up on Doug's blog that Massachusetts now supports Open XML:

It's great to see their policies evolve as they continue to evaluate file formats.


Comments (23)
  1. hAl says:

    On the other had supporters of OpenDocument weren’t much pleased with the news.

    In general I would say it seem still pretty premature to put document formats in legislative proposals. It seem at the moment that the XML document formats are opening up and that in a few years to come they will naturally take over from the binary formats.

    I was also pleased to see that Micrsoft now finally licenses the binary format specifications to [b]everybody[/b] with a covenant not to sue. As those formats will be around for years to come I expect several companies to take advantage.

  2. hAl,

    Could you add a reference to the information you supplied regarding MSFT licensing their binary specs to everyone?




  3. hAl says:

    Sure Jesper:

    I plucked it of the Micrsoft support pages.

    It states:

    "Royalty-Free File Format Programs.

    Microsoft Office Binary File Formats

    Microsoft makes its .doc, .xls, and .ppt binary file format specifications available under a royalty-free covenant not to sue to anyone who wishes to implement all or part of these specifications in their products."

  4. I don’t see how the monopoly getting it’s way is good news.  Good news would be if a bearing went in the monopoly’s steam roller.  You know there was a lot of money changing hands and lobbying going on behind the scenes in Massachusetts.  The decision was probably more political than technical.

  5. Greg,

    I agree with you on this – the decision in Massachusetts was – at least partly – a political decision. But I don’t see how this could be any different. When ODF was submitted to ISO, most of the world just shrugged and thought "fair enough … another file format to deal with. When OOXML was submitted to ISO all of hell broke loose. The oODF (only-ODF)-lobby initially attacked the technical merits of OOXML, but when they realized that

    a) There were equal techical problems with ODF and

    b) The politicians just didn’t get the tech-stuff

    … they made it a political issue of "one standard to rule them all", open source vs. monopoly, open standards vs. vendor standards etc.

    I believe the English term is "You have made your bed – now you have to lie in it" – and this is where "you" are now. OOXML is a political issue because the oODF-lobby made it a political issue and now it seems to back-fire. The oODF-lobby is trying the win the political battle on technical merits and that is likely not going to happen. This is because politicians are – above all – pragmatics and they have other considerations/obligations than only accepting a platonic-ideal file format, which ODF never was anyway.

    Btw, have you noticed that while the oODF-lobby is busy talking about TC-members being bribed, technical commitees being stuffed with MS-friendly members, OOXML being too big, OOXMLs likelyhood of killing people … the world has not come to a complete stand-still? Vendors are actually implementing OOXML and releasing updates to their products that now support OOXML.

    So much for OOXML being impossible to implement by anyone but Microsoft. And if you ask me – it is likely that somewhere on a HD deep within the basements of IBM HQ, an update to Lotus with OOXML-compatability is ready to be released.


  6. hAl says:

    There should be no hurry for IBM to implement anything yet though. For OOXML to become a published ISO standard is at best probably still 9-12 months away.

    The ballot period end in september. Looking at the comments, Ecma probably need 3 months to come up with a prelimanary proposal for alterations so the ballot resolution will probalby be in january. If it is approved then a new version of the spec should take another month at least and mayby some reviewing to see wheter the alterations are all in and correct. And then there is always a period in which ISO still required before publishing the specs so juni 2008 would seem fairly realistic.

  7. hAl,

    Yes – if they wait with implementing OOXML until it has been ISO-certified. However, I think we will see, that they will release a "introductory"-implementation long before actual ratification due to market demands (and later subsequently modify it based on the result of the ISO-process). Regardless of OOXML-ratification a market demand will emerge to support OOXML in major office-applications … simply due to the large install-base of Office. I don’t see how IBM can fight off this demand – seen from a business perspective. I don’t think IBM will risk being left alone as the sole office-application vendor without support for OOXML.


  8. luke says:

    When can we expect full support for ODF in Microsoft Office?

  9. Dave S. says:

    If a competitor creates a correct-per-spec OOXML format file that Office doesn’t read correctly or the competitor doesn’t read an Office OOXML type file, who will be suspected of not following the standard?

    As far as implementations that make use of the OOXML structure, that is likely. I might be able to do that myself. As for implementing the entire spec, that is unlikely.

  10. hAl says:

    As even OOo and KOffice have not implmented all of OpenDoucment yet after two years it is unlikely that more than a few companies or otherorganisations will ever ever fully implement any office document standard.  

  11. hAl,

    I have tried to find the documentation for this for quite some time, but sadly without luck. After realizing that, my assumption was however that it was probably not true. Can you shed some light on this?

    Generally I agree with you, though. The total number of applications/vendors that will ever implement the complete OOXML/ODF-spec can propably be counted using only two hands. The rest of us will just use parts of the specifications.












  12. hAl says:

    I do not understand you question Jesper. You want me to shine a light on what ?

    And as for your adoption guesses they seem a logical bunch allthough I think Corel and the Gnome office product suite are more likely to implement full office formats than Apple is. Google is only interested in an on line version of office prodcuts which limits implementation for a while to come I would guess.

  13. hAl,

    I will try to clarify:

    you said, that

    "As even OOo and KOffice have not implmented all of OpenDoucment yet after two years"

    I have myself tried to find documentation that this is actually correct but so far without any lock.

    So my question is: Do you have a reference that backs your claim that e.g. OOo has not implemented all of ODF?

    I hope this helps,



    PS: sorry – I forgot Corel and Gnome 🙂

  14. A says:

    I’m sort of curious as to what is going to happen to all the documents currently being created by users of Office 2007 when the ECMA decides to make modifications to the specs.  Obviously they will all still exist.  So even if, for example, VML is replaced by something else, there will still be an awful lot of documents out there using VML.  So one will probably have to support it one way or the other.

    And I think someone else mentioned this already, but what if there is a discrepancy between what the spec says and what Office does.  What is the real "correct" behaviour?  For example, I have seen mentioned on the developer forum that the Excel cell styles are not applied.  They are stored, but no changes made to them ever affect the display of the cells to which they are already applied.  Now the specs could be "wrong", and the ECMA/ISO could update the specs to reflect this fact, but this is probably one of many, some errors will slip through.  If Office 2007 is considered to be wrong, how will one force everyone to update Office with the fix?  What to do with all the files that were saved with the current release and will now show different (right or wrong depending on your viewpoint) in the next?

    The problem with Office "bugs" is that once they are saved in hundreds or thousands of files, you pretty much don’t have a bug anymore but a "feature" that needs to be maintained for compatibility reasons.  (Oh dear, which leads us to the evils of compatibility options which are supposed to be deprecated but still appear all over the place and I still have to figure out how to support them!)

  15. Anonymous says:

    "So my question is: Do you have a reference that backs your claim that e.g. OOo has not implemented all of ODF?"

    Check Neither KOffice nor OOo hit 100% compliance on the test suite, and there are also known problems when round-tripping ODF documents between these suites.

  16. Anonymous,

    Aah – I actually knew of this page – I just seemed to recall that is was based on an older version of OOo. I see now that it has been tested with OOo. 2.01 which is sadly not the latest version.

    I will this weekend try to test the test-files on OOo 2.2.1 (Danish edition). I will post the link to my findings here aferwards.


  17. Anonymous says:

    Jesper, why don’t you do even better and ask itself if OO has implemented all ODF? I’ve never seen this officially stated anywhere, nor the opposing statement has ever been refuted AFAIK


  18. Anonymous,

    Well … it is not that easy to find someone at to write to – let alone finding a contact address of "someone in charge".

    However – I posted a question to, so we’ll see what will happen.


    I will still do test this weekend if I can find the time for it.

  19. says:

    For folks interested, here is a study done at the University of Central Florida to measure KOffice and OpenOffice’s level of compliance with the ODF ISO standard:


  20. Peter Mecklenburg says:

    Why not a format that is not patent contaminated (cmp. SUN’s patent license), fully specified, with a documentation for human developers, with a helpdesk which adds what is missing. And full specification of what is referenced for compatibility reasons. ECMA messed OOXML up. It will not be accepted by ISO. Not because it is a double standard. The reason is ECMA presented an immature proposal, hot air. 6000 pages provokes standard committees.

  21. Anonymous says:

    "Fully specified… with a helpdesk which adds what is missing"

    You ODF guys are really funny!

  22. hAl says:

    "with a documentation for human developers"

    Hahaha. As a former developer the ODF specification mistifies me. It is actually a better in some ways with more strict syntax description than OOXML but on the other hand semantically it is near to useless and requires even more dependence on reference implementations / examples then OOXML does.  

  23. fred says:

    "Microsoft makes its .doc, .xls, and .ppt binary file format specifications available under a royalty-free covenant not to sue to anyone who wishes to implement all or part of these specifications in their products."

    Where can I find the CNS?

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