Is OpenOffice condoning Microsoft’s non-standard format?

Sun’s OpenOffice XML development team has created an import filter for OOXML documents. (For the uninitiated, this means that a person using OpenOffice [Microsoft Office’s open source equivalent] will be able to read and edit documents previously saved in Microsoft Office 2007.) However, there is no OOXML export filter (yet?), meaning that an OpenOffice user cannot save documents to OOXML format.

Why such decision to develop the import filter? Michael Brauer of the development team has this to say in his GullFOSS blog entry:

Well, it has always been in our strong interest that OpenOffice.org users can seamlessly interact with multiple file formats, including the binary formats of MS Office. So it is only natural that we care about OOXML now, too.

OOXML is the file format of Microsoft Office 2007. That means, sooner or later, people that use Microsoft Office 2007 and want to migrate to OpenOffice.org will look for ways to get existing OOXML documents into OpenOffice.org. And at some point in time, OpenOffice.org users will receive OOXML documents, because Microsoft Office 2007 users will start sending them out, assuming that everyone can read them.

Brauer further said that an OOXML export filter is impossible. He emphasized that OpenOffice will always save to the ODF by default.

This move by the team came in the wake of the growing effort to pressure the ISO not to approve of OOXML as another standard for document interoperability, side by side with the internationally recognized open document format (ODF). One of the comments to Brauer’s post pointed out OpenOffice’s apparent support to a format that is “neither XML nor open.”

I’m sitting in between two positions here. On the one hand, I find the developing team’s move as permissible, because of the concern they’re giving to potential OpenOffice users migrating from Office 2007. On the other hand, I sense that the initiative is not helping neither the no-ooxml movement nor the OpenOffice advocacy any.

I suggest that the developing team repackage the import filter into a kind of OOXML-import plug-in that is not part of the OpenOffice distribution. Instead, let that be hosted by SourceForge or OpenOffice.org itself. Of course, that means an extra effort on the part of users but at least that implicitly sends the message that OpenOffice does not condone non- or anti-standard formats.

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One comment

  1. I believe Sun is very smart to create an import only filter for MS OOXML (which is considerably easier than a round trip filter) as this gives Microsoft Office users “choice” to migrate their documents to ODF and consider the switch. If you don’t have some sort of bridge to get to your island, how do you expect people to get there. Most businesses don’t come to ODF editors without a cache of existing documents that they need to continue working with. Sure older docs can probably be PDF’d. But current documents need migration.

    By the way, my understanding is that the office suite that Apple recently released is also import only, though I’ve seen some reviews that show the importing is not that reliable. I am sure that will improve with time.

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