CyberTech Rambler

April 21, 2008

MsOffice 2007 fails latest OOXML ISO Incarnation… so what?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 9:36 pm

Don’t do what PJ do, i.e., making a big hoo-haa about MS Office 2007 cannot pass latest incarnation of OOXML as defined by the newly minted ISO OOXML standard. She is obviously jumping on Alex Brown’s revelation that there are work to be done to get MS Office 2007 working with latest OOXML.

Am I surprised that MSOffice 2007 cannot satisfy ISO OOXML? No. And I am assuming you some how got the latest developer-build of MSOffice 2007? Why? ISO OOXML standard is too new! Moreover, I am assuming that some of the big concession, such as the ISO-date concession was “planned” last June after we kick up a big fuss, i.e., ahead of September’s vote.

Why? Development does not move that fast. Back in 1995 we do not even have a fully conforming copy of ISO C++ which was passed a good 6 years ago. Although I do not expect MS to take such a long time to implement ISO OOXML, it does take time.

The crucial demonstration of ISO OOXML standard is the next major update of MSOffice, such as  a service pack, or the end of this year, whichever sooner. The litmus test for me is not that Office 2007 support the ISO version, but whether older versions of MSOffice do.

Now, if Microsoft fails the test I set it… imagine the size of tornado that OOXML opponents can conjure to humilate it and how much eggs on the face of those who advocated OOXML ISO passage to “entice Microsoft to cooperate on document format”.


  1. No one who has looked at Microsoft for more than a year or two believe they will make more than a perfunctory effort to follow the standard. They are more likely to introduce new concepts and features that cannot easily be included in the standard or potential independent implementing software, in true Embrace Extend Extinguish fashion.

    If all formats Microsoft worked with were truly open, they would lose too much money. They are going to keep their market dominance at all cost, and will be unable to adapt.

    Comment by W — April 22, 2008 @ 3:40 am | Reply

  2. You’re missing an important point: Brown found eighty-four places in a single Word 2007 document at which even the standard’s specification of the _transitional_ syntax was violated. The whole point of having a separate transitional syntax was to enable OOXML applications to deal with legacy Office 2007 documents; for all other uses, the transitional syntax is deprecated. Now it turns out that the creators of OOXML applications can’t rely on the standard for guidance in reading legacy documents, because they don’t conform. So they’re left to reverse-engineering and mind-reading, just like always. It makes little difference whether Microsoft brings Office 2007 into conformance with the _transitional_ syntax at this point, since that still won’t cause the already-existing legacy documents to conform.

    Eighty-four validation errors against the transitional syntax are enough to show that the transitional syntax in the standard has failed to do its part of the job and is dead in the water. If Microsoft decides to implement the _strict_ part of the standard, perhaps we’ll see whether it has any more useful role to play. The fact that Brown’s testing turned up 122,000 validation errors against the strict syntax is a rough measure of how far Microsoft has to go before they achieve a minimal implementation of their new standard. (Note, also, that these are just the syntax errors. Getting the semantics right will, in my opinion, be even more difficult.)

    Comment by John David Stone — April 24, 2008 @ 4:40 pm | Reply

  3. @W

    I agree that we cannot expect them to make more than a superficial effort to follow the standard. What I think will happen is you have update N that will get your document to write in true ISO OOXML by default, then another update N+1 3 months later that will write to an “extended” version of ISO OOXML. May be in update N+1, you have an option to save to the “reduced function” ISO OOXML, but saving to standard ISO OOXML will not be the default. This is of course, the second step of the classic strategy you mentioned. May be the “extended” version will be forced down everyone’s throat via ECMA, may be not.

    IMHO, update N cannot be bypassed. Not only will PR demand it, but if MS jump straight to update N+1, too many people will have egg on their face. Microsoft spent a lot of effort to get those people to go that extra yard for MS to get OOXML approved as ISO Standard. If MS did not deliver update N, some of them will feel cheated and the bad feeling will exist for at least a while.


    I admit I am giving MSOffice a lot of benefit of doubt when I say I do not expecting existing Word 2007 document to even pass the _transitional_ syntax. I had not read ISO OOXML, but it is certainly possible that at some places, a element named “myID” in ECMA OOXML got changed to “ID” in ISO OOXML and that even the transitional syntax will not allow the use of “myID” as well. Even in this trivial case, we will get validation error.

    Right now, I will say no document exists outside MS Office Development Lab that conform to ISO OOXML, not even one from MSOffice 2007. The point I am trying to make is that we cannot rightly claim at this particular time that “No application supports ISO OOXML as default format”. We are ethically required to give MS sometime to work towards using ISO OOXML as default format. If, after a reasonable amount of time had passed and MS had not deliver this, or decided to skip this and use an “enhanced” version of ISO OOXML as the default format as described in my reply to W, then we can go to outside MS Redmond HQ or ISO HQ to unveil a 50 ft banner that says “I told you so”.

    Comment by ctrambler — April 24, 2008 @ 5:17 pm | Reply

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