Microsoft Office to use XML format !

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The next version of Microsoft Office codename “Office 12” will have a new default XML file formats instead of proprietery binary format as previous versions. If all things goes well, the new default formats for Word, Excel and Powerpoint will change, respectively, from .”doc,” “.xls” and “.ppt” to “.docx,” “.xlsx” and “.pptx,” Microsoft said.

Unbelievable but true. Microsoft has once envisioned the idea of creating an XML document format for it’s popular Office product even back in 2000. However, the final product of Office 10 or Microsoft Office XP seems to drop the idea altogether. Maybe it got to do with Microsoft business strategy to lock down its user in it’s own proprietery binary format.

The proprietery format not only confine users to Microsoft products, but makes it hard for users to exchange documents between platforms, limiting its usage. Not to mention that the Microsoft Office format have been kept secret all this time making it hard for people to write a compatible word processor/reader on other platforms.

The office binary format also have been a pain in ass for certain power user where they can’t transform the documents into other format. They are most comfortable and often rely on other office product which uses XML such as OpenOffice or Staroffice for that matter.

It is uncertain that whether Openoffice and abiword move to adopt OASIS open document format (odt) that permits even broader documents have its influence on Microsoft’s decision. Microsoft which also one of OASIS sponsor, has made available under royalty-free license the XML schemas of its Office file formats. The new Microsoft Office 12 suite will ship sometime in 2006.

“Open file format continues our policy of providing our XML schemas in an open, royalty-free license,” said Microsoft’s Numoto. “That’s an important element of facilitating partners and developers to use that schema to integrate the format into their solutions.” – Microsoft

References :
1. Washington Post
3. OASIS Open Document Standards