Office Open XML vs ODF

While I think most of the IT Professionals (who are not developers) probably don't care about the Office Open XML (OOXML) vs ODF discussions that are going on. Until now I did not read a lot about what the biggest differences are and why people were against on of the other format.  It's now clear to me why IBM is against the Fast-Track ISO certification of OOXML. If they succeed in there objection than the OOXML ISO certification will take about 2 Years instead of the 6 months Fast-Track, which means they could try to push their new Lotus (which will include a Text editor, Spreadsheet tool that support the ODF format) products in many places where ODF or an ISO doc format is mandatory.

One of common objections I read about is the fact that OOXML is to big (6000 pages). Why is it that big? Because we do support the backwards compatibility of our older Office products, the ODF format doesn't provide that. Why don't we support the ODF format natively, because when we were busy developing the Office 2007 platform the ODF format was not yet an ISO format and because we cannot support all document formats. However we rely on our ISV and Partner community to create add-on and/or plug-ins for our Office 2007 platform to support the ODF format. In fact we've sponsored a ODF Add-in project which had as goal to provide an Add-in to Microsoft Word XP/2003/2007 to allow opening and saving OpenDocument format (ODF) files.


I personally do think that there is place for two ISO standards for handling documents format and that it's not about being against one or the other format but about which functionality, compatibility and features are important for the customers.


I just finished reading some blogposts and articles about OOXML vs ODF. Here are some of the quotes I took from those posts and/or articles:


"You don't have to implement the whole Open XML specification to use Open XML"




<a href=" Open XML.wmv"><img src="" border="0" width="460" height="345"></a><br><a href=" Open XML.wmv">View Video</a><br>Format: wmv<br>Duration: 37 Minutes

Michael Scherotter, Solutions Platform Evangelist for Mindjet - Webcast

"In the on going debate between ODF and OpenXML, two things are becoming clear. The first is that both ODF and OpenXML are essentially proprietary formats dressed up to be open standards. The second is neither IBM nor Microsoft is going to back down.

Microsoft's reason for avoiding ODF is clear. ODF does not have the features necessary to represent the binary Office formats with 100% accuracy. In addition, the specification is not complete enough to ensure compatibility between implementations."

Jonathan Allen -

"A common objection to OOXML is that the specification is "too big", that 6,000 pages is a bit too much for a specification and that this would prevent third parties from implementing support for the standard.

Considering that for years we, the open source community, have been trying to extract as much information about protocols and file formats from Microsoft, this is actually a good thing.


To make ODF successful, we need to make a better product, and we need to keep improving it. It is very easy to nitpick a standard, specially one that is as big as OOXML. But it is a lot harder to actually improve

If everyone complaining about OOXML was actually hacking on improving to make it a technically superior product in every sense we would not have to resort, as a community, to play a political case on weak grounds."

Miguel de Icaza's -


Other interesting links:

Open XML formats blog:


Comments (2)

  1. Gianni Giaccaglini says:

    All debates on ODF vs OOXML are useles. What is important is which format is better and the answer is very simple: OOXML wins!

    For an only example, compare the spreadsheet component. In ODF it is very simplicistic, in OOXML is rationally composed of separated and well related parts. As a result programming a spreadsheet in ODF is difficult and umbersome; in OOXML is easy and powerfull: separated shared strings allow immediate modifications of repeated text and reference attributes of cells allow direct individuation, both operation requiring complex elaboration in ODF spreadsheet…

  2. Gianni,

    It’s like I said look at the functionality you need and what you want to do with your documents and then decide which format is best for you.

    So why not having both formats as an ISO.

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