OOXML and what it means to you

What it means to you

A document format is not just a simple way of saving information. Rather, look at it as a means of preserving information for the short or long term. Applications come and go, but it’s always necessary to open documents no matter what was used to create them. If another party gives you a document, you’d like to be assured of being able to open it. Truly open formats are the only way to ensure this.

Microsoft has publicly shown it’s inability to deal with open formats and continues trying to lock its customers in through the use of proprietary methods and formats. There is no technical or other reason why Microsoft can’t support an existing open standard ( ODF ) except to hold its captive market to ransom.

The South African government, amongst many others, has made the move towards open standards and ODF as a document format – it specifically issued the MIOS policy document in December last year which indicates the Minimum Interoperability Standard for Information Systems in Government ( http://www.dpsa.gov.za/documents/egov/MIOSVer4_1_2007.pdf ). MIOS sets out government’s technical principles and standards for achieving interoperability and information systems coherence across the public sector. Armscor has started the process towards Open Source software and many others are converting everyday. Sun has a plugin filter for MS Office that provides full ODF compatibility and features, if you would like to continue using it for your general office documentation but there are a host of other applications which provide for the creation of general office documents that are using ODF as a format, some being free like OpenOffice.

So if you require maximum backwards compatiblity, stick with MS Office 2003 or earlier, or even better, change to an office suite that uses the ISO-endorsed standard ODF – most of these have low or even no cost associated with them. Bob Sutor sums it up well in his blog: http://www.sutor.com/newsite/blog-open/?p=2031

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