Microsoft Publishes Implementation Notes for File Formats in Office 2007
Dec. 16, 2008
Q&A: Doug Mahugh discusses how Microsoft’s delivery of implementation notes documenting Office’s support of file-format specifications demonstrates the company’s commitment to transparency, industry collaboration, interoperability and customer choice.

Editor’s note – Dec. 16, 2008 – updates to this story were posted after original publication to address formatting issues and minor corrections.

REDMOND, Wash. — Dec. 16, 2008 — Microsoft today released detailed notes for its implementation of Open Document Format (ODF) 1.1 in Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2. The ODF and soon-to-be-released Open XML notes give developers insights into how Microsoft is implementing file formats in its flagship productivity suite, and will help serve as a reference point for developers’ own applications.

Doug Mahugh, a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft who specializes in Microsoft Office interoperability.
Doug Mahugh, a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft who specializes in Microsoft Office interoperability.
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PressPass talked with Doug Mahugh, a Microsoft senior program manager who specializes in Office interoperability, to find out how today’s action will advance the goal of document format interoperability and address customers’ needs. Mahugh also discussed how Microsoft hopes other vendors will follow its lead.

PressPass: Why has Microsoft created these ODF implementation notes for Office?

Mahugh: As we announced last May with the release of Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2, Microsoft will support an even wider range of file formats, including ODF, XPS and PDF/A. We are committed to transparency and full disclosure to help achieve the industry’s goal of document interoperability. These notes detail the decisions we’ve made in our implementation, allowing developers to make informed choices in their own implementations. They are available at no cost on the Document Interoperability Initiative (DII) Web site (http://documentinteropinitiative.org).

Through our participation in document interoperability events around the world, we’ve been hearing from the community that interoperability — the ability to freely share and exchange documents across different applications — is what customers care about. Our industry won’t get there without positive participation, transparency and collaboration among vendors.

PressPass: Shouldn’t all standards be strictly adhered to? Isn’t that the whole point of standards?

Mahugh: This is a common misconception among those not familiar with the nuanced world of technical standards. The reality is that every implementer makes choices when it comes down to actually developing a solution based on a standard.

We are committed to transparency and full disclosure to help achieve the industry’s goal of document interoperability.
Doug Mahugh, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft,

There are several reasons why an implementation may differ from a standard. For instance, a standard may be ambiguous and not address how to accomplish certain goals, or the standard may allow for a wider range of behavior than a particular implementation can support. In another example, an application may need to address customer requirements not anticipated by a standard.

Having a published standard is only the starting point. Helping others understand how standards are implemented practically to address customers’ changing needs is very important to driving toward real-world interoperability.

PressPass: What are some examples of the information contained in the ODF implementation notes?

Mahugh: Bold text is a good example. The ODF specification supports a wider variety of “font weight,” or boldness, than other formats supported by Word. Therefore, we sometimes adjust the font weight in a document to match the specific values that Word supports. The implementation note on this topic will help other implementers understand the coding behind that adjustment.

PressPass: Who are these notes aimed at, and how does Microsoft envision them being used?

Mahugh: We expect the notes to make it easier for other implementers of ODF to create solutions that interoperate with our products. In roundtable discussions at recent DII workshops, implementers told us they would find it useful to know the specific details of our implementation of ODF. That feedback has helped inform our work on the implementation notes.

PressPass: If the goal is interoperability, it seems this is something every vendor should do.

Mahugh: We agree, and encourage all implementers of standards to be fully transparent about the details of their implementations. This, along with shared stewardship of evolving standards and open collaboration among vendors, will help achieve the level of interoperability that customers require.

Underscoring our commitment to this goal, we are also publishing implementation notes for ECMA 376 (Open XML) in Office 2007. These will be available in the next few months, also at http://www.documentinteropinitiative.org.

PressPass: After the effort to get Open XML adopted as an industry standard, why the sudden emphasis on ODF? Is Microsoft abandoning Open XML?

Mahugh: Microsoft always has and always will support the Open XML file format. We believe it is a standard that addresses the needs of our customers. Moreover, the considerable enhancements the Open XML specification gained through the ISO/IEC standards review process have further strengthened its foundation for future development.

Open XML is designed to be backward-compatible with the content and functionality in billions of existing documents, thereby enhancing interoperability and document preservation in the public and private sectors.

In tandem with our support of Open XML and ODF, today’s announcement demonstrates Microsoft’s approach to helping ensure vendors get the tools they need to achieve true interoperability. Our mutual customers are asking for the ability to freely share and exchange documents across multiple applications, and we will continue to work with other implementers to make that possible.

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