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Created: December 23, 2008.
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Microsoft Publishes Implementation Notes for File Formats in Office 2007 SP2.


Microsoft recently announced the publication of an initial set of document-format implementation notes relative to the company's ODF implementation in Office 2007 SP2. The new Document Interoperability Initiative (DII) Web site now provides detailed notes for Microsoft's implementation of Open Document Format (ODF) 1.1 in Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2.

The implementation notes "provide detailed information about the design decisions that went into Microsoft's implementation of ODF 1.1... Every implementer of a large standard such as ODF or ECMA-376 needs to make decisions about how to approach implementation of the standard. Application limitations and application design come into play, as well as more subtle factors such as support for optional constructs, default values for missing attributes, and bugs. The cumulative effect of all of these factors can cause behavior that was never intended, or behavior that can be difficult to understand in the abstract without detailed information about the myriad details that make up each implementation."

The ODF Version 1.1 implementation notes include details about: (1) implementation decisions, e.g., where the text is ambiguous or more permissive than is appropriate for a particular office implementation; (2) additional data written into files, e.g., application-specific information such as user customizations; (3) implementation variances, e.g., where an implementer cannot follow the standard exactly for one reason or another.

The DII web site is designed to support implementation notes for multiple specifications and multiple implementations. Accordingly, in the blog article by Doug Mahugh, Microsoft has extended an invitation to other developers to post similar implementation plans: "Other implementers of these standards are welcome and encouraged to post their own implementation notes to help achieve a level of interoperability that will benefit users around the world. Assistance is available to those who are interested."

Microsoft also announced that detailed notes about the company's implementation of Open XML (Ecma 376 Edition 1) in Office 2007 will be published in the coming weeks.

Doug Mahugh, in the associated blog:

"... How can vendors work towards maximum interoperability between their implementations? The answer rests on three guiding principles: adherence to open standards, transparency of implementation, and open dialog between all interested parties, including implementers, users, and the standards community.

In the case of ODF 1.1, we've been working on this three-pronged approach to enabling interoperability for some time now. We've been participating in the standards maintenance process, and we're contributing what we've learned through our own implementation of ODF, while listening and learning from the perspectives of other implementers. We've engaged with other implementers through DII workshops, 1-on-1 discussions, the standards maintenance process, and other activities. And we're beginning today the rollout of ultra-transparent documentation about exactly how we've implemented key document format standards in Office...

From the Microsoft Announcement

From the December 16, 2008 announcement, "Microsoft Takes Concrete Steps to Foster Interoperability Among File Formats. Company Encourages Greater Transparency in the Pursuit of Interoperability by Publishing ODF and Open XML Implementation Notes"

To help foster interoperability among office productivity applications, Microsoft Corp. today published documentation detailing its implementation of OASIS Open Document Format (ODF) version 1.1 support in Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2, currently in beta and scheduled for release next year. Similarly detailed notes about the company's implementation of Open XML (Ecma 376 Edition 1) in Office will follow in the coming weeks.

These implementation notes offer a comprehensive guide on how Microsoft is implementing ODF and Open XML within its flagship Microsoft Office suite. The notes, available at no charge on the Document Interoperability Initiative (DII) site,, will be useful to developers seeking to enhance the interoperability of their solutions with Microsoft products.

"This is an extremely valuable contribution to the pursuit of grounded, practical interoperability among applications," said Dennis Hamilton, document-system interoperability architect. "This step raises the bar for transparent disclosure of how standard formats are supported at a detailed level."

"By publishing notes on how we are implementing file format standards in Microsoft Office, we are providing detail that others can use as a reference point for their own applications," said Doug Mahugh, senior project manager for Office interoperability. "We encourage other companies to take similar steps to help achieve greater interoperability across the industry."

Microsoft's implementation notes include the following:

  • Details on implementation decisions. When implementing a standard, an implementer may find the text ambiguous or more permissive than is appropriate for that particular implementation. In these cases implementers need to make a choice that best suits their application. This type of information enables developers to see the direction a vendor is taking and make informed decisions about their own efforts to interoperate.

  • Details on additional data written into files. File format standards typically allow additional application-specific information (such as certain user customizations) to be written to the file. By providing this information vendors allow developers to correctly interpret the additional data.

  • Details on implementation variances. With every application there may be instances where an implementer cannot follow the standard exactly for one reason or another. For example, general industry practice may differ from what is in the specification or users may have made clear that they need something different. In such cases, it is important for vendors to document their approach so other vendors can make fully informed decisions about how they will approach implementation.

Standardization is a useful first step in promoting interoperability, but more work is required among vendors to achieve the goal:

  • Shared stewardship. Shared stewardship [supports] the ongoing evolution of the standards as they are maintained by the standards body. Microsoft is committed to being an active participant in the evolution of ODF, Open XML, XML Paper Specification and PDF standards. Microsoft has already made contributions to ODF in OASIS and is actively participating in the maintenance of Open XML in ISO/IEC.

  • Transparency. Vendors must be transparent when implementing standards in their own products. By publishing these implementation notes Microsoft is helping other developers and vendors make informed decisions on how they create their own implementations. In addition to the ODF notes, Microsoft will also publish similar implementation notes for Open XML in the coming months. This information will be updated over time as products change and based on feedback.

  • Collaboration. Vendors must collaborate with other vendors to identify and resolve real-world issues among implementations, and build tools and solutions to improve interoperability over time. Events such as the DII workshops around the world enable technical vendor discussions, labs and solution-enablement programs that help vendors develop solutions for effective data exchange between product implementations of document format standards.

Further information about the ODF implementers notes is available at the DII site,, or by reading the Microsoft PressPass question and answer article with Doug Mahugh, senior product manager, Office Interoperability, at More information on Microsoft's approach to interoperability including its Interoperability Principles is available at

Interview with Doug Mahugh

Excerpt from the Presspass interview with Doug Mahugh, Microsoft Senior Program Manager (Microsoft Office Interoperability), where PressPass talked with Doug Mahugh to find out how today's action will advance the goal of document format interoperability and address customers' needs. Mahugh also discussed how Microsoft hopes other vendors will follow its lead...

PressPass: Why has Microsoft created these ODF implementation notes for Office?

Mahugh: As we announced last May with the release of Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2, Microsoft will support an even wider range of file formats, including ODF, XPS and PDF/A. We are committed to transparency and full disclosure to help achieve the industry's goal of document interoperability. These notes detail the decisions we've made in our implementation, allowing developers to make informed choices in their own implementations. They are available at no cost on the Document Interoperability Initiative (DII) Web site.

Through our participation in document interoperability events around the world, we've been hearing from the community that interoperability — the ability to freely share and exchange documents across different applications — is what customers care about. Our industry won't get there without positive participation, transparency and collaboration among vendors.

PressPass: Shouldn't all standards be strictly adhered to? Isn't that the whole point of standards?

Mahugh: This is a common misconception among those not familiar with the nuanced world of technical standards. The reality is that every implementer makes choices when it comes down to actually developing a solution based on a standard.

There are several reasons why an implementation may differ from a standard. For instance, a standard may be ambiguous and not address how to accomplish certain goals, or the standard may allow for a wider range of behavior than a particular implementation can support. In another example, an application may need to address customer requirements not anticipated by a standard.

Having a published standard is only the starting point. Helping others understand how standards are implemented practically to address customers' changing needs is very important to driving toward real-world interoperability.

PressPass: What are some examples of the information contained in the ODF implementation notes?

Mahugh: Bold text is a good example. The ODF specification supports a wider variety of 'font weight,' or boldness, than other formats supported by Word. Therefore, we sometimes adjust the font weight in a document to match the specific values that Word supports. The implementation note on this topic will help other implementers understand the coding behind that adjustment.

PressPass: Who are these notes aimed at, and how does Microsoft envision them being used?

Mahugh: We expect the notes to make it easier for other implementers of ODF to create solutions that interoperate with our products. In roundtable discussions at recent DII workshops, implementers told us they would find it useful to know the specific details of our implementation of ODF. That feedback has helped inform our work on the implementation notes.

PressPass: If the goal is interoperability, it seems this is something every vendor should do.

Mahugh: We agree, and encourage all implementers of standards to be fully transparent about the details of their implementations. This, along with shared stewardship of evolving standards and open collaboration among vendors, will help achieve the level of interoperability that customers require.

Underscoring our commitment to this goal, we are also publishing implementation notes for ECMA 376 (Open XML) in Office 2007. These will be available in the next few months, also at [the DII web site].

PressPass: After the effort to get Open XML adopted as an industry standard, why the sudden emphasis on ODF? Is Microsoft abandoning Open XML?

Mahugh: Microsoft always has and always will support the Open XML file format. We believe it is a standard that addresses the needs of our customers. Moreover, the considerable enhancements the Open XML specification gained through the ISO/IEC standards review process have further strengthened its foundation for future development.

Open XML is designed to be backward-compatible with the content and functionality in billions of existing documents, thereby enhancing interoperability and document preservation in the public and private sectors.

In tandem with our support of Open XML and ODF, today's announcement demonstrates Microsoft's approach to helping ensure vendors get the tools they need to achieve true interoperability. Our mutual customers are asking for the ability to freely share and exchange documents across multiple applications, and we will continue to work with other implementers to make that possible...

Blogs and Commentary

  • [December 17, 2008] "Microsoft Offers View Into ODF 1.1, Open XML Implementations for Office 2007 SP2." By Paula Rooney. From ZDNet News. "On Tuesday, Microsoft released details about its implementation of Open Document Format 1.1 and Open XML for its forthcoming Office 2007 Service Pack 2, due early next year... This information should allow developers to make their applications — proprietary and open source — more interoperable with Office 2007. The ODF 1.1 notes are available now... It's Redmond's latest gesture at providing more transparency and interoperatibility, as part of its sweeping Document Interoperability Initiative, announced last March just before the ISO anointed Microsoft's controversial Open XML as a standard. Earlier this month, Microsoft released a viewer and translator designed to improve interoperability between OOXML documents and applications such as OpenOffice and Firefox... Robert W Duffner, a former IBMer who nows serves as a senior director of platform strategy for Microsoft, emphasized that the last batch of goodies included a viewer that allows uses to view OOXML-based Microsoft Office documents from a web browser like Firefox or OpenOffice desktop — without having Office installed. To him, it proves that Microsoft is opening up for real..."

  • [December 17, 2008] "Microsoft Opens Its ODF Documentation for Office 2007 SP2." By Kurt Mackie. From Application Development Trends. "Microsoft released documentation on Tuesday designed to help developers create applications compatible with Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2, particularly if they need to understand how Office 2007 implements the OpenDocument Format (ODF) standard. The ODF specification describes document formats used in competing productivity suite products, such as, StarOffice and Lotus Symphony, among others. The formats are XML based and used for word-processing, presentation and spreadsheet applications. Microsoft has been contributor toward maintaining the ODF standard as part of the OASIS process. In May of this year, the company announced that Microsoft Office SP2 would support ODF, along with other document formats, such as XML Paper Specification, Portable Document Format 1.5 and PDF/A..." See earlier "Microsoft To Adopt ODF, Support Other Document Formats."

  • [December 16, 2008] "Microsoft Prepares Developers for ODF in Office 14." By Scott M. Fulton, III. From BetaNews. "In a move designed to intentionally eliminate all surprises, Microsoft posted a detailed guide to its planned implementation of OpenDocument Format in the next edition of Office, to an interoperability Web site it launched last March [2008]. By designating point-by-point how it intends to implement elements of the ODF 1.1 standard in Word, Excel, and other future editions of the suite still, for now, named 'Office 14,' Microsoft may quite literally be seizing the initiative. Specifically, by pre-empting its own effort in documenting how it will implement Open XML -- the internationally standardized derivative of the XML-based format Office 2007 already put in motion -- the company appears to be taking public steps to document what could easily become the most deployed ODF-supporting application come next year. In so doing, it could end up setting the standard, if you will, for following the standard, playing its opponents game to its own advantage..."

  • [December 16, 2008] "Microsoft releases free Office-ODF interoperability guides." By Eric Lai. From Computerworld. "... Doug Mahugh, Microsoft's senior product manager for Office interoperability, said the information was valuable enough that it would have been viewed five years ago as giving up 'competitive advantage' and thus would not have been released publicly... In May, Microsoft said it would support both ODF and Adobe's PDFs in Office. Microsoft posted its set of interoperability guides in June. Mahugh said some applications were starting to emerge as a result. For instance, there is an application that allows non-Microsoft Web browsers such as Firefox to view Word 2007's .docx files, Mahugh said. He said Novell Inc.'s version of the suite supports OOXML well. Apple Inc.'s Mac OS X and iPhone also had 'really pretty good' support for OOXML documents. To further help developers, Microsoft will support the creation of an open-source project to create software that tests that OOXML documents execute properly..."

  • [December 16, 2008] "Microsoft Details How It Will Support ODF." By Darryl K. Taft. From eWEEK. "... Mahugh said the overall goals of the effort are threefold: to promote shared stewardship, transparency and collaboration. In terms of shared stewardship, Mahugh said Microsoft is committed to being an active participant in the evolution of ODF and Open ISO/IEC. There also will be transparency in how vendors approach the implementation of standards in their own products, and collaboration 'with other vendors to identify and resolve real-world issues among implementations, and build tools and solutions to improve interoperability over time...Events such as the DII workshops around the world enable technical vendor discussions, labs and solution-enablement programs that help vendors develop solutions for effective data exchange between product implementations of document format standards.' Microsoft's implementation notes include details on implementation decisions, details on additional data written into files and details on implementation variances..."

  • [December 16, 2008] "Microsoft Details Open Document Format Support for Office." By J. Nicholas Hoover. From InformationWeek. "With the release of documentation Tuesday describing the company's implementation of the Open Document Format in Office 2007 Service Pack 2, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) continues to deliver tangible results of a set of interoperability principles it announced in February 2008. Microsoft unveiled a Web site that goes into great detail about how Microsoft will implement ODF in Office, describing things like how Word does text formatting, how it determines and sets margins in ODF documents, or what font weight gradations describe bold and normal text. Though Microsoft doesn't have default ODF support in Office 2007, it will add support in Office 2007 SP2 (Service Pack 2)..."

  • [December 16, 2008] "Microsoft's File Format Perestroika." By Charles Cooper. From CNET "Microsoft plans to open Office to other file formats, a move the company hopes will placate government and business concerns about document interoperability... Doug Mahugh, a project manager at Microsoft who deals with interoperability issues connected with the Office software suite, described the steps taken today within the broader context of disclosure, transparency, and format support..." See earlier "Microsoft Boosts Support for Rival Formats in Office."

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