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Saving in OOXML Format Now Probably A Bad Idea 150

Posted by Zonk
from the good-idea-bad-idea dept.
orlando writes "Much drama is unfolding prior to the OOXML Ballot Resolution Meeting in Geneva, currently schedule for the end of February. After that there's a subsequent 30 day period while countries can still change their vote. As a result, Bob Sutor is recommending that saving your documents in OOXML format right now is probably about the riskiest thing you can do, if you are concerned with long term interoperability. At this point nobody has the vaguest idea what OOXML will look like in February, or even whether it will be in any sort of stable condition by the end of March. 'While we are talking about interoperability, who else do you think is going to provide long term complete support for this already-dead OOXML format that Microsoft Office 2007 uses today? Interoperability means that other applications can process the files fully and not just products from Microsoft. I would even go so far as to go back to those few OOXML files you have already created and create .doc, .ppt, and .xls versions of them for future use, if you want to make sure you can read them and you don't want to commit yourself to Microsoft's products for the rest of their lives.'"
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Saving in OOXML Format Now Probably A Bad Idea

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  • Unwarrented (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    There's nothing to worry about. Microsoft will NOT be making any changes to the OOXML format. They will listen to all the suggestions/complaints, nod their heads and ignore them. The format will be passed, unchanged.
    • by digitig (1056110)
      And although it's a pain in the butt, we'll cope. OOo is already pretty good at reading MS proprietary files -- better than MS Office in some cases. Although I usually work in MS Office, I keep OOo on my computer as a recovery tool, because it will successfully read MS Office files that are too damaged for MS Office to read even in recovery mode. Yes, it would be better if OOXML didn't exist. Given that it exists, it would be better if it's not accepted as a standard. But even if it does get accepted as a s
      • Somebody - that people would trust to not be sending around viruses (Sun?, Google?) - ought to write a tiny downloadable app that will change your default format in Office 2007 back to .doc. Seriously, this .docx default is causing a lot of people problems, and not just ODF fans. You'd be surprised how many people can't figure out how to change the default. And without MS0 2007 as a reference, I can't walk some of the more literal users that end up asking through finding it in the entirely new menu syste
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by digitig (1056110)

          A nice little web link on google.com ("Are your friends complaining about not being able to open your Word 2007 documents? Fix it here") would do the trick.

          That could just link to OOo -- tell them to use that, instead :-)

          Yes, I know it's not a complete substitute -- I have to use MS Office because my customers require me to use forms with macros that OOo won't handle (they pay the piper, they call the tune) -- but it would be fine for most users.

          Oh, and of course, you'd still have to deal with the wrong default format. Drat, it was looking so promising...

    • This is crazy. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Columcille (88542) *
      Fear mongering on Slashdot again? I am all for standards but when it comes to thinks like file support, it doesn't really matter all that much. OOXML is here and it will be around a while. And in 10 years when you are trying to open your old files, there will still be filters to open OOXML files, just like we can still open a whole host of old and obscure file formats. Why in the world go through the trouble of converting all of your files already created using OOXML?

      For myself, I'm a pretty savvy comput
      • Re:This is crazy. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by webmaster404 (1148909) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @06:07PM (#22159652)
        I know that 5, 10, 20 years from now I would still be able to open the files, though I have no idea why I would want to.

        Or so you think. It seems that every MS "standard" is nothing more then just a memory dump of the product in question. For all we know, MS could release an Office 2007 Service Pack 1 that changes the format however could ignore all data on CDs/Flash drives when they update all the files. It doesn't help that chances are you are going to have to buy an Office 2009 to use the new OOXML format to even open newer OOXML files. The problem is MS is a company and a large one that doesn't care about stabbing its customers in the back to make a buck.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by jdeisenberg (37914)
        I know that 5, 10, 20 years from now I would still be able to open the files, though I have no idea why I would want to.

        Governmental bodies, corporations, and other institutions may indeed have a need to keep their documents available and readable for more than 20 years. (Imagine birth certificates stored in a obsolete, proprietary, undocumented, binary format on media that can only be read on equipment that is no longer available. Hilarity ensues.)
        • by Columcille (88542) *
          I can understand that some people need long term file storage, but the vast majority of people don't. I could see opening an old file for nostalgic purposes. Fine - there will always be converters or filters. But on the whole it is not a crucial thing. And yet the advice given is that everyone should use alternate file formats even though for most people it makes not a difference in the world.
          • Re:This is crazy. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Monx (742514) <MonxSlash.expandedpossibilities@com> on Thursday January 24, 2008 @05:32AM (#22164756) Journal
            Why in the world would you want your data to expire? If it was worth creating, it should be readable for a long, long time. Imagine if all documents (books, carved tablets, etc.) faded away after 20 years. We'd have no history at all.

            Formats based on open standards guarantee that it is possible to write a reader from the spec no matter how long ago the document was created. I don't think there's a single legitimate argument against this.
      • by AJWM (19027)
        I know that 5, 10, 20 years from now I would still be able to open the files, though I have no idea why I would want to.

        I've got a few documents that are nearly 20 years old that I still refer to and have had occasion to edit. They were written in MS Word 5 for Mac. Good thing I long ago converted them to a more portable format.
  • Not risky (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Microsoft won't actually use whatever becomes standardized. They'll add a strict output mode toggle that meets those requirements burried somewhere in their user interface. That way they can claim OOXML is a standard and they support it to keep the ignorant bean counters happy. However what everyone actually reads and writes by default will be whatever Office 2007 currently outputs (until OOo supports it 95%, and then it will be time for Office 2010.)
  • by EggyToast (858951) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @04:52PM (#22158416) Homepage
    It's a bad idea anyway, regardless of your future data needs. I've already received a handful of .docx files in my job and have had to email the person back, asking them to save as an alternate format. And inevitably the response is "Oh right, I always forget that not everyone can open these files."

    Microsoft's done a crappy job introducing a crappy format, and only people on the latest office (or the ability to install the Windows-oriented Windows-installer for old Office for Windows) can even work with the files.
    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @04:56PM (#22158486)
      No matter what is in the published specification ... the ONLY implementation of OOXML that will matter will be the "de facto" standard that is whatever Microsoft is shipping at that moment.

      You can be 100% compliant with the published spec ... but if you aren't 100% compliant with what Microsoft apps produce, your product is not an option.
      • That's the point (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Tony (765) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @05:28PM (#22158990) Journal
        You can be 100% compliant with the published spec ... but if you aren't 100% compliant with what Microsoft apps produce, your product is not an option.

        You don't think Microsoft *planned* it this way, did you?

        The *only* reason Microsoft purchased... I mean, went through the IEEE standardization process was to fast-track to ISO. This is because places like Massachusetts were pondering passing resolutions that would require certain government agencies (in the case of Mass, the executive branch) to publish documents in a standard, open format. Microsoft, of course, fought that with money, lobbying, and disinformation (Microsoft's best weapons).

        By getting a rubber-stamp standard, Microsoft can continue doing exactly what they do now: locking in customers by creating the perception that theirs is the only office suite that can handle the "standard" correctly, making the other suites look inferior (despite the actual compliance of the other suites).

        Notice the timing of OOXML-- it happened just as OOo was beginning to render .doc formats exceptionally well. The barrier to conversion to OOo was damned low. So, it was time to introduce another incompatible document format, which is what they have always done when the competition gets too hot.

        I don't know why Microsoft doesn't believe they can compete on merit alone. They almost *always* resort to market manipulation to maintain the upper hand. It'd be funny, if they weren't teabagging capitalism in the process.
        • Re:That's the point (Score:5, Interesting)

          by CSMatt (1175471) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @06:13PM (#22159744)

          The barrier to conversion to OOo was damned low. So, it was time to introduce another incompatible document format, which is what they have always done when the competition gets too hot.
          If it was low then, it's probably even lower now thanks to Ribbon. Given the choice between spending 5-15 minutes training employees to convert from Office 2003 to OpenOffice.org and spending 30+ minutes training employees to convert from Office 2003 to Office 2007, I know which suite I would deploy.
        • OOXML is not an IEEE standard. Are you thinking of ECMA?
    • by jayp00001 (267507)
      ...only people on the latest office (or the ability to install the Windows-oriented Windows-installer for old Office for Windows) can even work with the files
      no, you can download the word viewer to view those files. You do not need to purchase anything to view them. However unless I know the person has windows I'd probably send a PDF instead.
      • by msuarezalvarez (667058) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @05:18PM (#22158826)

        You do not need to purchase anything to view them.

        Apart from the OS, of course.

      • by vux984 (928602)
        Correct, but I'd rather teach people to use a format other people can readily use rather than require recipients to jump through hoops.

        The burden of sending a conveniently readable file lies with the sender. .doc may be proprietary but at least it meets the conveniently readable threshold, nearly any office software can handle .doc adequately.

        That said, I personally don't recommend sending .doc files for most inter-business communication. PDF is a lot more sensible in most (but not all) circumstances.

        This w
        • by EggyToast (858951)
          This who debate is like the those stupid outlook emails with .dat attachments, because the sender is using outlook rich text format instead of plaintext or html.

          Not to mention those users that are on networks that simply strip attachments (under the guise of "any files you work with should be accessed via a backed-up server, not email," which is worthwhile) or using crappy netware Groupwise (which doesn't support .dat, as far as I know -- and if it did, IT would never install it anyway!).

          It's incredib
    • by KublaiKhan (522918) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @04:57PM (#22158518) Homepage Journal
      Not to mention that the various kinds of .doc are often problematic, when one party has a newer version of office (and has saved in said format) while the other party has not upgraded.

      The 'classics' are always best, anyway--because, frankly, if you need more formatting than some basic markup that would be covered by rtf or html, you ought be using something aimed more towards desktop publishing than word processing--and for that, you can use TeX or something.

      These fancy-schmancy formats are just feature creep, really, in my opinion. If you need clip art to say it, then perhaps you don't need to say it at all.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by norite (552330)
      Maybe you should send them files in .odt format, and when the inevitable reply comes back, saying that their latest and greatest version of word 2007 cannot open it, say "Oh, sorry, I keep forgetting, not everyone is using OpenOffice." Then email them the link to OpenOffice's download section ;)
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by paul.schulz (75696)
      Just received a Resume for a C Developer position, in docx format. Pity we can't open it.

      The advertisement also specifically said that job applicants will only be contacted if they make the short list
  • Dude, sorry. Everybody has a bad day once in a while, but that was nearly unparseable. Here-

    Much drama is unfolding prior to the OOXML Ballot Resolution Meeting in Geneva, which is currently scheduled for the end of February. There is a subsequent 30 day period when countries can still change their vote. As a result, Bob Sutor is recommending that if you are concerned with long term interoperability, then saving your documents in OOXML format is probably about the riskiest thing you can do.

    At this point, no

    • by FlyByPC (841016)
      That's being rather picky, I think. I know it isn't saying much, but I routinely see much worse from the likes of CNN, MSNBC, the Washington Post etc. Also, Slashdot tends to be a bit more niche-oriented while maintaining roughly the same timeliness, so the occasional rough grammar is to be expected, I'd think.
      • by sm62704 (957197)
        True, but you don't get a chance to correct CNN and those guys. And I did apologise, Zonk usually does an excellent job, at least he has on the stories I've submitted.
    • by jez9999 (618189)
      Ehhhh, we got all the info we need to know on Slashdot. It's today. Microsoft OOXML is bad, someone said it was, and it was someone new (or at least they said something slightly differently)... now let's all have a flamefest on that summary alone.
  • In all seriousness, though, this is a bit of a sticky wicket. Not that it'll affect microsoft; but trying to introduce a nonstandard implementation of a standard that is still in considerable flux is a rather gutsy move. Particularly if you are doing so while insisting on the cardinal importance of backwards compatibility and so on.
  • I don't recall any dire warnings that we should avoid saving in ODF at the late stages of its journey through the standardization process. Why is it suddenly an issue for OOXML?
    • by DaleGlass (1068434) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @05:12PM (#22158730) Homepage
      Probably because back when it was being approved, it already existed as a standard, and was already implemented by multiple applications.

      Unlike OOXML, ODF (or OASIS as IIRC it was referred to more often) was the main format for Open Office, and at least KDE was supporting it as well.

      The fact is, if MS suddenly drops OOXML, everybody else will instantly lose interest in it. Meanwhile ODF has wide adoption: You can open it with OpenOffice, AbiWord, KWord or a MS Office plugin, for instance.
    • by jhol13 (1087781) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @05:14PM (#22158766)
      The biggest difference is that ODF did not go through Fast Track, it went trough a long and tedious process in OASIS. Besides, OOo did not save to ODF before it was done deal in ISO.

      Then there is the problem that Office 2007 does not fully support the OOXML (so you cannot save to OOXML now, only OOXMLish).

      Furthermore Microsoft has clearly stated they will not follow ISO-OOXML - unless it does exactly what Microsoft wants it to do.

      So no matter what you do, your file will be outdated in a few years.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mingot (665080)
        The biggest difference is that ODF did not go through Fast Track, it went trough a long and tedious process in OASIS. Besides, OOo did not save to ODF before it was done deal in ISO.

        Wrong.

        Wikipedia Article on OASIS [wikipedia.org]

        And although the WP article does not mention it ODF actually got to skip the one month contradictory period that was required of OOXML. So this long and tedious process for ISO certification you're talking about . . . Didn't exist.

        Then there is the problem that Office 2007 does not f
      • by Osrin (599427) *
        No, that is WRONG. ODF went through PAS which is near identical to Fasttrack, comments were raised, no BRM was held and as yet non of the maintenence (which is all done in OASIS still) has been handed back to ISO for any further approval.
      • OOo supported ODF in version 2, which came out over a year before ODF was an ISO standard.

        And furthermore, that ISO standard is quite incomplete. ODF 1.2, which is now in the process of being standardized, adds things like a specification for spreadsheet formulas. Should we refrain from using ODF until that is finished? Are we to believe that minor differences between Office 2007 and what will be finally standardized is fatal, but the gigantic additions ODF is currently undergoing are just fine?

        This art

  • Aw, c'mon (Score:5, Funny)

    by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @05:21PM (#22158880) Homepage Journal

    At this point nobody has the vaguest idea what OOXML will look like in February
    If this were Jeopardy, I'd ask Alex:
    "What is the most-linked image in /. history?"
    • by Lordpidey (942444)
      Well its quite hard to know what it will look like, considering the huge gaping hole in what we know about the format.
  • ..when I booted my new laptop running Vista and MS Word 2007 started to save my docs with a suspicious looking new '.sucx' extension.
    Foolishly I didn't take the time (nor had I the inclination) to investigate the implication of this change and I assumed it was just another completely unnecessary m$oft 'enhancement' designed to (i) annoy me (ii) make it harder for 'lesser mortals' to migrate their platform.

    Yep, I know: what a naïve, conceited, presumptuous fuckwad, etc. etc.

    At the time I had intende
  • I've started getting OOXML (docx) Word documents, which I've found take forever to convert using MS' own builting converter (2007 to 2003) and that the conversion frequently jacks-up the formatting, which doesn't bother me, but makes collabaration difficult, and I have to re-format the documents if we're in a crunch since my project lead is anal about asthetic things like that.

    <rant>If it were up to me, I'd do reports in plaintext (or if necessary, PDF)</rant>
  • Tagging (Score:5, Insightful)

    by raftpeople (844215) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @05:27PM (#22158966)
    A comment on tagging:
    "whatcouldpossiblygowrong" is pretty entertaining when used sparingly, like maybe on a story about a new robotic dentist. But when we are talking about document formats, I think it starts to lose that special something.
  • by nadaou (535365) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @05:27PM (#22158972) Homepage
    To reduce the (probably intended) market confusion over the pedigree of the format names, it would be nice if people used "MS-OOXML" to differentiate it from ODF and OpenOffice.

    [repost]
    • What makes you think that the name Office Open XML was intended to be confused with the OpenOffice's XML file format (ie. ODF)?

      Too bad OpenOffice.org doesn't even have the trademark for Open Office (hence the .org), otherwise they could probably do something about it.
      • by Jonner (189691)
        I would be disappointed if trademark were used to bring legal action over any use of the two English words Office and Open. I think MS did use the name OOXML deliberately to cause people to confuse it with ODF, but to sue over it would be an abuse of the legal system IMHO. Microsoft's predatory, monopolistic business practices can and will be defeated by honest competition in the marketplace, rather than the courts.
        • Yeah, but the idea of a trademark like "Open Office" is that it would apply only to that specific field. One of the reasons for trademarks in the first place is to prevent this very sort of confusion that MS is trying to cause.

          You can bet that MS would sue if I released an operating system called MacroSoft Windows, and they'd be well within their rights, as the only reason to name it that is to cause confusion and/or leech of the well known product's name.

          However, you do make a good point about it being a
          • by Jonner (189691)
            It's a good point that trademarks only apply in a specific field. Perhaps it would have been better to choose a less generic name, such as the original one, StarOffice.
  • MS is going to try and force the issue with money, and sheer weight of numbers.

    All together now: "MICROSOFT - BECAUSE IT'S THERE."
  • Sutor is correct that it's quite possible that the OOXML that comes out of ISO will not be compatible with the OOXML that Office currently saves. But do keep in mind that Sutor works for IBM and has long been a vocal opponent of OOXML.
    • by grcumb (781340)

      Sutor is correct that it's quite possible that the OOXML that comes out of ISO will not be compatible with the OOXML that Office currently saves. But do keep in mind that Sutor works for IBM and has long been a vocal opponent of OOXML.

      Ah, so what you're saying is that he has an agenda... to tell the truth?

  • They can't make an operating system; what makes anyone think they can make a standard file format for the ages?
  • Sadly, it doesn't matter all that much what ISO has to say, since MS Office is the standard application choice in business. What ever it uses will continue to be the defacto "standard". Therefore Microsoft gets to set the standard for document formats. I'm not happy with this at all, but it's a fact of life I'm learning (aka being forced) to live with.
  • Thanks, but I'm way ahead of you on this one.
  • Here's my serious & naive questions: Is Microsoft really under any obligation to follow a standard? Playing devil's advocate here, Microsoft can pretty much do whatever they want. They dominate the market, whatever format they see fit to save their documents in is what they'll do. They've always used their market share to get their own way, why would this one be any different? I'm already getting "how do I open this .docx" document?" questions, as are many others I'm sure. It's just another way for
    • by corsec67 (627446) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @05:59PM (#22159496) Homepage Journal
      People are trying to get laws passed that say that government documents must be saved in an open, documented format. If OOXML gets forked into the ISO version and the MS version, then MS loses there since they don't save in a documented format.

      One option for MS is to have a very hidden "save in ISO OOXML" switch that is hard to toggle, or only available in more expensive versions of office, with a converter between the MS and ISO versions of OOXML.

      If MS uses the ISO version of OOXML, then as you say, anyone could make an office suite that used that format, and MS would have to compete on something more than "everybody uses office".

      If it wasn't for those laws that people are trying to get passed, you would be completely correct.
    • There certainly is a moral obligation to support a standard that you've forced into existence. To force hundreds, if not thousands, of people around the world to work to vet your proposed standard and then not support it is... uh... bad form...
  • When the document specification is revised, the XML schema should also change. Older documents will then still be readable because an application has to use the older (non OSI approved) XML schema.
    • Older documents will then still be readable because an application has to use the older (non OSI approved) XML schema.
      They do? Says who?
  • At this point nobody has the vaguest idea what OOXML will look like in February,

    I'm guessing it's gonna look pretty similar to the current version. What does the guy expect, a complete re-write from a company that isn't known for making concessions and has the market share to mostly get their way?

    No matter how many and how significant the changes made to OOXML as M$ forces it through the standards bodies, the situation then will be no different than now - OOXML is not yet supported by many applications,

    • by Osrin (599427) *
      He doesn't expect it... look up the deffinition of FUD on Wikipedia, Gene Amdahl defined the term to describe IBMs marketing techniques. Bob is just doing all he can to try and muddy the waters.
  • We can always save in older Office formats.

    What?!! Not supported anymore, you say?

    Oh crap!

  • ...the safest option. :-)
    • Nope. Word 2005 Sp3 disables the ability to import Word97 files. One would be tempted to think it will detect the fingerprints of OpenOffice as the author and then refuse to import it.
  • I know microsoft is teh devil.

    But from a pragmatic point of view I don't think that the OSS community can ignore .swx. Also a lost format that didn't open in any programs outside of OpenOffice (and one other document application that I can't remember right now).

    Now Microsoft could have supported it, there could be a plugin for support (as there can be with .docx though with imperfect results). From a pragmatists perspective sometimes formats fail, it looks like .docx will be one of them...

    Now I like o

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