Speaking of Tech Ed 2007, some of the discussions I had with ISVs revolved around Office Open XML and the current activity with the ISO standardisation process. There were basically two types of things ISVs wanted to know. The first was about the ISO standardisation process itself, why it matters, how it affects ISVs and how Office Open XML compares to existing document standards. The second common topic of discussion was around development resources and how to actually work with the Office Open XML formats. By the way, if you haven’t seen the Ecma Office Open XML standard (Ecma-376) it is available on the Ecma website.
Some good information to summarise the first category of discussion is available over at Sean McBreen’s blog. Sean is the Director of the group that looks after ISVs in New Zealand and has done a good job of answering some of the popular misconceptions around the Ecma Office Open XML standard; in particular around Intellectual Property Rights and why we need multiple standards. Rather than posting all the information I am going to link to the relevant posts on Sean’s blog. I recommend you read them to help you understand the current interest and activity around the ISO standardisation of Office Open XML.
The post titled IPR on Ecma Office Open XML explains the three options an implementer of the standard can select from to use with their implementation of the Office Open XML format.
The post titled My top 4 questions on Ecma Office Open XML and simple answers answers the questions we hear asked most commonly.
Another thing to make clear is that Office Open XML is already a standard, an Ecma standard known as Ecma-376. All the discussion at the moment is around whether it should be an ISO standard as well. One side of the debate is of the opinion is that there is already an ISO standard document format (ODF) and we don’t need another one. My top 4 questions on Ecma Office Open XML and simple answers and Why have another document standard? provide our view on why it is important to have multiple standards.
The other popular misconception is that the Office Open XML format is a Microsoft only format. While true that the initial work was done by Microsoft, the technology was first submitted to Ecma in late 2005 and since then has been through significant change based on the recommendations of the Ecma Technical Committee (which includes representatives from Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, The British Library, Essilor, Intel, NextPage, Novell, Statoil, Toshiba, and the United States Library of Congress). Actually, I noticed recently that Apple’s latest version of iWork ’08 mentions as one of the features that it can import Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents that use the OOXML format.
For the second category of discussion, the meat and potatoes of how to use the Office Open XML formats I can recommend the following resources.
The OpenXMLDeveloper.org web site is a great place to start:
Earlier in 2007 a series of Open XML developer workshops were run in 30 countries. The content of the workshop is available on line, including all the presentations, samples, and lab manuals. This is a great way to get up to speed fast on using Open XML formats.
There is a book called “Open XML Explained” available for download. The sample documents shown in the book are available here. The author of the book, Wouter Van Vugt, is a software development trainer/consultant who specializes in the Open XML file formats. He participates in the forums here on OpenXMLDeveloper.org, and has a blog where he covers Open XML and other .NET development topics.
There are also all sorts of interesting articles about working with Open XML in the Library section of the OpenXMLDeveloper.org website.
On MSDN there is the XML in Office Developer Portal which contains information about using Open XML and includes a link to a preview of the SDK for Open XML Formats. The SDK provides strongly-typed part classes to manipulate Open XML documents. There is also an MSDN Forum called the Microsoft SDK for Open XML Formats where you can get assistance with the SDK.
I know a number of New Zealand ISVs are already using Office Open XML to output content from their own applications for reporting, automatic document generation, document re-purposing, archiving etc. If any of you have found Open XML resources that may be useful to others, why not share them in a comment?