Microsoft Office XML Final Draft is Released

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The final draft of the ECMA standard for Microsoft's Office XML file formats has been released.

Of course, despite the fact that it is completely proprietary to Microsoft, it goes by the Orwellian name of "Open Office XML".

My feeling about this haven't changed: I think it is great that the Microsoft has finally given in to customer demands (and competitive pressure) to document their file formats. This is a fairly bold move on their part since closed file formats are an serious lock-in for customers.

That said, this is a horrible format. It is nothing but the previous binary file format switched to XML. There is plenty of the binary format that has leaked in. And there are all sorts of wacky things (can you say VML?) that are there only to maintain backward compatibility which have excellent standardized counterparts. Rob Weir has been pointing some of the more egregious examples out on his blog: the buggy date arithmetic is just too funny for words: check out Brian Jones attempt to make it seem rational.

As a developer, I cannot see a reason to write code that emits this format. If you need complete control of the look, PDF is a far better solution. There are plenty of libraries that shield you from the complexity of the actual PDF format (and you would need plenty of shielding from the MSOfficeXML details in any case). If you need to be able to edit the result, or if you do not care about the exact page layout, HTML is a far easier solution. That's just my two cents, and I am sure there are plenty of consultants out there who can convince people otherwise.

Tags: microsoft

File Formats: MSOfficeXML