It's Time for Microsoft to Support OpenDoc

by Preston Gralla

Like most of you, I've lived with Microsoft .doc files forever. After Word decimated its competitors, .doc became the de facto standard for Windows-based word processors.

There was one good thing about Word's .doc become the word-processing standard. No longer did you have to worry about converting files between formats, with all the errors and messiness that entailed.

But .doc has outlined its usefulness. The OpenDocument Format (ODF) is a widely accepted Open Source standard, and Microsoft should support it in the upcoming Office 12. By merely supporting the standard --- allowing Word to save in ODF and read ODF files --- Microsoft won't be giving up its use of .doc files. People can still use them. All it will do is give people a choice.

Microsoft has repeatedly said that it won't support ODF in Office 12. That decision may come back to haunt the company. As I've written in a previous blog, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts s announced that as of January 1, 2007, the state government would have to use applications that work with the OpenDocument format. That rules out Office.

Although Microsoft has said it won't support ODF in Office 12, it's also given itself a way out. It often issues vague statements noting that it will consider any new feature for Office that its customers ask for.

Now is the time for Microsoft to take that way out, and support ODF. No single company should own a standard for something as ubiquitous as word processing files.

Do you think Microsoft should support ODF?


2005-11-09 13:13:55
Not OpenDoc
Minor nit pic. OpenDocument is NOT OpenDoc.

2005-11-10 08:22:16
Hear, hear for Preston!!!
MS should have the interest of their users at heart and support OpenDocument.

And ODF support might just be the very feature, that will ironically, get the masses to upgrade to Office 12.

If MS proves too obstinate, what prevents the ODF community from doing an export filter?

Also, the ODF community should also create killer applications that leverages the XML foundation of the file format. Some applications that come to mind:

- Google Desktop support
- Outline Preview Firefox extension
- Apache ODF-HTML XSLT filter to automagically publish ODF documents by just posting them on a website
- web-based service (Google, rumours have it, is working on this with Sun)
- DB makers like Oracle, DB2, MySQL, and Postgres being able to handle ODF documents natively, and automagically index them
- MediaWiki support of ODF format
- Semantic Web support (see

Taking advantage of the open-source nature of the format should allow these initiatives to happen without having to deal with MS's supposed "royalty-free" Office 12 XML license, which is very restrictive and basically prohibits open-source applications (see,1895,1829355,00.asp)

This will allow the ODF community to elevate the discussion from file formats, which the general public may find hard to understand, to the benefits of having a truly open specification.

2005-11-22 04:03:35
Hear, hear for Preston!!!
Well, whaddya know... MS just announced that they will make the Office 12 file format an "open standard"...

Still, ODF has an early lead over MS and should take advantage of the window to create applications that take advantage of its true open nature.

Also, OpenOffice should immediately jump to it and create support for the Office file format.

After all, this is not really a war of file formats, its about the applications that use them. The OO folks shouldn't need to be pressured to do the right thing.