Preliminary thoughts on the implementation of ODF in Microsoft Office.

To keep this post simple and clear, I would like to clarify two things: First, I have not tested the SP2 of Microsoft Office 2007, and hence I cannot relate my own experience of Microsoft’s implementation of ODF. Second, I do believe that given the information we have, and as a general principle, we should focus on the quality of the implementation. Simply put, Microsoft’s ODF implementation does either work well or does not work / is of poor quality. I will be satisfied, and so will every user of Microsoft Office, to have a good implementation of ODF inside Microsoft Office.

This being said, it is known that pundits were able to get some early information on Doug Mahugh‘s weblog a few months ago about how MS Office  2007 would implement ODF. The negative side, if we read Doug’s blog is that there are some inherent limitations to the implementation that seem to make Microsoft Office a clear inferior ODF capable office suite than others. At that time I found it hard to believe and believe that this would be more damageable to ODF than to Microsoft Office. I also pointed out it was the first time Microsoft had taken a sorry tone to speak about one of its products. I will however refrain to make any particular comment at this stage: Clearly, this moment is historical, and it is a happy one. Critics, if they prove to exist and be valid, will be voiced later. So perhaps the only thing to conclude with is the press release of the OpenDoc Society that I have enclosed below:

“ODF support in Office 2007 is end of an era”
Future proof format now available to entire market

Amsterdam, April 29 2009

OpenDoc Society congratulates Microsoft Corporation Inc. with the
release yesterday of Microsoft’s Service Pack 2 for Office 2007,
Microsoft Office is the latest of the major Office suites to offer
native support for the OpenDocument Format (ODF). OpenDoc Society is
happy to see Microsoft finally join vendors and open source communities
like IBM, Google, Sun Microsystems, Novell, KOffice, Corel and Adobe –
which already made the switch to ODF in recent years.

“In a way it is the end of an era,” says Bert Bakker, chair of OpenDoc
Society. “Vendor based formats have dominated the last twenty five
years of IT to the extreme point where billions of investments in
software – even in entirely unrelated areas – were steered not by
technical and security considerations but by what was used on the
desktop productivity suites.”

The new released SP2 finally brings native ODF 1.1 support to Microsoft
Office 2007 (meaning it can fully replace the deprecated .doc, .docx,
xls, .xslx, ppt and pptx formats) after two years of ‘unofficial’
support through an add-in which was initiated and paid for (but not
formally supported) by Microsoft. It is especially important for any
Microsoft customers which adopted the deprecated Office 2007-specific
formats docx, xlsx and pptx – which were introduced as default formats
when Office 2007 appeared. Since these have meanwhile been superceded,
use of those formats is not to be recommended.

Many governments have actively been adopting an open standards policy,
with ODF being one of the prime drivers. Governments and customers have
grown increasingly vocal in making it clear to vendors that they would
take their business elsewhere if they did not move to support open
standards. ‘Moving to ODF even if you stay with the same vendor an even
the same product is plainly good IT governance, as it provides better
security, compliance mechanisms and usability while at the same time
diminishing the depencies on any single vendor”, says Michiel Leenaars,
vice-chair of OpenDoc Society. “We recommend companies, governments,
and users at large to just make the switch and set the new format as
their default as soon as possible – let’s put a halt to the creation of
‘new’ legacy documents as soon as possible. We’ll thank ourselves for
doing it later”.

With the last of the major vendors moving to ODF, OpenDoc Society notes
that this clears the way for a lot of innovation in both offline and
online office tools that were made possible by the Open Document
Format. Most notably the Society expects to see the rise of smart
documents that merge online ‘web of data’-like features with more
traditional desktop use. OpenDoc Society intends to actively help
these new products and services to converge and interoperate better on
behalf of users and consumers.

With all major office solutions now being able to use ODF, the focus of
software producers and customers should be on getting products that
generate or process documents  – like electronic mail filters, content
management systems, document repositories and BI tools – to take
advantage of the many opportunities ODF brings.

OpenDoc Society strongly urges large document users like governments
and companies, as well as individuals, to look at the currently
proposed ODF 1.2 specification as well as the call for input for the
next major version of ODF that will follow the pending release of 1.2.
The OASIS Technical Committee currently welcomes any comments on its
committee draft [2].


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