A new FAQ page now available

OK, I'll admit its pretty lame that it's been almost two weeks since my last post. I've been pretty busy with non-OpenXML stuff at work as we just finished wrapping up the annual performance reviews so I had to focus on writing those up. We're also getting ready for some spec reviews so I wanted to make sure I was available to help with those. On the OpenXML side of things I've been spending time trying to sort through all the incoming comments from the ISO process.

I'll definitely have some upcoming posts that drill into the comments and I'll give my opinion on them, as there are a number of really good suggestions coming in. Even in TC45 we came up with a number of suggested fixes based on feedback we'd been hearing, as well as some mistakes we spotted over the past year.

Another thing I've been wanted to pull together but haven't had much time is an FAQ. Andrew Sayers had suggested this a couple of times and he even took the time to pull together an outline for me (thank you very much for that Andrew). So I cleaned it up a bit and it's now posted here: http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/pages/faq.aspx

I'll try to work on it every couple weeks and fill in what's already listed. As new topics come up I'll also add them to the list.


OpenXMLCommunity.org Quote of the Day:

Sega, SA – Guatemala

"We are specialized in software development using Microsoft Visual Studio.NET. In our development effort, we regularly faced with unstructured information and especially in generating this information. So we are convinced that introducing an open ECMA standard like Office Open XML will be very helpful for our customer and for us to. It will make it easier for our customer and us to generate process and archive this information. Office Open XML will make easier the processing of structured and unstructured information in a comprehensible and transparent manner."

- Emilio Molina – Development Department Manager



Comments (31)
  1. itsadok says:

    There’s a couple of broken links on the FAQ.

    ("a pretty straightforward reason" and "my original announcement that we were taking the format to ECMA")

  2. hAl says:

    I’m not impressed by that faq.

    I’m not even sure it is a FAQ really.

  3. Andrew Sayers says:

    For the record the original idea was Ian Easson’s, I just took it and ran with it.


    I’m very flattered to be mentioned by name in the FAQ, but it I suspect it’ll become stylistically awkward as the FAQ matures (and my contribution becomes less of the whole).  Therefore, I’d completely understand if you wanted to remove mention of me later on.

    Also as the FAQ matures, it might be worth putting it as a link in the sidebar inside "This Blog".


    Which questions that people frequently ask should be in there, and what sort of answers would you expect?

    – Andrew

  4. Dave S. says:

    The FAQ entry –

    "Why go to ISO?

    Even though Office Open XML was already an ECMA standard, we felt that there was value taking it on to the ISO. This was mainly because we had been asked to by various customers (mostly governments). They wanted to have our formats in the domain of the international community." may be wrong.

    This answer was attributed to Doug Mahugh:

    "Office is a USD$10 billion revenue generator for the company. When ODF was made an ISO standard, Microsoft had to react quickly as certain governments have procurement policies which prefer ISO standards. Ecma and OASIS are "international standards", but ISO is the international "Gold Standard". Microsoft therefore had to rush this standard through. Its a simple matter of commercial interests!"


    Doesn’t sound as if he believes governments were asking for it. Maybe he was misunderstood.

  5. jones206@hotmail.com says:


    Thanks, I’ll fix those.


    Like I said, I took a really quick stab at it based on some feedback from Andrew. I’ll be putting much more time into cleaning it up over the coming months (filling in current answers and adding more questions).


    Point taken on the awkwardness of naming you in the intro. I’ll clean that part up too.


    If that’s what Doug said, than he’s definitely mistaken. Doug tolk me about yk’s blog though and that he was misquoted in a number of areas. I’ll double check with him this week.

    Off the top of my head I remember Massachusetts saying they’d like to see it go to ISO as well as the EU. I’ll fill that piece in more as well in the future.


  6. Michael Daniloff says:

    Hi Brian

    Where do I report Office 2007 bugs? I’ve searched microsoft and msdn, googled for it and no luck so far.


    Michael Daniloff

  7. orcmid says:

    Verrrrrry interrrrresting.  Nice start on the FAQ.  Gathers together some things I’ve forgotten.

  8. jones206@hotmail.com says:


    There are a couple options. You could just post the bug here in a comment (or anyone else on the Office team who’s blogging), but there are also more official routes:

    1) Contact Microsoft product support. They may already have a workaround to the bug, and if not will make sure to route it through the proper channels.

    2) The is an Office feedback form here: http://feedback.office.microsoft.com

    I’m not sure on the actual process though for how information submitted there is routed.



    Other suggestions are defintely welcome!


  9. dmahugh says:

    Hey Dave, I’ll answer here since I just saw your comment: no, I didn’t say that, and I also didn’t say many of the other things that the Open Malaysia blog attributed to me.  It seems they took snippets of things I said, as well as many things they apparently wish I had said, and tried to stitch them all together to make some points.

    I decided not to bother getting into a he-said/she-said debate there, so I’ve not responded.  I have better things to do than debate the details of made-up "quotes," frankly.  I’ve said many times publicly that we submitted the formats to Ecma because customers asked us to, and I’ll stand by those words, but I can’t answer for things other people say.

    FWIW, on a related note … the comment they’ve attributed to me at least a couple of times now about telling developers not to read part 4 of the spec is actually true, but taken completely out of context.  I was going through the 5 parts of the spec and what’s in them, and just after strongly recommending that developers read part 3 (Primer), I said that part 4 is a reference like a dictionary, and nobody would ever sit down and read it, you just use it to look things up when needed.

    OK, I’m starting to cross a line into actually responding, so I’ll stop now.  – Doug

  10. Dave S. says:

    Doug – OK. It’s one of the downsides to connnectivity that’s not complete. Seemed a bit too odd. At least in a ransom note with pasted letters one can see the paste. Not so in computer transmitted material.

    Brian, I don’t recall Massachusetts as being an individual. The only individual I recall making a public statement on behalf of a small part of MA state government said he wanted ODF. Some legislators may have said they would only consider a standard approved by ISO – not the same as asking for MSO-XML to be a standard.

  11. Jus keepin score says:

    The Netherlands.

  12. hAl says:

    I mailed you some stuff on how to make it look more like a faq.

  13. David Farning says:

    An interesting addition to the faq would be a matrix of products that implement the various features of OOXML and the degree to which they have been implemented.

    If the goal of OOXML is actually to become a standard implemented by all, the matrix should be full of green squares. (fully implemented)

    The red (not implemented) and yellow (partially implemented) squares should be generating discussion in the ooxml community and on port 25 as to how they can be turned to green.

    David Farning

  14. Sam Hiser says:

    It’s not a FAQ; it’s an IAF (Infrequently Asked FUD).

    And while I’m here and you ‘softies are all off re-thinking your business model (such as quitting the software business with a colossal dividend and locking the doors), I will gloat on the tremendous victory of the EU ruling with a dance on your collective faces and say once more…

    "Oh beHAVE!"

  15. hAl says:

    Reading the Ecma comments I was disappointed to not see anycomments on the so called bitmasks (or to be mroe correct XML representations of bitmasks).

    Escpecialaly since I read on Rick Jellifee blog earlier

    "Lets give a practical example. Font matching is the feature where an application opens up a file and, upon discovering that some font needed by the document is missing, tries to find a near match. Various mechanisms can be used, but the most basic matching criterion is of course whether the font contains the characters for the language (I mean “script” of course) being used. It is not good using a Russian font for a Thai document.

    ODF betrays its pre-Unicode and UNIX roots here, and uses a non-Unicode based system where it uses the locale character set of the original document (or of the font) and matches that. So it will say “This font has an ISO 8859-1 mapping table, therefore we will look for another font with an ISO 8859-1 mapping table.” This is pretty crappy in theory, actually, because Unicode extends so many of the locale-based character sets, but ultimately OK, because these things are only optional hints and the more hints the better.

    Open XML uses the more modern Open Fonts standard ISO/IEC 14496-22 for font mapping, which allows mapping both by Unicode block and by major script family. Open Fonts comes from Open Type, which in turn is a container for including both Adobe PostScript fonts and Microsoft TrueType fonts: in fact, it is another example of this kind of containment mechanism.

    Interestingly, it is this use of IS 14496-22 that has shows one of the problems with ISO DIS 29500 (i.e. Open XML). You may remember that anti-Open XML people have raised the issue of bitmasks in Open XML, with the lunatic fringe going as far as saying that Open XML was riddled with bitmasks and that these were impossible to validate or manipulate in XSLT; and me then rushing to Schematron’s defence and showing how it was entirely possible, if not trivial, in Schematron and XSLT. Well, the main place that bitmasks are found in Open XML are actually in the font/sig element that is used for font matching, and the bitmasks are the values specified by ISO 14496-22. There is no reason for an application to tease apart the bitmask numbers, certainly not to add 96 separate attributes for something that humans will not be interested in. because the numbers are just magic numbers that come from the original font and are matched against the prospective substitute fonts, that I can see. In the same way that you don’t want to have separate values for R, G and B, because having combined RGB values is more convenient for manipulation. (So the problem with DIS 29500 is not that it uses bitmasks in this element, but that it only gives a vague reference to the standard that the bitmasks are based on, when it should have a clear normative reference)"

    It would seem a very easy thing to firsty reference the ISO standards. And I am not exactly sure how the values are represented in this ISO spec but it would then be usefull to use the same value representation (which might not nescesarily be bitmask like) for these items.

  16. hAl –

    I am a bit confused by the first part of your comment: "I was disappointed to not see anycomments on the so called bitmasks" as there are lots of comments about these.  Countries such as Venezuela, Greece, Uraguay, as well as the United States, had comments regarding these.  A specific example would be from the comments from Greece: http://www.dis29500.org/gr-29/

    – Ben

  17. hAl says:


    I was referring to the Ecma comments.

    And since Brian is a member of the Ecma TC I wondered about why they did not suggest improvement?

    Amusingly the Greece comments seems to be a copy of the groklaw comments suggesting it is nearly impossible to use xml tools on the bitmask item which is not really correct in itself. However another value representation would likely make XML use easier.

  18. hAl – Sorry, I get it now.  I missed that. – Ben

  19. n/a says:

    BTW, the newest OOXML tag from Slashdot:





  20. John says:

    n/a, HAHA.  To quote another poster – OH BEHAVE!

  21. n/a says:

    Check out the results of Microsoft’s ballot stuffing:


    Other resolutions are failing to pass because the stuffed countries don’t vote!

  22. hAl says:

    Check out how n/a is an idiot that does not recognize that the ISO that particular ballot failed because only 8 member voted which would never have sufficed in any scenario.

  23. hAl –

    Before the influx of new P-members, there were 16 P-members (afterwards there were 32) so 8 would have been sufficient, as more than 50% have to not vote in order to invalidate the vote.  Of course, one could argue that some of the 16 who joined might have joined anyway, but if you simply go by the number who were members before this push started, n/a is absolutely correct.

    – Ben

  24. hAl – In fact, as a specific example, see http://www.jtc1sc34.org/repository/0783.htm for a ballot that passed with exactly 8 P-members (also 7 to 1).  This was passed September 6, 2006, almost exactly one year prior to the vote cited above.  It is almost unbelievable looking at the two tables.  The P-members listed a year ago are:





    Korea, Republic of



    United Kingdom


    The P-members for this recent vote that failed:









    Czech Republic









    Korea, Republic of











    Trinidad and Tobago

    United Kingdom



    Still care to argue that n/a is an idiot?

    – Ben

  25. hAl says:


    There are now 38 P members in Sc34

    Were there only 16 of them member in januari when OOXML was submitted ?

  26. hAl – I have seen the list of 38 elsewhere, but only 32 are listed as P-members for the ballot mentioned above.  As for when the numbers in January, there were 15 as of February 22.  See http://www.jtc1sc34.org/repository/0817.htm for confirmation of that.  At that time, this ballot would have passed. – Ben

  27. hAl says:


    That particular document does not seem correct.

    The JCT1/SC34 vote on Opendocument in may 2006 had 27 approval votes from P members.

    Unless there was some major ballot stuffing for the opendocument voting as well it seems unlikely that half a year later there were only 16 P-members left.

  28. Well I thought I would have time to work more on the FAQ the past couple weeks, but that was naive of

  29. Well I thought I would have time to work more on the FAQ the past couple weeks, but that was naive of

  30. Any particular reason my last two comments were not posted?  There doesn’t seem to be much controversial in either, and the latter tends to vindicate Microsoft to some extent in the whole debate with hAl.  It just seems odd that they have gone missing.

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