Binary File Formats for Word, Excel, PowerPoint

Brian Jones posted yesterday about the availability of the docs for the binary file formats of Office Applications. 

... Microsoft indicated that the documentation of the Binary Formats has been available royalty-free [since 2006] under RAND-Z to anyone who requests it by sending an email to

Nevertheless, in response to requests for even easier access to the Binary Formats, Microsoft has agreed to remove any intermediate steps necessary to get the documentation, and will post it and make it directly available for a direct download on the Microsoft web site.  Microsoft will also make the Binary Formats subject to its Open Specification Promise (see by February 15, 2008.

Now, having the Binary Formats under the Open Specification Promise, is extremely exciting. The OSP itself:

Microsoft irrevocably promises not to assert any Microsoft Necessary Claims against you for making, using, selling, offering for sale, importing or distributing any implementation to the extent it conforms to a Covered Specification (“Covered Implementation”), subject to the following. This is a personal promise directly from Microsoft to you, and you acknowledge as a condition of benefiting from it that no Microsoft rights are received from suppliers, distributors, or otherwise in connection with this promise. If you file, maintain or voluntarily participate in a patent infringement lawsuit against a Microsoft implementation of such Covered Specification, then this personal promise does not apply with respect to any Covered Implementation of the same Covered Specification made or used by you. To clarify, “Microsoft Necessary Claims” are those claims of Microsoft-owned or Microsoft-controlled patents that are necessary to implement only the required portions of the Covered Specification that are described in detail and not merely referenced in such Specification. “Covered Specifications” are listed below.

This promise is not an assurance either (i) that any of Microsoft’s issued patent claims covers a Covered Implementation or are enforceable or (ii) that a Covered Implementation would not infringe patents or other intellectual property rights of any third party. No other rights except those expressly stated in this promise shall be deemed granted, waived or received by implication, exhaustion, estoppel, or otherwise.

My first introduction to the OSP was back when I was in the Federated Identity team. When .NET 3.0 came out (which included CardSpace), I was thrilled when I found out that the protocols ended up in the OSP, which meant that there would be far less blockers in getting CardSpace adopted.

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