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OOXML: A Broken Design or Broken by Design?

In the previous post we spoke about using fear to sell OOXML and warning users that unless they use the 'latest and greatest' version of Microsoft Office, data will not be preserved. This is no accident. Here is a real-life set of examples. [via Charles Schulz]

Here is the message that is presented to users of previous versions of PowerPoint + compatibility pack every time a presentation in the new file format (.pptx) is opened:

[...]

What? Can't see it? That's because THERE ISN'T ONE!

So, please tell your customers if/when you will ever present a warning message (as Word does every time, and Excel does sometimes) when a previous version of Office + compatibility pack opens files in the new 2007 formats.


In addition to this, bear in mind that an error in OOXML is an error in Microsoft Office and vice versa. Inelegance in one transcends and expands onto another. Have a quick look:

The example above is only one that depicts a more general problem. The designers of ODF had a file format in mind, that describes data. Hence, when the format describes data with the same semantics, it uses the same syntax. OOXML seems to be designed with the application model in mind. There may be different syntaxes for the same semantics, if it fits the already present application model better. But, if you want to create an alternative implementation for the format, this introduces additional effort.


For those wishing to store their data without future loss and obsolescence of the past, ODF is the way to go. One option is OpenOffice.org, which is now being ported to run under Mac OS X, natively.

The OpenOffice.org Mac Porting team Wednesday released the third development snapshot of the Aqua version of OpenOffice.org for Mac OS X.


People rarely understand the importance of standards until they start losing data, some of which has sentimental value.

OOXML data vacuum



"It’s hard for Microsoft to commit to what comes out of Ecma [the European standards group that has already OK’d OOXML] in the coming years, because we don’t know what direction they will take the formats. We’ll of course stay active and propose changes based on where we want to go with Office 14. At the end of the day, though, the other Ecma members could decide to take the spec in a completely different direction. … Since it’s not guaranteed, it would be hard for us to make any sort of official statement."

--Brian Jones, Microsoft

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