Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Microsoft Office, Open Office, OOXML, ODF, and ISO…

I’m all about free open source software. The main thing I like about FOSS is the price. Nevertheless, to use an old cliché, “you get what you pay for.” Last year there was some talk within my school system about switching over to open office for all of our publishing needs due to the ever increasing price of Microsoft Office. It made sense due to the price, but referring back to the old cliché, it just wasn’t practical. The number one hindrance in switching over is that Open Office isn’t totally compatible with Microsoft Office. Moreover the state department of education, universities, and other entities within my state and outside of my state use Microsoft Office as the standard. Hence, switching to Open Office last year, this year, or in the near future isn’t going to happen. Why? It’s called OOXML.

For those who don't know, OOXML is open office XML an alternative to ODF (the open document format Open Office uses) and recently OOXML has been trying to become the ISO standard.

It’s all about ISO which stands for the International Organization for Standardization. The group describes itself as -
"a bridging organization in which a consensus can be reached on solutions that meet both the requirements of business and the broader needs of society, such as the needs of stakeholder groups like consumers and users."

It seems that the OOXML is most likely going to be the next ISO standard from the buzz around hyperspace, but what does this have to do with Microsoft Office and Open Office? Ironically, well formed OOXML documents produced by Open Office will not open in Microsoft Office. In the words of Stephen Walli
“It means Microsoft Office DOESN'T ACCEPT WELL FORMED OOXML documents not
produced by Microsoft Office.”

Hence, if you receive an OOXML file you won’t be able to open it without Microsoft Office. I’m just glad that I own personal copies of Microsoft Office 2003 and 2007.

By the way, if you are having problems opening Microsoft Office 2007 documents, you should get the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for the Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats. The Compatibility Pack will let you read Office 2007 documents in Microsoft Office 2000, Office XP, or Office 2003. So you can open a .docx file with Word 2003 or .pptx with PowerPoint 2003. Some people are trying to say that you have to upgrade to Office 2007 and that just isn’t the case. However, I do recommend upgrading to Office 2007 when you have the money.

Warm Regards,

William Bishop (Bill)

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Blogger Kaj Kandler said...

Hi John,
your argument sounds much like "I fear change, therefore I never change!"

First, Open Office does support documents from MS Office and the conversion is not that hard. You can even configure OOo so that it uses the Office formats as default. The hardest part are the decisions about what to do with all the legacy documents, but that is something you need to face sooner or later, even if you do stay with the Microsoft line of Office products (Convert to MS-OOXML?).

And that brings me to my main point. Liking FOSS for its price is good, but of lesser importance. The most important part is the freedom, to add and change the software and to not be stuck with a commercial entity w/o competition that decides when you have to pay for a new version instead of getting the bug you encounter fixed. Sure you might have to pay for bug fixing in FOSS as well, but at least you can get it done. You also can pay for adding the one feature you are dying to have.

Also, staying with proprietary products like Microsoft Office, has its impractical side too. For example you'll have to learn the new user interface of Office 2007 and get the incompatibilities of MS-OOXML documents when some in your network are still using older versions of Office.

Last, MS-OOXML is not very likely to be adopted as ISO standard, because it is not open (despite its claim) and perpetuates lots of mistakes in date formats and other contexts. If Microsoft succeeds with this (barring major improvements which they have no interest in), ISO will write its own death sentence for IT standards.

busy, providing tech support for Open Office

11:00 AM  

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