The Sweet Smell of Redmond…

I’ve previously talked about the horrors of the native document format in the Office 2007 (and now 2008 for Mac as well), OOXML. I’m not going to go through an extended talk about the nonsense that Microsoft has done to essentially bankrupt the legitimacy of ISO bodies around the world. I’ll let you head over to Bob Sutor’s blog if you want to do that (disclaimer: Bob is a VP at IBM. He’s super smart, but IBM is an ardent supported of ODF, and opposed to OOXML. That position comes through in the blog.).

Now, I just want to note something that you might have missed in some of the FUD that has been swirling about OOXML receiving ISO certification. While it’s true that OOXML may indeed receive such certification (which will be a sad, sad day), the current office suites that Microsoft has on the market (i.e. 2007 and 2008) do not support ISO 29500 – the OOXML standard. That’s right: if you’re saving your documents in OOXML right now, you are NOT saving it as the default standard that Microsoft is championing. Instead, you’re just saving in the ‘transitionary’ format. This means that you could potentially be stranded with a lot of OOXML documents in the future, especially if you decide to move to a non-Microsoft office package. At the very least, it’s looking as though only Microsoft will be able to be ‘backwards compatible’ with 2007 and 2008 when and if the ISO 29500 is approved – no Open Office, Neo Office, Abiword, Google Docs, or anything else for you!

I’m so impressed that ‘open standards’ are translating to ‘closed, proprietary based standards’. It seems in accordance with the thousands of pages that go into the OOXML so-called ‘standard’.

Open Source and Open Office XML

I’ve had friends and colleagues that have championed open source software and operating systems for ages. While I’ve appreciated their arguments I’ve never been convinced by them to actually proceed and move whole-scale to open source – either because it would be inconvenient, the software that I needed wasn’t immediately available in the same format as what I was using in Windows, or I just didn’t have the time to learn an entirely new way of computing. I’ve worked with computers for the past five or six years and in all that time has been in Microsoft environments – I’ve had (and in many ways continue to have) a deep investment in Microsoft products, and that’s been a central factor in Microsoft keeping my business.

The decision to avoid switching to an open source Office Suite was practically sealed when I started to demo Microsoft Office 2007 for my workplace – I love the interface, the built-in designs, and the ability to make professional looking documents with ease. Office 2007 completely drops the GUI of all other Office packages and reinvents the wheel, somehow managing to come closer to that Form of perfect Office computing. Without knowing anything about the new document format that Office 2007 used I was just annoyed that it wasn’t interoperable with previous versions of Office, but that was relieved when Microsoft placed a free conversion package on their Window’s Update website. Finally, I thought, I’d be able to share these awesome documents that I’m making with everyone in the Windows world!

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