Microsoft's next Office file format reaches final draft status

Redmond (WA) - Microsoft Blogger Brian Jones today announced that the final draft of Office Open XML, Microsoft's default file format in the upcoming Office 2007 productivity suite has been approved within the framework of the standardization body of Ecma.

Microsoft today took a significant towards a much broader acceptance of its Office Open XML file format, which will be the foundation of all documents that will be saved by Office 2007 applications. A group of twelve organizations - Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, The British Library, Essilor, Intel, Microsoft, NextPage, Novell, Statoil, Toshiba and the The United States Library of Congress - has approved the final draft of the specification and prepared it for submission to the General Assembly of Ecma (European association for standardizing information and communication systems).

According to Jones, the final draft specification was fine-tuned to resolve "potential interoperability issues" to "assist consumers in better handling their files."

Open Office XML competes with Oasis' Open Document format (ODF), which as been sponsored especially by IBM, Adobe and Sun Microsystems, but also Intel and Novell - both of which are participating in Microsoft's Open XML effort. Open XML, which Microsoft says will be an "open and royalty-free specification," will not directly compatible with Open Document, but Microsoft announced in July an open source project that aims to create solutions to translate Open XML files to ODF. In addition to the default Open XML file formats, the 2007 Microsoft Office system will include a new menu option that points users to add-ins for PDF and XML-based formats such as the XML Paper Specification (XPS) and ODF.

The draft of the Open XML is broken down in five different parts, which include a basic understanding of the specification, open packaging conventions, a primer with a description of the markup languages, a markup language reference as well as markup compatibility and extensibility characteristics.

Open Office XML formats will cover all basic office applications - including Word (WordprocessingML), Excel (SpreadsheetML), PowerPoint (PresentationML) - and add supporting packages such as vector graphics (DrawingML and VML), file properties, bibliography, mathematical elements as well as custom XML data properties.