Compatibility pack for Open XML: 20 Million downloads and counting

The first compatibility pack for Open XML was released in November of 2006. This add-in for Office XP and 2003 (which also works with Office 2000 in some cases) enables users to open, edit and save Open XML files using prior releases of Office. The compatibility pack is designed to ease the pain of introducing a new file format. As we learned in Office 97, changing file formats can create some significant deployment and compatibility challenges. It is a migration that we're handling with all due care and consideration for our customers' business continuity requirements.

The availability of the compatibility pack has been an interesting discussion. Today, the compatibility pack is only available as a manual download. In other words, Microsoft does not "push" the compatibility pack to users using its update tools. IT organizations or end users must manually download the tool, and deploy or install it themselves. Many organizations have (literally) demanded this be made available as an automatic update, while others would be dissatisfied with this, claiming that Microsoft is "forcing" Open XML onto its existing user community.

We decided to make it available as a manual download, and not as an automatic update, and during the first 12 months of its release, the compatibility pack has been successfully downloaded over 20 million times. This means that 20 million people have elected to manually download this 26.2MB software to their computer. This is a significant number of people adding Open XML to their environment.

Why do people download the compatibility pack? – to use Open XML, of course. If a user of Office 2003 or XP tries to read/edit an Open XML file type, Windows will offer the "Use a web service to find the appropriate program" dialog box to direct you to the compatibility pack download site. If you have updated Office with the latest service packs, you will get a similar (but more user-friendly) dialog box that directs you to the same place.

 Compatibility Pack download site

On the download center, users select their language, get the bits and off they go. The 20 million people who have already completed this demonstrate that Open XML is already in widespread use today, about 1 year after its formal introduction with Office 2007. This is in addition to the adoption Open XML is gaining in the broader software community:

What is also interesting about the compatibility pack statistics is that they do not reflect deployment by IT organizations… It takes only one download by the IT desktop management team to prepare thousands of desktops with the compatibility pack (I have worked on a handful of these directly). The usage numbers for the compatibility pack are likely to be significantly higher than the download statistics indicate.

I won't explain in detail how these download numbers compare to things like the ODF Translator for Microsoft Office, but you can look at the download stats on SourceForge for that one and see for yourself. Being a product person (not a standards person) I'm far more interested in what users are doing with the software, so I don't have a positive or negative view of ODF (nor do I care to swordfight with the ODF community). But the statistics do speak pretty clearly about the preference of Microsoft Office users…

Microsoft Download Center Rankings for December 20, 2007

I believe in the marketing lexicon this is typically referred to as "rapid traction," but it does come with the responsibility of sustainability (speaking of buzzwords) and maintenance. Our commitment to the standard goes hand-in-hand with our long-term commitment to IT organizations and end users who have taken the opportunity to incorporate Open XML into their Office environment. Instead of the theoretical arguments and "what-if" scenarios that the document format standards community gets into, longevity of Open XML is a real consideration based only on the activity of people who use our products. In other words, Open XML is here to stay.

That's pretty exciting news.

Happy Holidays everybody.

Comments (18)

  1. Anonymous says:

    This post is just a pulse to reset on the broad Open XML support in the industry. It really is great

  2. Anonymous says:

    Document Science CTO on Office and Open XML. My good friend Warren Wilbee recently interviewed Dr. Nasser

  3. Anonymous says:

    Gray just recently started blogging and has an interesting post about the number of downloads we've

  4. Anonymous says:

    Microsoft has been and continues to be fully committed to opening its document formats for Word, Excel

  5. Anonymous says:

    The ratification of Open XML as an ISO standard is a great outcome from the post-BRM voting period. Ecma

  6. Anonymous says:

    Microsoft has been and continues to be fully committed to opening its document formats for Word, Excel

  7. GrayKnowlton says:

    Hi Gareth,

    I believe the current count is just under 400,000. This is for all things, including the source code. The actual Excel ODF Translator, for example, has been downloaded 32,000 times.

  8. Anonymous says:

    A semana passada e esta semana têm sido pródigas em novidades e tópicos interessantes sobre a questão

  9. Anonymous says:

    Document Science CTO on Office and Open XML. My good friend Warren Wilbee recently interviewed Dr. Nasser

  10. Anonymous says:

    It's been quite a year for those who have been blogging about the Open XML file formats. Here's

  11. Anonymous says:

    Patrick Durusau , le co-éditeur de ODF à l’ISO ODF et OASIS , responsable de la représentation US au

  12. GrayKnowlton says:

    I can see the FUD machine stopped by to pay a visit. Given that people are likely to download the Open XML compatiblity pack when the need it, I don’t follow the "scaring away" part. I guess nobody is exempt…

  13. Anonymous says:

    I saw Bob Sutor’s post last week titled " There is humor is the OOXML morass ." This is where he calls

  14. GrayKnowlton says:

    Errata: Version 1 of the compatibility pack was 26.2MB, the current download size is 27.5MB, because of changes made in a security related update a few months ago.

  15. Jean-Christophe Helary says:

    What the numbers say is that there are 20 million MS Office users who are not willing to upgrade to MS12 and hence are looking for alternate ways to deal with the new format.

    They don’t need the ODF Translator because if they want to do ODF they can get for free. Besides, if they need only OOXML occasional support, they can get Novell’s OOo or NeoOffice for Mac.

    So it is more a story of how many people is MS scaring away with the new format 🙂

  16. Gareth Horton says:


    Could you let me know what the download numbers for the ODF plugin were, as I have tried the link since I read your post and it is still down – "Error fetching statistics data: Connection to statistics server timed out – Please retry shortly".

    If you don’t recall the exact count, ballpark would be fine.



  17. Gareth Horton says:

    Thanks Gray, that’s useful info.


  18. Jean-Christophe Helary says:

    There is no FUD machine stopping by. Maybe you missed the smiley right after “scaring away”… ?

    I know that is not exactly what you are talking about but I happen to using the OOXML converter for Office 2004 myself. And I downloaded it just in case a client feels the urge to send me something in the new format. Problem for Mac users, the converter outputs RTF and in a lot of cases that is far from sufficient. I had also installed the Office 2003 plugin and I’ve used it in my virtual XP machine, not to produce OOXML but to read them, and that was before MS eventually released the Mac thing.

    20,000,000 downloads means that. 20,000,000 Office 2003 (and previous versions) who think they’ll have somebody who’ll send them a file in the new format and they need to deal with that without wanting to upgrade to Office 2007. And since we’re at it, a lot of Mac users won’t upgrade to 2008 because of the lack of VBA support, in case you want to know.

    And as for the ODF format, well, if MS Office users get a file in that format, they don’t need to have an MS Office converter because they can have the whole package for free. They just get, do what they need to do et voila. Which is what I am doing too.

    There is not an ounce of FUD in my original post. What I wrote was a comment from the user side of the MS world, something you, a “product person” should pay attention to from times to times instead of dismissing as irrelevant.

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