Microsoft Takes Concrete Steps to Foster Interoperability Among File Formats
Dec. 16, 2008
Company encourages greater transparency in the pursuit of interoperability by publishing ODF and Open XML implementation notes.

REDMOND, Wash. — Dec. 16, 2008 — To help foster interoperability among office productivity applications, Microsoft Corp. today published documentation detailing its implementation of OASIS Open Document Format (ODF) version 1.1 support in Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2, currently in beta and scheduled for release next year. Similarly detailed notes about the company’s implementation of Open XML (Ecma 376 Edition 1) in Office will follow in the coming weeks.

These implementation notes offer a comprehensive guide on how Microsoft is implementing ODF and Open XML within its flagship Microsoft Office suite. The notes, available at no charge on the Document Interoperability Initiative (DII) site, http://www.documentinteropinitiative.org, will be useful to developers seeking to enhance the interoperability of their solutions with Microsoft products.

“This is an extremely valuable contribution to the pursuit of grounded, practical interoperability among applications,” said Dennis Hamilton, document-system interoperability architect. “This step raises the bar for transparent disclosure of how standard formats are supported at a detailed level.”

“By publishing notes on how we are implementing file format standards in Microsoft Office, we are providing detail that others can use as a reference point for their own applications,” said Doug Mahugh, senior project manager for Office interoperability. “We encourage other companies to take similar steps to help achieve greater interoperability across the industry.”

Microsoft’s implementation notes include the following:

  • Details on implementation decisions. When implementing a standard, an implementer may find the text ambiguous or more permissive than is appropriate for that particular implementation. In these cases implementers need to make a choice that best suits their application. This type of information enables developers to see the direction a vendor is taking and make informed decisions about their own efforts to interoperate.

  • Details on additional data written into files. File format standards typically allow additional application-specific information (such as certain user customizations) to be written to the file. By providing this information vendors allow developers to correctly interpret the additional data.

  • Details on implementation variances. With every application there may be instances where an implementer cannot follow the standard exactly for one reason or another. For example, general industry practice may differ from what is in the specification or users may have made clear that they need something different. In such cases, it is important for vendors to document their approach so other vendors can make fully informed decisions about how they will approach implementation.

Standardization is a useful first step in promoting interoperability, but more work is required among vendors to achieve the goal:

  • Shared stewardship in the ongoing evolution of the standards as they are maintained by the standards body. Microsoft is committed to being an active participant in the evolution of ODF, Open XML, XML Paper Specification and PDF standards. Microsoft has already made contributions to ODF in OASIS and is actively participating in the maintenance of Open XML in ISO/IEC.

  • Transparency. Vendors must be transparent when implementing standards in their own products. By publishing these implementation notes Microsoft is helping other developers and vendors make informed decisions on how they create their own implementations. In addition to the ODF notes, Microsoft will also publish similar implementation notes for Open XML in the coming months. This information will be updated over time as products change and based on feedback.

  • Collaboration. Vendors must collaborate with other vendors to identify and resolve real-world issues among implementations, and build tools and solutions to improve interoperability over time. Events such as the DII workshops around the world enable technical vendor discussions, labs and solution-enablement programs that help vendors develop solutions for effective data exchange between product implementations of document format standards.

Further information about the ODF implementers notes is available at the DII site, http://www.documentinteropinitiative.org, or by reading the Microsoft PressPass question and answer article with Doug Mahugh, senior product manager, Office Interoperability, at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2008/dec08/12-16DougMahughQA.mspx. More information on Microsoft’s approach to interoperability including its Interoperability Principles is available at http://www.microsoft.com/interop.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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