I just looked out my window. Yep, it *is* August...

Story: Office to Become Fully Open XML Compliant (at last)Total Replies: 18
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Aug 14, 2012
5:26 PM EDT
... or at least definitely not April.

I don't know whether to be more surprised that it got done "so quickly", or that it got done at all.

Aug 14, 2012
5:34 PM EDT
It seems pointless. What a cluster**** MS has become.

Aug 14, 2012
5:58 PM EDT
It also occurs to me that in journalistic circles, mid to late August is sometimes referred to as "Silly Season", and a time of year characterised by unimportant stories and low audience/readership attention. It might not be accidental that the announcement was made just now.

Aug 14, 2012
6:08 PM EDT
The question is, why & why now?

Is it because LibreOffice does an excellent job at reading MS Docx? Or is it because MS is feeling the pressure from both, its customers and LibreOffice increasing popularity?

I like to believe it is all of the above.


Aug 14, 2012
6:33 PM EDT
I can't disagree with anything anyone has posted, but I do think Fettoosh has probably come close to the real reasons. I'd add one more factor to the mix: Android and its accelerating use by a huge and increasing population of smartphone and pad people which is also spilling over into business users. There ain't no Office on those machines. In fact, you could also say that it's just another straw in the wind that indicates FOSS is winning. As far as I am concerned BernardSwiss, spring is now in the air here in "down under"......which means any crazy thing can happen, even sanity out of Redmond.

Aug 14, 2012
11:46 PM EDT
For me, the comment by Richard Plinston in this thread: http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2012/08/15/office_20... seems apposite .

Aug 15, 2012
1:01 AM EDT
Yeah. New day: same old ^%$^&.

And then of course, there's also the question of how well (or even if) the new MS Office ODF format will interoperate with everyone else's ODF format.

Aug 15, 2012
1:39 AM EDT
Upon reading this, part of me within, heard a resounding Hallelujah Chorus but then again, I remembered this is Microsoft. I am sure they will find a way to slither out of doing it right....one the surface, meeting the standard but introducing "features" that will still make it impossible to edit Excel forms in LibreOffice format and have them render back in Excel....same for docx.

It should be a day to celebrate....the final main obstacle for Linux adaptation removed.

But no, it will not be.....I am afraid it's just another Lucy/Charlie Brown moment. I, for one, don't feel like kicking the football. Those lousy, disease-infested, undead pieces of corrupt matter that are MS cannot entice me to believe their fairy tales any longer.

Aug 15, 2012
3:11 AM EDT
And then of course, there's also the question of how well (or even if) the new MS Office ODF format will interoperate with everyone else's ODF format.

The short and long answer: Not.

MS is switching to "their own format" as that is yet another break with backward compatibility. Now that all competing suites have more or less reverse engineered Transitional Open XML, MS sets everybody back by introducing Strict Open XML. Fettoosh is right.

Even if they will follow the ISO approved Open XML to the letter, there is enough proprietary junk in that "standards document" that MS is the only one who could possibly achieve 99% fidelity. Everybody else will choke on the "do it like Office version X" rubbish.

Aug 15, 2012
5:54 AM EDT
commenter on thereg wrote: Even the diehard MS fans have a LO install handy so that they can convert the MSOffice file they receive to a version that they can open with _their_ MSOffice. Talk about an own goal.
http://forums.theregister.co.uk/post/1510367 ;-P

Aug 15, 2012
8:54 AM EDT
I think r_a_trip has an excellent point. This actually is fairly important news if Microsoft was finally going to be truly standards complaint and was finally going to play nice with others. I don't really believe that is what is going to happen and any failure of compatibility will somehow be blamed on everyone and anyone but Microsoft.

Aug 15, 2012
10:57 AM EDT
Quoting:... and any failure of compatibility will somehow be blamed on everyone and anyone but Microsoft. ... one that will give problems when attempting to open using earlier versions of Office[Richard Plinston]

If part of the reason was pressure from customers, such reasons won't be helpful to MS. Its customers will wonder: Why LibreOffice can save a legit ODF document and fully compatible with the standard, but MS can't even though both formats are available to it? MS will lose their marbles, if they haven't already, when more customers abandon MS Office.


Aug 15, 2012
4:27 PM EDT
My son recently had to deal with these issues in an online school course that he was doing over the summer break.

We run Ubuntu Linux and we use LibreOffice 3.5.

The online course, although ostensibly web-based, referenced a lot of documents to be filled in from other sites. There were quite a number of different types and versions including rtf, doc, docx, and pdf. While LibreOffice makes a valiant attempt to read all of these documents, all but the most basic in structure were mangled.

The solution was to read them in as best we could, format them until they looked kinda right (assuming they weren't too mangled to see how they were supposed to look), save a copy as ODF, edit them, and send in the completed document as an exported PDF.

Now as I see it, there are two issues here:

1) rtf, doc, docx, odf etc are not designed to be portable formats. They largely contain the "logical structure" of the document with some additional formatting instructions. Ultimately though, how they will appear on the screen is entirely dependent on the interpretation of the word processor that you are using. We often used to see this in rendering conflicts between Firefox and IE, both conforming to the standard but in a different way. As I see it, the main challenge when importing a "foreign" format is not interpreting the content of the file, but translating it into an internal form that will render in the same way as the foreign word processor. That involves a certain amount of guesswork.

2) We do actually have a number of genuinely portable formats that are globally accepted, PDF being the foremost, but also we have postscript. They are largely intended for portable rendering. When passing around documents for people to see (and perhaps forms to fill in), it seems to me that PDF is far more suitable for these kinds of applications. There is practically no ambiguity in the rendering of the document since that rendering is the main purpose of the format. Conversely, that is exactly why it is such a difficult format to use for a word processor.

In the main, I see the native WP formats being used far too much on the web where a genuinely portable format would be much more suitable. For document collaboration, you really only need to specify a standard word processor and stick to it and that is usually in a more closed environment.

I really don't see a situation where MS Office and LibreOffice/OpenOffice will ever be able to converge on a rendering approach that works for all the possible common file formats in a 100% reliable way. They just work too differently on the inside.

Aug 17, 2012
10:18 AM EDT
I find this hilarious.

Why did they fight the odf standard in the first place?

if they just complied instead of doing their xml crap wouldn't it have saved them money in the first place.

you wouldn't have had to promise/bribe the world to other countries to get them to vote for you open xml crap to make them vote for your crap to be adopted by the iso.

you wouldn't have to develop you own open xml crap and would of spent the money on developing an open standard.

you would of have ended up where you are today but now you just have an open xml standard you have to still support.


"It seems pointless. What a cluster**** MS has become."

That seems to be spot on. They have become a cluster****.

Aug 17, 2012
10:51 AM EDT
Quoting:rtf, doc, docx, odf etc are not designed to be portable formats.


You cited all the right reasons that prove the problem is in the implementation, yet you blamed the formats, including ODF. That is partially correct.

ODF is very extensible and can be expanded/extended to accommodate for anything that is in MS and other formats. I can't say the same about MS formats, especially the older ones.


Aug 17, 2012
1:22 PM EDT
@Fettoosh: "....yet you blamed the formats, including ODF."

I think "blame" is the wrong word. They are what they are.

There are real practical difficulties in making sure a purely structural data format renders the same in two entirely different packages each with their own internal ways of working. Additionally, each of Word and LO store the structure of the document differently internally. Superficially, they both use the concept of styles, they cater for fonts and font sizes in the same way and a variety of other simple aspects. When you get to frames, pictures where text flows around them using one of a number of different methods, frame anchoring methods, tables, borders, embedded documents, etc it starts to become very complicated indeed.

The core problem is that because Word and LO are fundamentally different in some ways, and the format is not designed to carry faithful rendering information, they are going to look different for anything other than fairly simple documents. The situation is improving and will continue to improve. But you have to understand that for a particular feature in ODF, there are multiple possible interpretations of implementing it visually. That ambiguity will always be a bane for people moving between Word and LO.

It is also a continual problem with documents that are not designed by people who know what they are doing. On the course my son took, one of the documents was a bizarre mixture of graphic renderings of tables and real tables that had been manually adjusted to line up. This is an appalling way to prepare a document. If they had done it properly with proper tables throughout, the imported document had a good chance of looking right, even if it looked different.

Aug 17, 2012
3:00 PM EDT
Quoting:I think "blame" is the wrong word. They are what they are.

OK, wrong choice of a word, but you know what I mean. how does "you attribute the deficiency to formats" sound!

I agree with you in general but, I attribute deficiency to lack of descriptors/parameters and the way they are implemented in the rendering process.

Actually, no matter what format those descriptors/parameters are stored, they and their implementation are the only factors that determine how the final display should look like. Lack of some parameters will lead to choosing default values, which might be different in various supplementation and in turn could cause discrepancy in displays.

Quoting:But you have to understand that for a particular feature in ODF, there are multiple possible interpretations of implementing it visually.

That could be the case, but if there were enough descriptors/parameters in the file, that wouldn't happen.

Although XML is bulky, one of its advantages is being eXtensible. That makes ODF also extensible to add parameters to items as necessary to make sure an object, no matter what it is, can be precisely described to always look the same. After all, that is how it is done in PDF.


Aug 17, 2012
3:16 PM EDT
Yes. I don't know the ODF & DOCX specifications sufficiently to judge how many of these "default" holes there are but I suspect that convergence over a period will be enhanced by LO and OO, and worsened (probably deliberately) by Microsoft.

Aug 17, 2012
4:52 PM EDT
This is why we should just switch to LaTeX for everything, and use a good LaTeX editor. :-)

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