Open XML – Where The Rubber Meets The Road

After so much prognostication about standards in the abstract, it struck me today that it's worth taking a moment to look at Open XML through a different lens. Does it make a difference for people who are using it? Is it doing what it was supposed to do?

I'm going to step away from the tit-for-tat debates and simply point to a few examples of where Open XML is helping to solve real-world issues. I believe that whether or not a specification is relevant to the marketplace is a crucial factor in determining its value as an international standard.

And before anyone gets their hair in a knot - I'm sure you could post logos of people using ODF - fine, groovy for ODF. If that is what you see from this list, then you are missing the point. I have always advocated choice in formats...and will continue to do so. For Open XML - no matter what other formats are out there - the real test is in whether or not it is used by organizations to meet the challenges of their business. Period.

[note: each of these is linked to a case study about how Open XML is helping their org.]

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I picked these up from There are even more at

Comments (3)
  1. Scott B says:

    I don’t think there is any question that OOXML provides value to several groups.  

    It benefits users already locked into the MS Office 2007 eco-system by improving distribution and manipulations of their own data.

    It benefits vendors with more transparent access to the inner-workings of these files, giving them a chance to add value.

    It benefits Microsoft by preserving the reach of their current cash cow into governments and businesses insisting on open standards.

    The question of value comes in when we try to determine the benefits to standards bodies, non-MS users, and future generations.

    There can be no doubt that OOXML, as a standard, has severe flaws.   It is incomplete, platform specific, application specific, full of contradictions, fails to adhere to existing standards, untestable, and presents a moving target for any IT worker.  There is not an organization in existence, including Microsoft, that promises to actually implement the full standard.  Much of this is due to the fact the final version doesn’t actually exist on paper yet, but a large fraction is also do to the patchwork nature of the product.

    The reason governments and companies wanted a ‘office apps’ standard in the first place was to release an avalanche of data from aging applications.  OOXML shows every appearance of being created to prevent this escape, not enable it.   The immaturity of the standard means that it remains a gamble to see if older documents will remain readable or not.  The lack of testing means there is no way to determine what docs actually adhere to it or not.  The ignoring of existing standards guarantees compatibility problems.  All of these factors are handy for the owner of the biggest share of existing documents, as it forces users to continue to use only _their_ application or risk danger from every other quarter.

    When you think in terms of centuries for document storage, a moving target is the last thing you want or need.  Despite being an official ‘standard’.  We don’t have access to the completed version of OS29500, we don’t have a mapping for turning existing documents into this output, and we have no guarantee from any quarter that such things will ever exist.

    I use Microsoft Office 2007 myself in my daily work.  Not because I like it, not because it complies with standards (Just got vexed AGAIN by buggy handling of text in CVS input.  Is anyone ever going to fix UTF8 encoding?  Its only been ubiquitous on the internet forever and a day..) I use this because it was made available by my company for doing work that is to be shared with others.  I would far rather use other applications, but even 98% compatibility isn’t good enough when communication time is critical.  As it is, I can never use ooxml output to share documents, as none of the other versions of Office supports it.   Doc files forever I guess…

    I’m a victim of lock-in.  I rather hope government offices don’t suffer the same fate.

  2. Just a quick question: do you think that Biblioteca Ambrosiana has decided to support OOXML for its technical merits – they have made a comparative analysis with ODF – or because Umberto Paolucci is a member of their board? Sometimes, when you look deeper into news stories, you find the answer to many questions…

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