While all the drama is unfolding before the OOXML Ballot Resolution Meeting in Geneva at the end of February and the subsequent 30 day period while countries can still change their vote, I thought I would point out something that I assume is fairly obvious to most people:
Saving your documents in OOXML format right now is probably
about the riskiest thing you can do if you are concerned with
long term interoperability.
First, the “official” ECMA OOXML that was submitted to ISO is not what Microsoft implements in Office 2007. So unless your application reverse-engineered Office 2007′s support, you’ve got interoperability problems right there.
Second, the ECMA spec is over 6000 pages long, there were thousands of comments, and thousands of pages of proposed resolutions to those comments. And that’s just from Microsoft. Others will go to the BRM with different proposals, and further ideas may come up there. Not everything may be addressed at the BRM.
Nobody has the vaguest idea what OOXML will look like in February or even whether it will be in any sort of stable condition by the end of March. Major features may be deprecated. Completely different solutions may be proposed. And at the end, the whole thing may be rejected, just as it was done in September.
So that OOXML format that you are saving files in right now is dead and will be replaced, unless Microsoft decides it won’t bother implementing what comes out of the ISO process. Indeed, if the ballot finally fails, I’m not sure what Microsoft will do with all the suggested comments.
But, you might say, don’t worry, because surely Microsoft will provide a converter for my current OOXML files to the new OOXML format. To this I say why are you wasting your time saving in a format that is hard to share right now and you know is going away? If you must use a Microsoft format, by all means use the traditional binary formats. Others can read them today and you know there will be support for them later, even on other platforms.
Another point is that while we are talking about interoperability, who else do you think is going to provide long term complete support for this already-dead OOXML format that Microsoft Office 2007 uses today? Interoperability means that other applications can process the files fully and not just products from Microsoft. I would even go so far as to go back to those few OOXML files you have already created and save .doc, .ppt, and .xls versions of them for future use, if you want to make sure you can read them and you don’t want to commit yourself to Microsoft’s products for the rest of their lives.
If you do simply want to commit yourself to Microsoft’s products for the rest of your documents’ lives, just make sure everyone else who needs to read them will do the same. But then that’s a very different discussion from worrying about interoperability.