Friday, December 08, 2006

Is MS Office OpenXML Document Format Nirvana?

The other day I was weeding my office and came across a handful of old 3-1/2 inch floppy discs. After finding a box that actually had a floppy drive, I opened the contents for viewing. To my surprise I found some old WordStar documents. They would not open in Word.

While there are support groups and projects like the Long Now Foundation's Format Exchange that provide tools would have helped me to open the files, the experience started me thinking about how many documents would be lost simply because the formats will become obsolete.

Microsoft has been getting some press since it received recent approval for its Office OpenXML (OOXML) format to be sent to ISO for consideration an international standard. Microsoft's OpenXML format is based on open standards and is available royalty-free. However, OOXML is not the only option to office document compatibility nirvana.

The Open Document Format (ODF) is actually winning in the overall standards race. On Dec 1, 2006 ISO ratified ODF as one of its official standards: ISO/IEC 26300:2006. This standard was developed by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), a global consortium and is based upon the XML format originally created by The OpenDocument specification is available for free download and use.

Corel, the maker of the WordPerfect Office suite intends to support both OOXML and ODF and in future versions.

While the debate between the OOXML and ODF is likely to go one for the next couple years, the discussion will certainly pressure vendors to ensure that documents we create today will be accessible tomorrow, providing we can find a device to read the media they are stored on. Sphere: Related Content

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