A shallow dive into OOXML

I’ve been following the “OOXML affair” casually for the past few months, but a number of recent articles and blog posts prompted me to pay closer attention.

I once spent some time working as part of a strategy group. From time to time we were called on to take a “deep drive,”, by which was meant an intense burst of activity to look into a topic of interest, seek the insight of folks both inside and outside the company, summarize what we found, and produce some recommendations.

I started my own personal dive into OOXML a few days ago, but soon found the waters both mucky and murky and — lest I get sucked into them — decided to make this a shallow dive, and so will write a few brief posts on this matter before shaking myself dry and moving on to other topics.

OOXML, which is shorthand for “Office Open XML,” is a proposed document format created by Microsoft, and is meant to codify the practices and formats used in various versions of Microsoft Office.

The standard itself can be found at Standard ECMA-376 Office Open XML File Formats . It consists of several documents that collectively comprise over six thousand pages when printed out.

My investigation began when I perused Bob Sutor’s Open Blog (which by the way contains a useful introduction to this area, Bob Sutor: Open Standards vs. Open Source), and saw Bob’s post Stephe Walli on Microsoft, OOXML, which cited this part of Walli’s post:

The sad part is that even if the ISO vote actually goes in Microsoft’s favour, it still won’t matter. It buys them a few years of market ignorance at best. This entire two year event is one for the standards text books on how not to respond to a business threatening standard. In the end, Microsoft will need to implement ODF natively. They don’t know it yet, nor do they understand why, but it is just a matter of time.

I then moved on the Walli’s post, Microsoft’s Failures with the OOXML Standard. Near the start it says:

An interesting bit of technical experimentation was published in the past week in the shadow of the vote. It shows something more pragmatically damning than all of Rob Weir’s hard work digging through faults in the OOXML specification.

My interest aroused, I read part of the “technical experimentation” post. I found it both fascinating and consistent with some of the posts I had read by Rob Weir that reported problems with the OOXML specification.

I then decided to take a look at that specification. There’s a summary in Wikipedia, Office Open XML, though it’s worth noting the article notes there is some dispute about the accuracy of the summary, as there is about the quality of the OOXML specification itself.

Other articles and posts of interest include:

Open Packaging Convention.

Microsoft employee offered incentives for OOXML support

Matusow’s Blog: Open XML – The Vote in Sweden

OOXML is not a work in isolation, but an alternative/competitor to the existing “Open Office Specification,” and here a few resources to learn more about that:


OpenDocument technical specification

OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) TC

OpenDocument v1.0 (Second Edition) (ODT format)

OpenDocument v1.0 (Second Edition) (PDF format)

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] 4th, 2007 · No Comments As part of my shallow dive into OOXML, the new document format that Microsoft has proposed be made into an international standard, I […]

  2. […] 4th, 2007 · No Comments As part of my shallow dive into OOXML, the new document format that Microsoft has proposed be made into an international standard, I […]

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