Microsoft Office Open XML Formats

Scoble dropped the hint, and Mary Jo Foley spilled the beans. C|New has also jumped the gun on this. There's a piece on Channel 9 over here, and it won't be long before the official press release is here. (I waited more than 10 minutes past the deadline, folks.) Lastly, Brian Jones, PM in the Win Office team, has a post here.

Just in case you're wondering about the story with Mac Office 12, Mac Office 12 will support the new file formats as well. Also, as with Win Office, we'll be producing converters for Office X and Office 2004. Some details have yet to be fully finalized, but we expect to ship converters that will provide full round-trip support for the new file formats in Office X and Office 2004.

For us in Mac BU, this represents an enormous undertaking on two fronts. Win Office is already well ahead of Mac Office in terms of support for XML, and the state of XML parsing on Panther is, well, less than desirable (among other things, the version of libXML that ships on Panther doesn't support SAX 2.0's namespace changes).

The other is that, for the first time in the history of Office, we're attempting to ship a major architectural change that's being simultaneously implemented by both the Windows and Macintosh groups as separate business units. This means that Mac Office 12 will ship some time after Win Office 12, however I'm not at liberty to discuss projected ship dates or the currently planned delta between Win Office 12 and Mac Office 12.

Those of you who are interested in this from a software engineering point of view, the process is really rather simple. Since the Win Office team already has a lead in the development work, we in Mac Office will take snapshots of their code and integrate those snapshots into our code base. With the exception of a few minor details and any bug fixes unique to the Mac platform (almost all of which, I guarantee, will involve byte-sex issues), the code that supports the new file format will be virtually identical between the various Win Office and Mac Office applications. The challenge is interesting enough, that I might even end up writing a white paper on the topic. We'll see.

I'm intimately involved with this effort as far as Mac Word is concerned. As both time and public information restrictions permit, I'll try to keep people informed. At this time, I can tell you that Mac Word 12 currently speaks XML almost as well as Win Word 2003. I can't speak for either Excel or PowerPoint.



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Comments (37)

  1. Rosyna says:

    kind of curious why you mentioned libXML in Panther. Mostly since Mac Office has been known to roll its own if the OS doesn’t support it or if the OS’s support doesn’t mesh well with the requirements of Word. Not especially the fake genie effect by creating an overlay window, getting an image of the window, and animating that image in the overlay window. And the lack of using an actual menu in Word’s formatting palette (really wish I knew why that was, it causes me huge headaches).

  2. <p>I am definately glad that will we will be getting this with the next version of Word for Mac.<p> Brian Jones has <a href="">said</a&gt; that Office 2000/XP/2003 will get updates to support the new file formats – can we expect this for Office X/2004 as well?

  3. Actually, Mary Jo Foley waited until she had permission. CNET and Reuters were out first.

  4. Sorry – somehow I read your post and totally missing the line about Word X and Word 2004. This is excellent news 🙂

    On a separate note, the command in the Help menu "Send Feedback on Word", "Send Feedback on Entourage" now bounce to a generic report a bug page ( What is the best way to submit feature requests nowadays? I would like to recommend some sort of minimal Sharepoint collaboration functionality for Office for Mac.

  5. Ben Ko says:


    Does this mean Word/Mac will support user-defined native XML for tagging the content itself (as Word/XP does), not just XML as an alternative file format?



  6. Chris Gervais says:

    I strongly second the request for some level of SharePoint support in Mac Office 12. We’re beginning to use SharePoint 2.0 within my enterprise and we have two problems: Office 2000 users and Mac users. Anything you folks can do build in some minimal SharePoint support would be terrific.

  7. Rick Schaut says:

    Troy, for now, the best way to give feedback is via the various product newsgroups:

    Ben, Mac Word will have at least some support for external schemas, but the precise details are still up in the air. I really can’t say more than that.


  8. macfixer says:

    Please, can we have snazzier file icons? 🙂


  9. Scott says:

    I strongly agree with the Sharepoint Access! Gives us some equal usage here microsoft! While you are added, please revamp Entourage to be more Outlook like (we desperate miss some Outlook features here at our work!)

  10. Paul Berkowitz says:


    You’ve referred only to Panthe, not Tiger. I’m sure that Mac Office 12 will have to support Panther, Tiger, and OS 10.5-to-come, so I guess you have to design it to work with the earliest such system you support, but does Tiger offer no improvement? If the improvement is really significant, and would save you a lot of work, might it not make sense to design around that and require OS 10.4 for MacOffice 12? The sort of time-scale you’re disucussing here (WinOffice 12 due out very end of 2006, MacOffice lagging significantly behind, meaning 2007) probably means OS 10.5 coming out at around the same time as Mac Office 12. I guess the marketing people don’t want to make too many hurdles to upgrades, but it still might be a reasonable requirement to expect Tiger. Or does Tiger not really help much here?

  11. Rickey Stout says:

    It seems the sizzle on these announcements is the "open" part. But will these file formats really be "open?" The Slashdot crowd has weighed in with some compelling reasons to suspect that there is no substantive change in Microsoft’s corporate culture. Read and decide.

  12. Will Parker says:


    Could you provide pointers to the formal specs for the "Microsoft Office Open XML Formats"? Googling on that phrase yields a good number of press releases, but nothing much useful in the way of useful content for developers.

    TIA. – Will

  13. Scott says:

    Wow, I keep getting errors on today. Guess the slashdotting isn’t doing CS any good?

    Anyway, I’m still a newbie to OS X development. Are libxml and libxml2 the same thing? If not why not use libxml2? I can see why you wouldn’t use NSXmlParser if it’s a Cocoa only object. But CoreFoundation has a CFXmlParser available? Is that just a wrapper for libxml?

  14. Rick Schaut says:


    The version of libXML on Tiger is 2.6.16 (according to the headers), so the state of XML parsing is significantly improved. However, libXML has other problems when we start thinking about using it in Office. The discussion is a bit involved. If you really want to know, drop me an e-mail.

    The decision with respect to XML parsing, however, is independent of what OS we decide to require for Office 12. We’re going to ship converters for Office X and Office 2004, and these will need to parse XML at the same level as Office 12. We’d have customers taking our heads off if we also told Office X and Office 2004 users that they also had to upgrade to Tiger.


    There are links in Brian Jones’ post, and one of them is a white paper for developers. That’s all I know of right now. For more developer information, I’d suggest keeping an eye on John Durant’s blog:

  15. Rick Schaut says:


    When I use "libXML", I’m speaking of libxml2. If that’s not common usage, then I apologize.

    As for the Core Foundation XML parser, it’s even less robust than libXML. It’s basically not much more than the minimum you’d need in order to read a .plist.

  16. Silas says:

    Does this mean that other word processors will find it easier to include MS compatibility? Most are pretty good now, but still, an fully open format would be huge. I double-dog dare you guys to lure me away from Nisus. (Which is to say, if Office 12 is good enough I really might switch back to MS. Proper market competition is such a good thing — it’s good to see MS embracing it, a little.)

  17. Rick Schaut says:


    I mention libXML, because it’s the most robust XML parser that’s available on a standard Panther install. Even at that, the version that’s included in the standard install is woefully out of date. The state of XML parsing on the Mac is actually quite behind that of Windows.


    As for updating Office X and Office 2004, I did mention this. We expect to provide backward compatibility, but the decision is still somewhat up in the air. I’ve been told that I ought not say anything more than this.


    Regarding Mary Jo Foley, hers was actually the first report I’d seen, and that was well more than an hour before the 9:01 time I had been given as the witching hour. I knew that C|Net jumped the gun around 6:00 PM Pacific, but they pulled the article shortly after.


  18. todd b. says:

    rick, could this…

    …from a software engineering point of view, the process is really rather simple. Since the Win Office team already has a lead in the development work, we in Mac Office will take snapshots of their code and integrate those snapshots into our code base…

    …also apply to an "Outlook 12" for Mac OS X. The positive features of Outlook 2001 are truely needed on the OS X platform and Entourage X/2004 just doesn’t cut it in an Exchange envoronment.



  19. Adam Bosworth on Ajax Nice perspective on why it didn&amp;#8217;t take off back then, but does now (tags: web) TSS interviews Hani Suleiman, the Bile Blogger Some fun and a lot of valid points (tags: java) MS Office Mac will support XML, too I have no idea how usable it&amp;#8217;s going to be, but at least it&amp;#8217;s cross-platform (tags:…

  20. Now, what happens with IRM’d Office 12 Documents? That needs to have the correct answer, and that answer does NOT consist of "Use Windows".

  21. asjk says:

    Thank you MacOffice guys! Your division doesn’t get enuf luv from the Mac community. Count on my getting the next Office upgrade for the Mac.

  22. One thing i would _love_ to see in the new Mac Office 12 along the new XML file formats is a well defined OLE Automation interface 😉

  23. Andrew Rouner says:

    Hello Rick,

    I commented here after the intro of Mac Office 2004 to express my disappointment that it did not include XML (for Word–I’m talking primarily about Word in these comments) support in that version. I am VERY happy to hear that "Office 12" for the Mac will include the new XML file format.

    I’m writing to voice my concern, though, and lobby for the ability in the Mac version to do at least what the Windows 2003 version does now, namely, allow creation of documents based on author-created (i.e., anything apart from the WordML) DTDs and schemas).

    The apparent openness of the new XML file format will largely go to waste on the Mac platform if there is no support for external DTDs. I think the new file fomrat is a very smart move for MS, and will do what it’s intended to, i.e., make the Office platform relevant again, and in a new way. But if people can’t exchange XML in the XML applications they need (i.e., TEI) then the point of the XML format is largely lost. Universities are now very busy creating institutional repositories, and having Word documents in XML format will be a tremendous boon to that effort. However, if external DTD/Schema support is not available for the Mac, institution-wide workflows will not be able to implement a workflow around Office 12.

    On the other hand, if there is support for this for Macs as well as Windows verisons, many libraries will rejoice at the prospect of being able to have faculty generate XML in the required XML application at the point of content-creation. You seem to imply that the new Mac version, while following the Windows verison, might come sooner than new versions of Office have appeared in the past, in order to introduce the new file format across platforms–and that would be very welcome as well.

    Congratulations to you and MS for taking this direction.

  24. Gymshoe says:

    I agree with Roysna. Who cares about the "Standard Panther Install." Let’s talk about the Standard TIGER install. By the time Mac Office 12 finally ships – Panther will be archaic.

  25. J Andrew Lipscomb says:

    Is that any relation to the Great Schism between the Big and Little sects of Endianity?

  26. MacPartners says:

    Rick Schaut of Microsoft’s Macintosh Business Unit describes plans for supporting Microsoft’s XML formats. Office v. X and Office 2004 will get converters to read and write these formats. See Microsoft’s Office 2003 XML page for more information on Microsoft’s…

  27. CyrusN says:

    What are "byte-sex issues"???

  28. Rumors are flying that Apple will announce a switch to Intel processors on Monday. This wouldn’t surprise…

  29. Maynard Handley says:

    How about rather than making a big deal about a technical issue no-one gives a damn about, namely the low-level technology of the file format, you (ie MS) make an UNAMBIGUOUS COMMITMENT to something that actually freaking works cross platform?

    I work with colleagues who frequently share office documents written in Chinese. The cross platform behavior of these things is attrocious. Excel with Chinese comes up as garbage. Word with Chinese comes up as garbage. PowerPoint with Chinese comes up with slides as garbage but the sidebar of text is, strangely enough, legitimate Chinese. It doesn’t end there, of course.

    Outlook on the Mac screws up Chinese half the time.

    And the incompatabilities are not only in Chinese. Open a PPT presentation using an audio codec that’s not available and you will receive no error, and no indication that you’re missing information.

    Then, of course, there is the whole abortion that is equations. Sometimes in Mac docs I can see these, sometimes they are blank, sometimes they are just horizontal black lines.

    I mean, jesus christ, how many people in the world give a damn about the arcana you are describing. What we care about is a product that doesn’t claim to be cross-platform and then conspicuously at that task.

  30. Gerald Pogue says:

    Hey folks. Let me start off by saying I am a fellow MacBU employee, just like Rick. Unlike Rick, I am not a developer but a tester at MacBU.

    I worked on Office 2001, X, 2004, and I am now working on our Exchange update for Entourage 2004.

    First off, for the user complaining about Chinese support on office, let me ask: Which version of Office are you running? Office 2004 comes with Unicode support. While Chinese is not one of our officially supported language, I know that Chinese characters do work. Perhaps you are lacking a font on your Mac that can display Chinese characters? Perhaps you are using an older (Office X) version of Office that does not have unicode support.

    As for Entourage and Exchange. We made great strides forward with Entourage 2004 when it comes to Exchange support. The currect Exchange update we are working on pushes forward again. This is not some puny update. This is a massive update that supports things like GAL, Multiple Calendars and Address Books, improved Syncing, as well as vastly improve public folder support. That is just the tip of it too. This update is scheduled to release in the near future, so keep your eye out for it. (And yes it is free for all Office 2004 users)

  31. Rick Schaut says:

    Andrew and Cyrus,

    Well, today’s big announcement from gives me the perfect opportunity to answer that question. It’s in today’s post.

  32. TechBlog says:

    From the Editor


    Welcome to TechNet Flash,As I write this, the TechNet…

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