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Microsoft United Kingdom Technology

Microsoft Circles the Wagons To Defeat ODF In the UK 89

Posted by Soulskill
from the tell-them-ODF-is-bigger-on-the-inside dept.
Andy Updegrove writes "Three weeks ago, we heard that Francis Maude, a senior UK government minister, was predicting the conversion to open source office suites by UK government agencies. Lost in the translation in many stories was the fact that this was based not on an adopted policy, but on a proposal still open for public comment — and subject to change. It should be no surprise that Microsoft is trying to get the UK to add OOXML, its own format standard, to the UK policy. Why? According to a messaging sent to its UK partners, because it believes that a failure to include OOXML 'will cause problems for citizens and businesses who use office suites which don't support ODF, including many people who do not use a recent version of Microsoft Office or, for example, Pages on iOS and even Google Docs.' Of course, that's because Microsoft pushed OOXML as an alternative to ODF a decade ago. If you don't want the same objection to be valid a decade from now, consider making your views known at the Cabinet Office Standards Hub. The deadline is February 26."
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Microsoft Circles the Wagons To Defeat ODF In the UK

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 21, 2014 @03:42PM (#46305577)

    failure to include OOXML 'will cause problems for citizens and businesses who use office suites which don't support ODF, including many people who do not use a recent version of Microsoft Office'

    IIRC, OOXML isn't in any version of MS Office that doesn't have ODF support.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Its just Microsoft marketing.
      Them pulling stuff out of their ass to make their product look better.

      • Them pulling stuff out of their ass to make their product look better.

        They're not trying to make their products look better. They're trying to make competitor's products look worse.

        It's an important distinction, because it means they don't have to compete on quality or price.

    • There are converters for the older versions, which I won't say makes it worth it, but they are there. I used them on the Mac version so we didn't have to upgrade above 2000 era Office. Mac converter [microsoft.com] is just drag and drop, doesn't allow you to save back to it, not that anyone would want to.
    • by the_povinator (936048) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:05PM (#46305731) Homepage
      Their statement seems to imply that Google Docs supports OOXML but not ODF, but the reverse is true: it supports ODF but not OOXML. I just tried the file->download as link on a document there, and one of the options is "Open Document Format (.odt)" but there is no OOXML option.
      • by bufke (2029164)

        While I support ODF, your statement is not true. Google Docs/Drive supports .docx which is OOXML.

        Now it is possible the OOXML implementation Microsoft uses could vary from the ISO standard. Microsoft could change it, obscure it, and add proprietary extensions to harm interchangeability with Google Docs and other competitors.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          >.docx which is OOXML.

          No it isn't. this was known back when they pushed for OOXML to be a standard. they do not meet the standard for OOXML and are therefore NOT OOXML

      • by MightyYar (622222)

        "DOCX" = "OOXML"

        • by Immerman (2627577) on Friday February 21, 2014 @05:12PM (#46306337)

          Not so. docx ~= ooxml, but there's not a single piece of software on the planet that supports OOXML as approved by purchased standards bodies. And that assumes you even grant the title "standard" to the obfuscated mess that is OOXML, where many parts of the "standard" refer to binary blobs stored in "the format used by MS Office" without any further detail.

          • by MightyYar (622222)

            Well, technically I guess all of the MS Office formats are ostensibly OOXML - not just DOCX. Whether they fully comply or not I can't say - the fact is you can unzip them and get an XML structure that is very OOXML-ish. You get the same thing from Google Docs when you export to DOCX - though once again I cannot vouch for it's compliance. It does open in MS Office, though.

            • by Immerman (2627577) on Friday February 21, 2014 @09:02PM (#46308155)

              The file format specialists working on the MS Office i/o filters for LibreOffice, etc. *can* say though, and they say it's not. There is software available to confirm that ODF files do in fact comply with the standard, and the various programmers who work with ODF can use them to confirm that their software is at least not obviously out of compliance. IIRC similar software was begun to be created created for OOXML as part of the i/o filter project, and found that it doesn't actually accurately describe DOCX, etc. Close, but not suitable for reasonable levels of interoperability. Google, LibreOffice, etc. have a choice - they can support OOXML, and end up garbling imported documents documents and exporting documents that can't be opened correctly by MS Office, or they can do their best to interoperate with MS Office, and thus be intentionally incompatible with OOXML, the standard that nobody has ever used.

              More accurately I suppose there are two standards named OOXML:
              OOXML-as-Described in the internationally ratified standards (and that's a story of obvious corruption of one of the preeminent standards bodies on the planet)
              and OOXML-as-Implemented by MS Office.

              OOXML-as-described technically qualifies for open standard requirements, even if it is longwinded, cryptic, poorly organized, and badly underspecified.
              OOXML-as-implemented does not
              Microsoft then plays the game of saying OOXMLaD is a recognized international open standard, and MS Office supports OOXMLaI, so Office should be allowed to participate in open-standards-only product bids, trusting that nobody in the procurement process will catch the fact that OOXMLaD != OOXMLaI, or can be bought off if they do.

              • by MightyYar (622222)

                Right, that covers MS Office, but when exporting from Google Docs to DOCX, you are getting some kind of OOXML. I don't know how "standard" it is, but it is OOXML of some flavor and it does open in Word.

                • by Immerman (2627577)

                  Google, and everyone else, support OOXML "as implemented" (or at least their best approximation of it). The only reason to support that byzantine nightmare is to interoperate with MS Office, and MS Office doesn't support OOXML as approved as an open standard by IEEE.

                  The problem is the confusion - the only reason OOXML could qualify for open-standard procurement is if it is in fact an open standard. Which the OOXMLaI is categorically *not*. You can't meaningfully have different "flavors" of a reliable doc

                  • by MightyYar (622222)

                    I'm not trying to be an OOXML apologist - I agree with your criticism of it. But I doubt that every implementation of ODF is identical, and I was just trying to point out that the DOCX option in Google Docs is in fact the OOXML option, implementation aside.

                    • by MightyYar (622222)

                      Again, I agree that OOXML is pure and utter shit. I was just trying to clarify that it is not absent from Google Docs.

    • by Immerman (2627577)

      Worse, OOXML, as written, isn't supported by *any* version of MS Office. Just ask the folks working on compatibility plugins for other office suites. It's often close, but only the most trivial MS Office files actually comply with the standard.

      Plus there's the fact that OOXML doesn't actually fully specify a standard, often resorting to the non-informative "and this bit gets stored as a binary blob as defined by the way it's done by MS Office". Pretty lousy for a "standard" that's what, 10x as long as the

    • by mwvdlee (775178) on Friday February 21, 2014 @05:09PM (#46306309) Homepage

      Next Microsoft is going to remove .txt support from Office and try and get all plain text files banned because office can't handle it.

      ODF is an open (truely open, not OOXML-like "open") file format. Nothing is stopping Office from supporting it if it doesn't already do so.

      They can't play the "old versions of Office"-card either, since OOXML is no more backwards compatible than ODF.

    • Office 2007 only loads and saves a form of the transitional OOXML format that is incompatible with the standard.

      Office 2010 can load standard OOXML files, it is unable to save them. It saves in a transitional format that is closer to the OOXML standard than 2007. The Office team released an explanation to the beta testers that they would not have time to be fully OOXML compliant for the release of Office 2010 and there were not plans to fix it after release.

      Office 2013 is the first version of office to
    • failure to include OOXML 'will cause problems for citizens and businesses who use office suites which don't support ODF, including many people who do not use a recent version of Microsoft Office'

      Yes, this will cause problems for the citizens of Redmond, WA who work for Microsoft, and the business called Microsoft, Inc if OOXML is not approved.

    • IIRC, OOXML isn't in any version of MS Office that doesn't have ODF support.

      Office 2003 has an add-on for OOXML support but no ODF. Yes, I still run it in an XP VM because I don't like how clunky OO Writer is.

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday February 21, 2014 @03:44PM (#46305599) Homepage Journal

    If you don't want the same objection to be valid a decade from now, consider making your views known at the Cabinet Office Standards Hub. The deadline is February 26.

    The documents are on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign outside the door saying "Beware of the Leopard."

    Make sure you bring a torch.

  • by jkrise (535370) on Friday February 21, 2014 @03:45PM (#46305607) Journal

    I call bullshit. OpenOffice or LibreOffice can be configured to store files in .doc and .xls and .ppt formats - problem solved! It annoys me there are still people and govts. buying the rubbish arguments spouted by Microsoft and their ilk...

    • by sjbe (173966) on Friday February 21, 2014 @03:56PM (#46305679)

      OpenOffice or LibreOffice can be configured to store files in .doc and .xls and .ppt formats - problem solved!

      While true, that doesn't mean either of those products are permitted in every office. A lot of IT departments are notoriously inflexible on this sort of matter. If your organization standardizes on something, odds are they aren't going to want you using some other unapproved product. If you were to point out that this inflexibility is probably dumb, I am inclined to agree with you. Nevertheless it does occur and it is a real problem. Microsoft isn't strictly wrong here though they are being a bit disingenuous regarding some of the nuances of the situation.

      I have standardized my company on LibreOffice but its ability to read and write Microsoft Office files is imperfect at best. It's particularly bad at the more recent .docx and .xlsx files. It reads and writes them well enough to be useful most of the time but don't expect perfection.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If you were to point out that this inflexibility is probably dumb

        Is it?

        You're posting on Slashdot. You are probably capable of figuring out why your Open Sores Libre Viva La Revolucione Socialiste Office is fucking up a document conversion. Your IT department would put entire cities to the sword if it meant only having to deal solely with you and people like you.

        But they can't, and they don't. No, they're awash in a sea of, "MY CUPHOLDER IS BROKEN AND WHY IS THIS FOOTPEDAL SO HARD TO CONTROL!?" types.

        Standardization exists for a reason, and the reason may indeed be du

      • by ClickOnThis (137803) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:12PM (#46305783) Journal

        I have standardized my company on LibreOffice but its ability to read and write Microsoft Office files is imperfect at best. It's particularly bad at the more recent .docx and .xlsx files. It reads and writes them well enough to be useful most of the time but don't expect perfection.

        In my experience, MS Office frequently can be incompatible with itself. I can forgive LibreOffice for having trouble with MS formats, no matter which side is responsible (wink.)

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          This is what amazes me when people claim they love Office so much. It is so incredibly buggy and does some of the stupidest things you'd expect software to do. I mean it's trivial to remain compatible with older versions of a product, and yet Microsoft either can not do this out of stupidity or it is intentionally breaking compatibility to force ugprades. (I think it's both actually)

          In the past Microsoft has listed as their official answer to compatibility issues to have the reader of your document upgra

          • I agree with almost everything in your post. However, I wouldn't say it's "trivial" to retain backward-compatibility in software products. It can be harder than it seems. I don't envy any company, including Microsoft, faced with that task.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        If your organization standardizes on something, odds are they aren't going to want you using some other unapproved product. If you were to point out that this inflexibility is probably dumb, I am inclined to agree with you.

        I presume you also pop in to defend any company that gets their data stolen because "enforcing security practices is dumb"?

        One software, one series of patches to read, approve, and push out to the users; one set of vulnerabilities to prepare for. IT should be very inflexible when you as random non-IT employee come to them and say "I'm philosophically opposed to using the software that was already licensed for my use, I want to use this because it can usually do most of the same things and I use it at home.

      • by Eric Damron (553630) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:56PM (#46306165)

        I'm old enough to have lived through the entire Microsoft history of dirty tricks, disingenuous press releases and out right illegal anti-trust violations. It seems that some things never do really change.

        Part of the compatibility issues are due to the time lag caused by the need to reverse engineer Microsoft's âoeStandard.â If the past is any indication of how this company works they haven't been forthcoming on providing complete documentation to their document format. There may be a bit of the âoeWindows isn't done until Lotus won't run...â attitude left in a company that has a history of wanting not just to compete but do completely crush anything that remotely smells like competition. And if that takes lies, dirty tricks or anti-trust violations requiring decades to litigate then so be it.

        For the younger folks here: Watch this company with a skeptical eye because they don't have YOUR best interest at heart and they will do practically anything to win.

           

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I call bullshit. OpenOffice or LibreOffice can be configured to store files in .doc and .xls and .ppt formats - problem solved! It annoys me there are still people and govts. buying the rubbish arguments spouted by Microsoft and their ilk...

      People who say OpenOffice read and writes MS Office files fine can not have used this themselves on an ongoing basis for more than the simplest of files. It regularly messes up the documents, and macros. Not saying OpenOffice is at fault for this, it is just a fact, that shouldn't be falsely presented to potential users.

      • by sexconker (1179573) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:09PM (#46305761)

        I call bullshit. OpenOffice or LibreOffice can be configured to store files in .doc and .xls and .ppt formats - problem solved! It annoys me there are still people and govts. buying the rubbish arguments spouted by Microsoft and their ilk...

        People who say OpenOffice read and writes MS Office files fine can not have used this themselves on an ongoing basis for more than the simplest of files. It regularly messes up the documents, and macros. Not saying OpenOffice is at fault for this, it is just a fact, that shouldn't be falsely presented to potential users.

        Just today I had to tell someone to save to PDF before uploading because Open Office's automatic conversion (which we call on the back end) fucks shit up half the time.
        We could update to a later version of Open Office, but it'll just fuck things up differently (it'll replace all the bullets in a list with a clock icon, regardless of what font we use).

        • by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:23PM (#46305845)

          (it'll replace all the bullets in a list with a clock icon, regardless of what font we use).

          Irony. I think most of the clocks I've seen were in genuine 100% Microsoft Word.

          However, I think I recognize your problem and it has to do (IIRC) with the fact that the font used for the bullet is not controlled by the font specification for the bulleted content itself, and I'm pretty sure that there is actually a difference between Word's handling of this nuance and Open/Libre Office handling of it.

          If that was the worst problem I had, I think a fairly simple solution could be achieved, but my definition of "fairly simple" can run up to and including unzipping the ODF and doing a "sed" replace, so your definition may vary.

          • (it'll replace all the bullets in a list with a clock icon, regardless of what font we use).

            Irony. I think most of the clocks I've seen were in genuine 100% Microsoft Word.

            However, I think I recognize your problem and it has to do (IIRC) with the fact that the font used for the bullet is not controlled by the font specification for the bulleted content itself, and I'm pretty sure that there is actually a difference between Word's handling of this nuance and Open/Libre Office handling of it.

            If that was the worst problem I had, I think a fairly simple solution could be achieved, but my definition of "fairly simple" can run up to and including unzipping the ODF and doing a "sed" replace, so your definition may vary.

            You're right that Word 2010 uses a different font for the list symbols than it does for the content, but changing the font for the symbols doesn't reliably fix the problem. I've defined new default list styles and injected normal bullets that OO is usually happy to deal with, and sometimes it works, sometimes it barfs. It's bizarre, and if it were the only issue I had with OO I might try to work around it by procedurally futzing with the doc before it's fed to OO (like the way you suggested), but it's rea

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          Never mind that Word fucks stuff up to. PDF just works (especially if you use an older version without all the newer crap), and for things like resumes and the like that's what I want to get in email rather than a .docx file.

    • It annoys me there are still people and govts. buying the rubbish arguments spouted by Microsoft and their ilk...

      "Buying" is the operative word, but it's Microsoft doing the buying in this case.

    • It's actually more the case that Microsoft, deliberately or not, does not publish good enough documentation that explains the .doc, .xls, .ppt, etc. formats well enough to allow developers of other office packages to build in support for those formats with 100% compatibility.

      An open standard becomes one because a number of working parties, that can happily include Microsoft, agree on that standard as being best for what needs to be achieved and can also be built into any software packages as necessary.

  • have pity on me! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft: "Have pity on me, I'm an orphan. (I killed my parents.)"

  • by Anonymous Coward

    All software utilized by the government ought to be open source as a natural consequence of the source of the funds used to support it. Everyone should benefit from the government's use of technology, not just Microsoft.

  • by JavaBear (9872) on Friday February 21, 2014 @04:30PM (#46305907)

    OOXML MUST DIE!

    I've have my share of fun decoding that crap. It is not a good format for anyone but Microsoft.

  • ... that they will find the right palms to grease in a sclerotocracy, considering they succeeded in essentially purchasing ISO back in the day. If you want a definition of an afer-me-the-flood attitude, here you have it.
    • by Forbo (3035827)
      What in the world is a sclerotocracy? I had never heard of it before, so I tried looking up the term on DuckDuckGo, Google and Bing and I'm coming up with nothing.
  • That maxim is being varied by Microsoft yesterday, today and tomorrow.

    It's the maxim of powerful institutions, whether or not government or
    private enterprise behemoths. On second thought, is there a difference?

    On third thought: with this bit of knowledge you can decisively know when
    you're being fucked.
    And on epilogie: THINK CRITICAL & DARE TO REJECT!

  • People want to stay with MS Office because the compatibility of other software with the complex OOXML format is not all that good. That locks people into MS Office. The ODF format is less complex and easier to implement, so presumably Microsoft can control how well Office reads and writes ODF files.

    If ODF was the standard, then the question would be reversed from "how compatible is the alternative software with OOXML" to "how compatible is MS Office with ODF".

    Microsoft understandably does not want to have t

  • a failure to include OOXML 'will cause problems for citizens and businesses who use office suites which don't support ODF, including many people who do not use a recent version of Microsoft Office or, for example, Pages on iOS and even Google Docs.'

    So, Microsoft is then admitting that their products cannot save into free standard formats, then. Me, I'm all for stepping back a decade and a half: Make the document standard RTF only. That should support any old or new word processor (and any new word pr

    • by vux984 (928602)

      I'm sure there is a reason why [using RTF] that's impractical, and maybe even a good one which doesn't involve Microsoft poisoning the IT world. But what would it be?

      From wikipedia:

      The Rich Text Format (often abbreviated RTF) is a proprietary document file format with published specification developed by Microsoft Corporation since 1987 for Microsoft products and for cross-platform document interchange.

      Most word processors are able to read and write some versions of RTF. There are several different revisio

      • by RoLi (141856)

        It is better because it has not changed a lot in the last 20 years. It may be true that there were some incompatible revisions somewhen in the 90s, but for all practical purposes that is history with no practical importance today.

        Also, simply because of its age, you can be sure that RTF does not infringe any patents, because *all* relevant patents have expired. So you can legally create a RTF-reader/writer, even when you use the Microsoft-RTF-specification (their specification is copyrighted of course, but

        • by vux984 (928602)

          It is better because it has not changed a lot in the last 20 years.

          Which will change the moment it becomes 'important' again. And seeing as its under Microsofts proprietary control, if it were adopted as standard, the next version of Office would start throwing all kinds of new crap into it.

          Also, simply because of its age, you can be sure that RTF does not infringe any patents...

          I predict most of the new crap they jam in it will be directly from OOXML and we're back at square one here too.

  • The UK gov only supporting ODF would quickly fix that.
  • by RDW (41497) on Friday February 21, 2014 @06:46PM (#46307167)

    A cynic might suggest that the UK Government doesn't care about file formats any more than MS does, and the whole whole "we're seriously considering alternatives" thing is just a ploy to get a better deal on Office...

  • But, OOXML is (for better or worse) a ECMA and ISO standard, just like ODF. Each has it's own set of tradeoffs, advantages and disadvantages.

    So, not why not a list of accepted common formats? ODF, OOXML, PDF is a fine list. Why "one format to rule them all?" Let people use the tools that work best for them, and base the decisions on a real cost-benefit analysis. Or just say we don't want to pay for Microsoft Office and deal with the fallout from that.

    Don't wrap it up by picking a favorite format and making

  • will cause problems for citizens and businesses who use office suites which don't support ODF

    It's pretty simple to get one... For businesses, wouldn't MS want people to update Office to a version that supports ODF? Means more money for MS when businesses do that.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    OOXML? What is that ? Show me a version working according to the published standard. Microsoft has never made a version that follows their own specs. Oh, and lets try and get rid of those proprietary containers (with undocumented encryption) surrounding that xml. Mickeysoft bought the standards body for tens of millions of dollars, and rammed OOXML through the standards body. The documents describing OOXML run 5000 pages. It was created by mickeysoft alone --different from ODF, which was collaborativ

  • deny demime = xlsx:docx:pptx
    log_message = Message contains OOXML Attachment.
    message = We Do Not Accept OOXML (docx,xlsx,pptx) Attachments See http://noooxml.wikidot.com/ [wikidot.com]

    deny demime = dat
    log_message = Proprietary Attachment format
    message = Non-Standard Attachment Practice (winmail.dat). Please Fix Your Email System.

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