Friday, July 21, 2006

Microsoft fumbles standards support in Office 2007

Pamela Jones (PJ) over at Groklaw has pointed out this blog entry by Rob Weir. In it, Rob takes the new ODF plug-in for Word 2007 for a spin. ODF is, of course the OpenDocument Format, otherwise known as ISO 26300, which is the international standard for office documents. This new standard is supported by most modern Office suites on the market, including StarOffice, OpenOffice.org, IBM Workplace, KOffice, AbiWord, and many others. Worldwide, many governments are either considering a mandated move to ODF or have already mandated such a move.

Microsoft, after much resistance and gnashing of teeth, has reluctantly agreed to support the standard. However, their support is severely lacking, as Rob's blog shows. You cannot export ODF documents using Word's file save dialog; and you cannot set ODF as the default file format (even though you can do that for ancient formats such as richtext and plain text!!)

Furthermore, the results are terrible. I don't mean just slightly off... they're terrible. I suggest you look at the Rob's examples to see exactly how badly these are rendered. I think PJ cuts right to the core when she wonders that this is the best Microsoft can do considering that they complete access to both their own Office source code and to that of the open-source competitors who do the same job so much better.

Given MS Office 2007's extremely poor standards support, that justification for migrating to it would have to be exceptional. A better move is to go to standards-compliant software such as OpenOffice.org (open-source and free) or Sun Microsystem's StarOffice (for those that want corporate support).

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