CyberTech Rambler

April 10, 2009

Read-only OOXML : An insidious trap

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 5:02 pm

I always thought that to implement reading OOXML without the corresponding write ability is a trap. But until I encountered my first docx document today, I did not fully realize the implication.

What happened was someone sent me a .docx document and I should not be suprised at that coz I was the one who installed Microsoft Office 2007 for that someone. Initially I thought I will be unable to read the document, until I realize that 3.0 can open .docx document, which I did.

Then it strikes me. If I were to modify the document, I will have to save it in the older, .doc format before I send it back to that somebody. From that person’s viewpoint it does not matter, the document was “round trip”: She emailed the document, I modified it, email back and she can read without problem. As we are not using any “Advanced” feature, the process would be flawless. If she had used the advanced features, then she knows she can have no expectation that those features will survive intact as out here we sill use a mixture of different versions of Microsoft Office. I am sure this situation is the same virtually everywhere.

The peceived “round trip” ability looks flawless from that somebody’s view point. Of course I know the difference: I just forced that somebody to downgrade to the older .doc format. At present, that person has no expectation that everyone can read .docx format, but in future, this will change if MS Office has its way. The insidious plan is, therefore, to keep it there by making the older .doc format to be the lingua franca. The longer it is there, the more chance other office applications, such as and KOffice, have to establish themselve. The lesser the chance thenew feautres of .docx being used the less attractive that document format will be. Round tripping via .doc format will ensure that.

To tell the truth, roundtripping on .doc format is not a bad choice. Virtually 99% of the documents outhere only use the basic features of MS Office and it haven’t changed since early 2000.


  1. Now you’re becoming aware of the implications of OOXML.

    Microsoft wasn’t interested in being open or to inter-operate like they said they were. That’s nonsense.

    They were interested in protecting MS Office. One of their big money maker products. That’s the only reason for OOXML.

    I always suggest people not buy MS Office unless they really need it for some specific reason.

    Comment by aussiebear — April 11, 2009 @ 10:38 pm | Reply

  2. Dear Aussiebear

    “They were interested in protecting MS Office. One of their big money maker products. That’s the only reason for OOXML.”

    I agree. But do we have to set an trap for MS Office users, no matter how naive they are?

    For me, there are two ways to do it:

    (1) Not supporting OOXML at all.

    (2) Make sure all users knows that they cannot save in OOXML. This can be done easily by displaying a message when user opens a OOXML file.

    Otherwise, it smells like a trap, i.e., get you to modify the content, then tell you you cannot save in OOXML

    Comment by ctrambler — April 12, 2009 @ 3:18 pm | Reply

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