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Microsoft

Is the New Microsoft Office Really Open? 511

Posted by Cliff
from the a-window-undecided dept.
joesklein asks: "From CNET, there is an article about the new Microsoft Office 11. In summary 'Microsoft says it's opening its Office desktop software by adding support for XML--a move that should help companies free up access to shared information. But there's a catch: It has yet to disclose the underlying XML dialect.' Could this be grounds for another anti-trust suit against Microsoft?"
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Is the New Microsoft Office Really Open?

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  • sure it is! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:06PM (#4925523)
    it supports .DOC, the de facto standard for documents. What's this XML you're talking about?
    • by burgburgburg (574866) <splisken06@[ ]il.com ['ema' in gap]> on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:40PM (#4925842)
      Of course it isn't open. It's a silly question. Open is EVIL. Actually open would eliminate advantages. People would be able to create their own tools to interact with documents, instead of with MS tools. Where's the money in that?

      Dancing MonkeyBoy doesn't hop across a stage for his health. He "loves this company" because it makes money as only a monopoly can.

      Silly rabbit. Open is for kids.

      • by gmack (197796) <gmack@NOsPAM.innerfire.net> on Thursday December 19, 2002 @06:28PM (#4926285) Homepage Journal
        That right there is one of the things that makes working with windows a pain.

        On any Unix or Unix clone you can just run standard tools or write your own.

        Unfortunatly with everything in a proprietary format you then end up having to build scripting languages into everything making all of your data files potential entry points for malicious code.

        The move to XML has the potential to eliminate that sort of brain damage once and for all provided they actually open their file formats.

        I hope they do it.. but given their past I'm not holding my breath given that the options are long term financial security for MS or Security for their customers and the risk of losing market share in the future.
    • by Alien54 (180860) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:52PM (#4925956) Journal
      well, tongue in cheek

      the Love Caculator [lovecalculator.com] demonstrates that

      Draw your own conclusions. cute little widget.

      • Linux? (Score:3, Funny)

        by The Pi-Guy (529892)
        Dr. Love thinks that a relationship between microsoft and linux has a reasonable chance of working out, but on the other hand, it might not. Your relationship may suffer good and bad times. If things might not be working out as you would like them to, do not hesitate to talk about it with the person involved. Spend time together, talk with each other.

        D'oh!
  • "In summary 'Microsoft says it's opening its Office desktop software by adding support for XML--a move that should help companies free up access to shared information."

    Are we talking about true standard XML is Microsoft going to "embrace and extend" it?
    • Aren't you supposed to "extend" it....
      eXtensible Markup Language...

      Just my $.02
  • LOL (Score:4, Funny)

    by Boss, Pointy Haired (537010) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:08PM (#4925551)
    Well if the way Microsoft Word saves out as HTML is anything to go by, then concise it most definitely will not be.
    • Re:LOL (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:25PM (#4925731)
      <html>

      <head>
      <META HTTP-EQUIV=3D"Content-Type" CONTENT=3D"text/html; =
      charset=3Dus-ascii">

      <meta name=3DGenerator content=3D"Microsoft Word 10 (filtered)">

      <style>
      <!-- /* Font Definitions */
      @font-face
      {font-family:Tahoma;
      panose-1:2 11 6 4 3 5 4 4 2 4;} /* Style Definitions */
      p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal
      {margin:0in;
      margin-bottom:.0001pt;
      font-size:12.0pt;
      font-family:"Times New Roman";}
      a:link, span.MsoHyperlink
      {color:blue;
      text-decoration:underline;}
      a:visited, span.MsoHyperlinkFollowed
      {color:purple;
      text-decoration:underline;}
      span.emailstyle17
      {font-family:Arial;
      color:windowtext;}
      span.emailstyle18
      {font-family:Arial;
      color:navy;}
      span.EmailStyle19
      {font-family:Arial;
      color:navy;}
      @page Section1
      {size:8.5in 11.0in;
      margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in;}
      div.Section1
      {page:Section1;}
      -->
      </style>

      </head>

      <body lang=3DEN-US link=3Dblue vlink=3Dpurple>

      <div class=3DSection1>

      <p class=3DMsoNormal><font size=3D2 color=3Dnavy face=3DArial><span =
      style=3D'font-size:
      10.0pt;font-family:Arial;c olor:navy'>

      I agree.

      </span></font></p>
      • Re:LOL (Score:5, Funny)

        by Wolfier (94144) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @06:03PM (#4926063)
        <?xml version="1.0" encoding="base-64?>
        <!doctype MS_WORD
        <!ELEMENT WORD_DATA>
        ]>
        <WORD_DATA>SGFoYSwgaWYgeW91IHJlYWx seSBhcmUgdHJ5aW5nIHRvIGRlY29kZSB0aGlzLCB5b3UgaGF2Z SB0b28gbXVjaCB0aW1lIG9uIHlvdXIgaGFuZHMh<WORD_DATA>
        </xml>
        • exactly (Score:3, Informative)

          by ink (4325)
          I wish I had some mod points for you; that's exactly what Microsoft means when they say that their documents are saved using XML. They include Win32 class-ID objects all over the place.
    • Re:LOL (Score:5, Interesting)

      by commodoresloat (172735) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:33PM (#4925785)
      Or anything close to "standard." The best we can hope for is code that is recognized as valid, and I wouldn't hold my breath for that either. I've seen HTML like the following come out of Word:

      <B><A HREF="http://whatever.org"> Link </B></A>.

      I'm not kidding, either. Seems like an easy thing to avoid in an HTML generator. Validator [w3.org] routinely reports hundreds of coding errors in simple short documents generated by Word. Ugh. What really sucks is when you're working on a web page for someone and cleaning out all the crap that Word generates, then at the last minute they send you the same document with some minor errors corrected.... and all the same major errors generated by Word. Fun.

      • by burgburgburg (574866) <splisken06@[ ]il.com ['ema' in gap]> on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:59PM (#4926017)
        Word HTML output was always atrocious. It failed everywhere from correct tag order (as is shown above), not properly quote parameters (sometimes it uses ", sometimes it uses ', sometimes nothing). Multiple tags, all with different styles one after another (actual example below)
        <b style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'><i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'><span
        style='f ont-size:12.0pt;mso-bidi-font-size:10.0pt;font-fam ily:Arial;mso-fareast-font-family:
        "Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";color:black;
        mso-ansi-language:EN-US;mso-f areast-language:EN-US;mso-bidi-language:AR-SA'><br
        clear=all style='page-break-before:right;mso-break-type:sect ion-break'>
        </span></i></b>

        Even with grep replace tools, cleaning up this crap takes hours.

    • Re:LOL (Score:4, Informative)

      by loconet (415875) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @07:27PM (#4926708) Homepage
      I know exactly what you mean. Word spits out complete garbage when it converts .doc => .html . Microsoft attempted to address this issue by releasing an HTML filter plugin [microsoft.com] that you can install and cleans up the html word spits out. It does clean up the html but it's still kinda messy.
  • At least with XML it will not be very long until many software companies and project reverse engineer the XML. I suppose they could put some weird binary or encrypted data in the files, but that would defeat the purpose of XML.
    • Hello DMCA! (Score:2, Redundant)

      by Wee (17189)
      At least with XML it will not be very long until many software companies and project reverse engineer the XML.

      And these other apps can cut into Office revenue. Which is as good a cease-and-desist argument as any.

      I suppose they could put some weird binary or encrypted data in the files, but that would defeat the purpose of XML.

      It defeats nothing if every app speaks the same binary/encrypted language. It prevents other apps from conversing with Office stuff, and that's probably seen as a good thing for MS.

      Anyone who thinks MS is using XML as their file format for the purpose of being "open" or playing well with others had better find another daydream. They're doing it because it helps them in some way, not because it'll help others. And there's actually nothing wrong with that. They're in business to protect shareholder value, after all.

      -B

    • maybe they'll do the opposite of the .doc format as it is now: encrypt the actual data of the document but let the xml tags hang out in text.

      running "strings" on a .doc xml file would dump just the tags.

      that would be funny.

      --mandi

    • by Phroggy (441) <{moc.yggorhp} {ta} {3todhsals}> on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:17PM (#4925652) Homepage
      I suppose they could put some weird binary or encrypted data in the files, but that would defeat the purpose of XML.

      The purpose of XML is to have buzzword compliance, and this doesn't defeat that.

      (Of course that's not the purpose most other people use XML for, but we're talking about Microsoft.)
    • Re:Reverse Engineer (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      No, of course MS wouldn't put the data in weird binary or encrypted format in their XML output formats ... like they did with Visio 2002's XML output (http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF- 8&oe=UTF-8&threadm=OiH2rn9nCHA.1808%40TK2MSFTNGP10 &rnum=3&prev=/groups%3Fq%3Dxml%2Bvisio%2Bmime%26hl %3Den%26lr%3D%26ie%3DUTF-8%26oe%3DUTF-8%26scoring% 3Dd) where they put all the really important stuff needed for interoperability in ForeignData elements.

      HINT: if you see MS use the phrase "full fidelity" when they talk about their new Office's XML output then you can be sure they're not giving you the data interoperability/portability you thought XML output was going to give you.
  • Defaults (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Snoe (114590) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:08PM (#4925556)
    RTF has been in office for years and it is an open, portable standard readable on many platforms and with many programs. The problem is that Microsoft chooses to retain their obfuscated binary format as the default save type for documents.

    If the XML files office produce are not made the default save types or if the XML merely encapsulates large portions of binary code, it will not matter one lick that office can save these xml documents because the majority of people will be stuck on the default, unreadable formats.
    • Re:Defaults (Score:3, Insightful)

      by C. Mattix (32747)
      Exactly. And as the maker of a software product it is thier perrogative as to what the default value is. I would hate to have the government telling me what the default values for things should be. If the user's don't use open standard type, yet they are given the oppurtunity to, then it is no longer the software manufacturer's fault.
      • Re:Defaults (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MadAhab (40080) <slasher@@@ahab...com> on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:50PM (#4925937) Homepage Journal
        You are goddamned fucking lucky that the government tells you what the default values for things should be. That's what the government is there for, mostly; to tell you that the default value for a building is to have a fire exit and that it may not be locked. And without standards, there is no interchangeability of parts. And without that, every consumer and customer gets assraped by manipulative vendors. And since you can never tell precisely how this battery differs from that battery, you just have shit exploding battery acid all over the place.

        But if you really think they have no right doing these things, go live in a 3rd world country; they generallly have the government telling you less about what to do. Except once in a while when they kill your familiy. You could be armed of course. You know what a totally armed society with a weak government looks like? Afghanistan.

        That being said, it's hard to see what business the government has engineering document formats. They could, on the other hand, specify disclosure of formats as a remedy in an anti-trust case, but they generally fall into one of two categories which precludes this: stupid or bought.

        • Re:Defaults (Score:5, Informative)

          by dillon_rinker (17944) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @07:04PM (#4926522) Homepage
          Yup. Government standards are why you can buy screws and nuts from different manufacturers and have them work together. They are why you can buy "orange juice" at the grocery store and know that it's not "juice" wrung out of a pile of autumn leaves (hey, it's juice, it's orange, what more do you want?). Government standards are why you can fill fly in an airplane and know it won't crash.

          Sure, all these needs could be fulfilled by voluntary industry standards, if it weren't for those pesky human beings, fallible and greedy creatures that they are.
        • Don't get confused. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by twitter (104583) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @08:05PM (#4926931) Homepage Journal
          You are goddamned fucking lucky that the government tells you what the default values for things should be. That's what the government is there for, mostly; to tell you that the default value for a building is to have a fire exit and that it may not be locked.

          Most rational specifications are for performance. The method should not matter as much as the end result. Fire codes are an extreem example, but even there the specification is flexible. The local government does not tell people how to build buildings, only that there needs to be so many exits per so many people and floor space. They don't nail you down to real specifics. Most rational specs are such as mil-specs for acryilic - it must be able to sit in the South Florida sun for one year without delaminating. How you make the thing does not matter, so long as it does what it should.

          By these rational and objective standards M$ junk generally fails. If you say that a Word doc should be legible and keep it's formatting for a number of years, Word fails. The same thing can be said of all other M$ junk - it's designed to break and therfore government should reject it's use anywhere records are kept. That's all public work. That's hardly engineering the document, it's simply stating the thing should work as advertised.

          All normal standards, from ASCII to WWWC are formed by professional agreement. Governments intervention is not needed. Disruptive vendors are generally seen through.

        • Re:Defaults (Score:3, Insightful)

          by donutello (88309)
          Amazing how many points you got wrong.

          You are goddamned fucking lucky that the government tells you what the default values for things should be. That's what the government is there for, mostly; to tell you that the default value for a building is to have a fire exit and that it may not be locked.

          That's a safety standard. The government does not tell you what color the walls should be, however. It doesn't tell you whether you should use carpet or hardwood on the floors.

          But if you really think they have no right doing these things, go live in a 3rd world country; they generallly have the government telling you less about what to do. Except once in a while when they kill your familiy. You could be armed of course. You know what a totally armed society with a weak government looks like? Afghanistan.

          Assuming you're talking about Afghanistan before the US bombed the hell out of it, you are wrong again. The government in Afghanistan told you exactly what you could or could not do. It told you what you could wear and how much. It told you how long to keep your beard. It told you whether you could study or not (if you were a woman). It told you what you could study. It told you who you could sleep with.
    • Re:Defaults (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Planesdragon (210349)
      RTF has been in office for years and it is an open, portable standard readable on many platforms and with many programs.

      Obviously you haven't tried it. RTF has gotten more complaints from users than raw word Docs does!

      Replace "RTF" with "HTML" and you've got a winner, though.

      The problem is that Microsoft chooses to retain their obfuscated binary format as the default save type for documents.

      It's not "obfuscated" so much as it's "optimized." The whole idea seems to be for Word to save as quickly as possible--which the doc file is best at for Word for some reason, probably becuase it's derived from how the program structures documents, and not how some document spec says documents should be handled.

      If the XML files office produce are not made the default save types or if the XML merely encapsulates large portions of binary code, it will not matter one lick that office can save these xml documents because the majority of people will be stuck on the default, unreadable formats.

      1: It's HIGHLY unlikely that MS's XML implementation will be unnecessary binary code. They have a doc-to-HTML converter allready, and the XML converter will probably just be an update of that.

      2: You CAN change the default Office save format to RTF, HTML, old_doc_version, or just about any random 'save as' converter you have! (The only major feature I saw missing was the MHTML format.)
      • Re:Defaults (Score:5, Insightful)

        by EisPick (29965) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:27PM (#4925748)
        It's not "obfuscated" so much as it's "optimized." The whole idea seems to be for Word to save as quickly as possible--which the doc file is best at for Word for some reason, probably becuase it's derived from how the program structures documents, and not how some document spec says documents should be handled.

        In an era of 2+ GHz computers with 7200+ rpm hard drives, it seems odd that Microsoft would be unable to write an application than can quickly save and open text files that, on average, run well under 50 kilobytes.
        • Re:Defaults (Score:3, Insightful)

          by tshak (173364)
          Most businesses do not build game machines.

          In an era of practicallity most offices are still running on 500mhz boxes with 128MB of RAM and 5400rpm HD's.
    • Boo Hoo Hoo (Score:2, Insightful)

      by VividU (175339)
      The problem is that Microsoft chooses to retain their obfuscated binary format as the default save type for documents.

      Comments like this give me the creepies. As a software developer, the last thing I want is some entity telling me what my default format should be.

      It's also indicitive of the elitist attitudes of many Linuxites. In effect, the poster is saying that users will never have the capability to inform themselves and make a choice as to how they want to use their computers.
  • by aron_wallaker (93905) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:09PM (#4925560)
    The big question (to me) is whether Microsoft can put a legal encumbrance on the XML schema they use for a new file format. Could you publish a schema but have it so wrapped in legalese that (for example) open source projects could not be allowed to use it ?
    • That's exactly what I'm thinking they'll do. They'll be a bid disclaimer in the XML that says "These Schemas are for use the intellectual property of microsoft. Use of any program not licensed by microsoft to interpret the data stored within these schemeas is a breach of copyright..." or some other type legalese...
    • I don't think MS is so worried about people making their own OpenSource software to interpret the XML as it will most likely not be as efficient as MS software.
      as far as content is concerned, anybody could write their own xml parser, what MS knows is going to sell more copies of Word et al. is the fact that it has a strong support for embedding ActiveX objects. So, the next time you want to embed a Rational Rose UML diagram in your word document, you'll most likely find that other software packages aren't going to interpret how this is stored in xml as well as the MS Office suite could.
  • XML... sharp?!? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wikthemighty (524325)
    Once again MS will embrace a standard, only to warp it enough that you get stuck using their version anyway...
  • "XML dialect"?!? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TrevorB (57780) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:09PM (#4925569) Homepage
    "XML dialect"?

    It's called a schema.

    Talk about embrace and extend. Sounds like this will be more "XML-like" than real XML... :)
  • My Guess..... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jamesdood (468240)
    Would be that it will be "open" to other Microsoft technologies. This has been their method of operation in the past. As long as you only have a Microsoft environment everything works well with each other..

  • by Wakko Warner (324) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:10PM (#4925579) Homepage Journal
    Yes, mister Hairtrigger, we should sue Microsoft simply because they won't release trade secrets. We will surely win.

    - A.P.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What, do you think they are just going to give it away their format?

    XML != Open. XML is more open than binary, because it's more readable and easier to reverse engineer.

    But XML can reference COM objects. XML can have binary areas. XML is just a metaformat.

  • by wls (95790) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:10PM (#4925582) Homepage
    So, is this going to be XML like the rest of the world knows it, or is it going to be an embrace and extend XML? Or, could it be a mutant XML? How about an XML that makes reference to Windows specific resources IDs?

    I think we've all had more than enough history to justify being suspect.

    Fool me once, shame one. Fool me twice, and you know I'm a MS user.
  • by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79@@@gmail...com> on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:11PM (#4925584) Homepage
    Or at least not an informed one.

    Being that it's NEW, people haven't really had enough time to learn enough about it (as in actually using it) to give an informed answer.

    Perhaps you should re-post your question in 2 months when you can get some informed responses.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:11PM (#4925587)
    I've always said the XML Emperor has no clothes: all XML is is a meta-framework for markup languages. No more, no less. And pointless if schemas are never disclosed.
    • I've always said the XML Emperor has no clothes: all XML is is a meta-framework for markup languages. No more, no less. And pointless if schemas are never disclosed.

      I think that's the way many programmers think (I know I do) it's just a way to avoid yet-another-file-parser for every project. And some - Norwegian SGML guy with a name comes to mind - is not a true, open format because the programmers can use schemas, you still need to know the schema. But then again, is it possible to create a open format which supports everything per default, is human readable and - to the extreme - does not require knowledge about the language. How are aliens going to crack the ASCII code in a binary radio stream from earth? Is there some formulae that makes it easier to decypher than hyeroglyphs?
  • NO! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by halo8 (445515)
    Could this be grounds for another anti-trust suit against Microsoft?

    No it is not...

    The Bush administration made it clear on the first day they wanted this to go away. As long as Billy isnt taking your 401K im sure no one is going to bother him for a while..

    How many Millions were spent on this farce? and for what? a verbal reprind from the judge? think about it.. all that money could have gone into tanks and bombs to bomb other countries and free us all from "terror"
    • Re:NO! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by WasterDave (20047)
      Y'know, before posting I thought I'd check to see if anyone else had put what I was going to put. Tadaa, problem solved.

      After years of work, hundreds of thousands of lawyer man-hours, what do we have to show for it? "Expose your API's unless they are to do with security, and don't be bad again". Honestly, this should have been a bitch slapping of biblical proportions. Not only should the company have been broken up, but a tier 1 deity should have rained down the wrath of the ancients in order to make it happen.

      Another anti-trust suit? I don't think anyone's going to be going down *that* road in a hurry.

      Dave
  • by greechneb (574646) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:12PM (#4925599) Journal
    No matter what microsoft does, all they will get is a slap on the wrist. Microsoft will just point to staroffice and openoffice and say, hey, there's compitition, its not a monopoly.

    Big deal if they don't open it up anyway (I don't really expect them to), staroffice/openoffice will crack it to a certain extent anyway. For most people's file conversions, its not that much of a difference to convert documents. Doesn't always look pretty, but it works fairly well.

    Wake me up when something Microsoft does is suprising...
  • InfoWorld articles (Score:5, Informative)

    by andynms (564072) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:12PM (#4925602)
    There are a couple of good articles on this at InfoWorld. Try here [infoworld.com] and here [infoworld.com].
    Good quote:
    THE GOOD NEWS is that Office 11 supports XML Schema. The bad news is that XML Schema has been described even by XML experts as "confusing," "impenetrable," "fuzzy," and "as user-friendly as a stick in the eye."
    • by frisket (149522) <peter AT silmaril DOT ie> on Thursday December 19, 2002 @06:12PM (#4926161) Homepage
      I was at the launch presentation of Office-11 [microsoft.com] by Jean Paoli at XML 2003 [idealliance.org] in Baltimore MD last week, and I'm also a late sign to MS's extended beta list for the product (now closed).

      To clear up some points people have commented on (based on a very preliminary inspection plus a lot of discussion at the conference):

      1. The default save format is still .doc (ie you have to go the extra click to save in XML format)
      2. If you pick to click it, the default XML format is MS's own office-document vocabulary, which retains all the formatting, held in attributes. Hairy but processable, and they will be shipping their schema for it so people can reprocess it externally. But this format will (of course) only represent the appearance, not any structure.
      3. It will also let you specify your own schema (or an industry standard one) and let you supply a binding of named styles to your element types, so you can edit using what look like styles but actually get represented in the saved file as XML markup. There is some debate as to whether this constitutes "being an XML editor" or just "being a wordprocessor that saves data in XML" (my money is on the latter).
      4. It will not support DTDs [www.ucc.ie], so you're stuck with W3C Schemas [www.ucc.ie] whether you like them or not* [slashdot.org]
      5. The discussion over a [more?] suitable schema/DTD for handling office documents (wordprocessing, spreadsheet, presentation) continues at the OASIS [oasis-open.org] TC on Open Office XML Formats [oasis-open.org] ** [slashdot.org]
      With Office-11, Microsoft has nearly caught up with Corel [corel.ca]'s WordPerfect [corel.com], (which has had a fully-fledged SGML and XML editor built-in for years) and XMetaL [corel.com] (which Corel took over from SoftQuad earlier this year). MS still has a long way to go to match industrial-strength applications like ArborText [arbortext.com]'s EPIC [arbortext.com] or even Emacs with psgml-mode et al [compuserve.com], but Office-11 will be a solution for the masses who believe the Word interface to be more desirable, or the Microsoft licensing régime to be more attractive, or the software to be more stable.

      * [Bias note] I think W3C schemas were a big mistake; provision for data content typing and validation, namespaces, and extended grouping could have been achieved by extending DTD syntax; and wimpy programmers who moan about having two syntaxes to handle should get a life - it's not a big deal, the code is free and has been in use for 15 years :-)

      ** Sun [sun.com] has donated the OpenOffice [openoffice.org] (aka StarOffice [sun.com]) XML file formats to the public domain. It's worth remembering that {Star|Open}Office has been saving in XML as its native format for some time now, and has a lot more experience at this than MS.

  • well, of course (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot&castlesteelstone,us> on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:13PM (#4925609) Homepage Journal
    Could this be grounds for another anti-trust suit against Microsoft?

    Of course it could. But so could any bit of news about MS on /. in the past twenty years, from EULA alterations to Palladium.

    But "could" and "is" are differnent things. I suspect MS will decide that closing XML will render it useless, and make it at least as open and useable as their MS-HTML files.

    So, at the worst, we'll have a new "save as" option that's bit sloppy--but since MS won't have to extend XML to get their office functionality, they probably won't do it just to spite a few OSS coders who'll figure it out in a year anyway.

  • I will bet all they will do is create an XML schema for the COM serialize function, since that is pretty much all any Microsoft application does when you select File->Save - it just calls the COM serialize function with the output pointed at the disk.

    So, you will have a file that is nominally XML, but is nothing but memory dump of the COM object.

    Technically, XML. Actually, COM.
  • by phong3d (61297)
    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="MS_CRYPT"?>
    <document>
    <content>
    kdjf348o0jOIJ*$)J@#ijfO34ijf9o84j2193
    )#_@#)UJfnwmejh082u-(U@)*#u08ur@)#RU@
    f934J#EJELKJF%GHWI#UJ(@*#)!)@#@)#(@IF
    fijsjhF*(WU(*@U#IOJWEFJW)*OEURWIOJO:W
    </content>
    </document>
  • "Open? Sure it's open! Just click here... and *poof* your document is open. What's that? You mean you want to open it with something other than M$ Office? Oh, well in that case maybe not..."

  • That great, wonderful even. Hopefully it's not Microsoft just using XML as a springboard for saying the equivalent of, "see, we're a good dog, and we're using open standards now," to cloud the judgement of any non-technical committee/court/public speaker that may attempt to point out their obvious monopoly.
    Meanwhile, myself, the company I work at, and the fire department I volunteer at will continue on with Office 97, happy as clams. Well, some Office 2000 too.

    Is there anything else of value they're going to bring to the table with Office 11? More speed, smaller disk footprint, free beer?
  • by Grip3n (470031) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:15PM (#4925630) Homepage
    But there's a catch: It has yet to disclose the underlying XML dialect

    Remember, you can also save a Word document as an HTML file, however the HTML is so digusting, so non-standard that the only things that could possibly read it are more Microsoft products. The same, I would presume, will be happening to their XML feature.

    Additionally, its not too far fetched that Microsoft would make their own DTD (Document Type Definition).
  • How - and why - should it be ? AFAIK, MS never disclosed their e.g. Word or Excel binary formats, so why should they be exposed if they fail to disclose, or even obfuscate, an XML schema ?
  • by maggard (5579)
    Why would this be grounds for a suit?

    Insofar as I understand MS isn't under any court order to open their file formats, just not to continue with specific unethical tactics on others (wristslap.) So if MS claims they're using XML in Office v.11 (hey, didn't they claim that about Office v.10 too...) big whoop-de-doo, it's really their decision.

    Actually it's remarkable MS is even going for XML at all. MS's own internal formats are a terrible mess, the code that produces it apparently such a tangle MS has terrible trouble keeping on top of it, now trying to put this all into a new format has got to be a monster. Doing all of this while keeping all of the MS'isms and editing features and not breaking every other part (both theirs & third-party) that uses these services & components has got to be daunting.

    Yeah, it'll likely end up being idiosyncratic and quirky full of all the bugs MS is famous for but hell, a semi-legible format has gotta be better then the stuff MS pumps out now. Of course this whole "beta" process we're in right now has been pretty conclusively demonstrated to be a marketing sham with the significant decisions all made and the feature-set frozen long ago.

  • Microsoft Word's new XML format is as follows:

    <xml><worddoc>
    klj49ja90235%@#U42LKJDS9@#&@#$%(@# $90u89oj456@#%#@*#()$*$@%(F5f65F6@#%(&@#%&$#(*%*lk jdsflkjsdh
    </worddoc></xml>

    Technically, it is standard XML.

    • That is probaly what will happen.
      Technical compliance, while completely avoiding the spirit of the standard.

      Of course if I was MS, that is what I would do too.
    • Actually, that's not standard XML...
      <?xml version="1.0"?>

      <worddoc>
      klj49ja90235%@#U42LKJDS9@#&amp;
      @#$%(@#$90u89oj456@#%#@*#()$*$@
      %(F5f65F6@#%(&amp;@#%&amp;$#(*%
      *lkjdsflkjsdh
      </worddoc>
      That is :-)
  • by MosesJones (55544) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:18PM (#4925654) Homepage

    1) XML, SOAP and all these new technologies were pioneered by Microsoft

    2) They killed all the standards they didn't pioneer (CORBA anyone ?).

    3) There is NOTHING in the XML spec that _requires_ people to open up their schema definitions. Its purely a structure definition in the same way as Microsoft's old Word documents were stored, its just that now the markers are in Text format and any standard XML parser will be able to read the file.

    4) Open Office can already read word documents even though they aren't in XML.

    5) So can Word Perfect.

    6) Using XML doesn't stop you embedding binary into the document, often people do this to store data (images for instance), thus an OLE reference might still be binary.

    7) Pure XML and XSLT are great ways to use up all the power on your processor. Binary has previously been used here because its inefficient, if MS had opened the format up everyone would just complain that its too inefficient and its quicker to save using an older format. So MS are either trying to burn cycles or are customising the XML or their application for speed, is that wrong ? Would it be wrong if KDE did it ?

    8) People won't switch to or from Word because of XML, Open Office and other tools will be able to read the Word files because other tools (Google for instance) need the format and MS can see real business need to allow them to see it.

    9) XML is a meta-language as such anything can be written. Hell they could have a bitch of an external format and then a simple parser that makes it useful, but not tell anyone about the simple parser so everyone elses documents take years to load.

    10) XML is the buzzword of today, OLE to be replaced by SOAP as the buzzword for Office next ?

    Get off the high horse guys, whether its binary or XML is irrelevant, making something XML doesn't make it open. Thats like saying that everything you do makes sense, but just because people don't understand the Mayan Calendar and Ancient Greek they complain.

    MS will always use Mayan and Ancient Greek, and we _can_ understand them, its just easier for them as its their native language and calendar.

  • Open? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Grip3n (470031) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:21PM (#4925696) Homepage
    I'd say the title of this article (Is the New Microsoft Office Really Open?) is extrmely misleading. Microsoft isn't even trying to be open, they're just adding support for another opensource language. A true open program would have its source code available. What this article is about has nothing to do with that. Microsoft Office is closed. Period.
  • by Sigh Phi (324315) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:22PM (#4925697)

    Microsoft (and Netscape) essentially tried the same thing with HTML. Sure, we're using HTML, but to actually view our HTML, you have to use our browser.

    Adoption of a "standard" is no guarantee of interoperability. Understanding the conceptual underpinnings of the standard is just as important. The question is, when Microsoft says they are using XML as a document format, are they doing it because they believe in the principles underlying it, or solely for the cynical "this is what is selling now" aspect?

    The body of HTML out there is an paresable, babble of a mess, largely because the two dominant browser makers did not respect many of the underlying notions of markup and hypertext to begin with. The state of the art progressed, but not in the way a lot of people wanted it to go.

    This could bode poorly if the meme survives somehow that the Office format is now equivalent to XML. When it "doesn't work," who knows where the blame will fall?

  • <resistance is="futile"></resitance>
  • How about Microsoft Visual XML++?
    If it doesn't exist now it will...
    or something sufficiently based on XML
    that it can have XML in the name,
    but sufficiently different to XML that
    its incompatible with XML from other vendors and developers will need to learn a whole new way of working with XML.

    Just a wild guess.
  • by Jelloman (69747) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:25PM (#4925736)
    All the hype about XML seems to skip over the fact that XML is never guaranteed to be any less cryptic than binary data formats. For example:
    <?xml version='1.0' ?>
    <wordDoc>
    <base64 value='kjkjKJ+kyRgMhiuI9KqU/hjkj'/>
    <base64 value='OlRg8LKp8UI883Jjk+krNhjkj'/>
    <base64 value='pRhjjhO9asdJiQ99kjkjU8j=='/>
    </wordDoc>
    XML was designed to be machine-readable, not human-readable, much less human-understandable, or easily-reverse-engineerable.

    The Office file formats will be open if M$ decides to:
    • Document them, and
    • Not change them with every update.
    I doubt they will do either of those things.

  • Give me a break... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fnkmaster (89084) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:27PM (#4925750)
    The problem, according to Microsoft, is that competitors "don't support XSD". Huh? Whether they use a schema or a DTD really isn't that important. The only reason people still use DTDs is that DTD validation is slightly easier than schema validation. The point is if your competitors don't fucking know what your schema is, they have no idea what the semantics of its various pieces are, and thus they cannot create applications that read/write or do anything else with it. Duh.


    This isn't even intelligent spin from MS. This is fucking brain dead stuff. They simply have no reason to play nice in an industry consortium to agree on a DTD/Schema when they have 90% market share. But as long as they publish the details of their Schema and don't leave chunks of encoded COM schwag lying all over the place it doesn't matter. Of course, we all know the likelihood of that happening.

  • I'm generally just as suspicious as the next /. reader (I've been known to say "friends don't let friends use Microsoft products), but in this case I have reason for hope. XML isn't a silver bullet, but a schema for the Word format would be an excellent thing. I have avoided using Word and other Microsoft products because of their proprietary file format, but if their software is effective at editing XML content they may gain new customers.

    The work I do lately involves writing web based interfaces for XML content. I can actually see value in building a Word template as an alternate "view" of the form for data entry persons. If Microsoft can make Word, Excel and Access capable XML editors I see added value in the real world. People trying to deploy serious software with an XML datastore are looking for simple data entry.
  • I would have a hard time believing that Microsoft would totally open up their office products. In fact, I can all but guarentee there will be many 'gotchas' along the way.

    This is just a guess, but what if the documents in XML included certain binary CDATA entites that would only be accessable in Office 11 products? That seems like a real no-brainer to me.

    But I make this guess by following a file-format from the open source community - PNG (which IE doesn't support). PNG allow you to embed private data - data that can only be opened by certain programs. For Macromedia Fireworks, this works great, as they store all their undo, vector, and export information in one of these private chunks. Yet if you open it with Mozilla or QuickTime, you can still view the image (although the size of the resulting file makes it completely unusable for web).

    So it seems perfectly natural that Microsoft would use something similar in Office 11. Make it so anyone can open & read a Word doc, but if you want to truely take advantages of all the wonderful features (hee hee) of the document, such as smart links, .net stuff, collaboration, etc; then you need the licensed version of Office.

    Now, I'm NOT a fan of Microsoft - I hate the fact that every day I'm stuck on their piss-poor operating system/file system/network. I hate the hoops I have to jump through to get things to work in IE. BUT, opening up office documents, even if they don't open them up completely, is well within their rights.

    (I'll still use openoffice.org, anyway!)
  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:33PM (#4925786)
    <officeDocument>
    <base-64>
    R0lGODlhSwA3AIQAAA8NDZqHf5I/NldIQszKyEw qJ3ZoYcykoHBIOIZrYLannDEpJv39+244KW5Z
    T6uZj+dkb8i vo7xARPN0gZNRRSUeHOrY2MJSUfyVmIt4bvuwtLq4tl9UT9nX1 Ug5NAAAACH+Dk1h
    ZGUgd2l0aCBHSU1QACH5BAEKAB8ALAAAA ABLADcAQAX+4CeOZGmeptUpzxNkz0ZYaG3fuGg9DoVQ
    jqBj4 BkYiZ7kYrmoOJ/OQSdHrVkiFEFju0U4Ao9IREEWj8muVybj8Cy hFc+DVj11OA4FodOxaDQY
    GBMQFz4IBgkZCQZDRBwJkC0ZbgM clm5wFQMbU3UiBh4KnTcGBRUFTUwLAwYGMGgPGRweTqtCA021
    A3p0VR0eDjOeIg9uwBlgZCwvjJZIuU8GMr3DOgkDDzN0FhsBo BVMBaiqb3FJSqpw5AseBehMwI8K
    Mn3VNx0Bs5hQ6/1y9gAJI ODSBYGXBAESgonVykEzI27KwXEwCmCJHVkESNhIoaNBA2ASrsn QClGr
    RUf+8HAgkmlBBmHVAsiBedGChQNaxOlktySJq1csMhy p5OAStArSKuawsJLmjWLvesJo4c1hM3Qe
    8LDUxCugBwNOPW1 w1RChSJKMcGWq9fXBPAJ7qOFQEQCA3bt48+rduzfT3Qp89zKJE 2ADJ4soOvBA
    cq7xOVYK5CK2yCMBgiNJiAxeC+7JAgWTqxAI4 MCyQQeniw4QUjoBa8z74HggEBrHA4JcEMAwI4aq
    QmZDlKzdJ Dm0hYwSBGhpgMCswpFrklFd03DWUSdylNqzEKBBBhmAIECYcKE QEGSxEiWw1CoAwljG
    ira7rmkawDsO6PXyA4h88i06ifMYMq/ EQgRRQaz+lEoUh1VjwCb12EBAAwKOw8QAa7zXwjIcLLGa
    arR 4ltQwD1TwQIQ2KABNLj05p4AYyyiiT1YrhVgBB3qg6MtXtNWhg gJJcODKQjC2kIZrSECUijQ9
    2gNKWD5OIiR6L7LggiIGdJiJB 99BKdoCYBU3wgpvESDDaE18tUha50jEGTiVqBVHDHFRQUCaNdJ 3
    CipwBPZmLQu448RdqQQKzxIc0FnRBgMAFpifnv1ZS2dNPMo XOJXaFYN2tSn2oGOZgbRBbaTqoAAo
    74Cq6ialAsRdI8+suCA /bywQQKueRJABBUgOBVFE6gw3Kq4ocBNBAIac1spKR3jBgUEzA pvJrcT+
    ltAdcwZl60UQkERHUhDN5MmZS9WScBxuAzW30IYKM APJQxG5yWC5I9yWW7Zg8AaLkWmg1Ya8oYg5
    2QEJdLRcFyDxm y9vByyjBhuxPeFBAJwixp1yGCvHHDIhvbCmQwhRZ8nImqkzYm0 boBZABBdsVJ5H
    pYWEpRF4kATDJEFqRt9MAvtiAALZwPVHIIM U4gXHLyTkmkMkgTGJLVnKCQWEiBHAin46DF20AAO1
    E+A5IQc QlCMj6zOrBw1WY8GDOV70hwbk5RSgOD1xEJ1bBtL8Gp9OcJC2J wR4kECdNUyoE4WGeviT
    2GhAnFWCW9VyMuC2elnCAzphAk8ir rj1nAP+uXw4xFEu/W0njz2LsIEpnWG6RGlTmaEAG9YVoZKN
    C +RhOSkLbJC66iFKxA4MD0NHuzFxBl+YjjtysPtF3jxoSxFTvXg lJKodEYScuv+eGI/V3BEohgtV
    eaUi8rkjHDhMumrE8xJmwI4 DVDbc7yLBZYIj/DYEUIEoFiGASRyyrvOhhDPYsI+DQlGxmphgE mRh
    BCI+pqA/eehAGciR9z4QgMpJ5keNioM+jAANYDSkZJLyj DikNrG38KFna+OSHsz0NHLsxHVLyEs/
    NkOO9fUwM6ygk5h+Y ZcnFNFRAMDUoCyVlze5oYmRihSYFLWNsSCRiViEIg4XkEUdZio UMggBAQA7
    </base64>
    </OfficeDocument>

  • This is very simple (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mao che minh (611166) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:37PM (#4925815) Journal
    If they really wanted to join the open market and truly compete, then they would just open the .doc format. This is nothing more then a pitiful pandering to open source advocates or those businesses that are interested in OSS. Any person with a shred of common sense and a basic knowledge of technology developments over the past 5 years can plainly see how pointless this is.
  • Open but Secure (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mugnyte (203225) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:38PM (#4925826) Journal
    Something in my gut tells me that beyond all the extraneous tags, attributes and data types, the XML is going to have a hash code built into it.

    Edit this file outside of MS Office (invalidating the hash code) and suffer the consequences: MS treats it as "untrusted" input and rips out only the text content, no formatting.

    The hash will be a giant number created through a secure portion of the Intel-ish hardware calls. Keys hidden where? That'll be interesting to see who posts 'em first. Perhaps on a .NET server at MS hosting? Nah, this cripples offline Office. Keyless hash?
    Curious Curious.

    mug
  • by watchful.babbler (621535) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:39PM (#4925835) Homepage Journal
    There was a fairly recent thread on this issue over at the XML-Dev list (see here [xml.org]). The upshot, according to W3C XMLWG member (and occasional Microsoft foe [textuality.com]) Tim Bray, is that Word is capable of saving documents in a WordML format that is parsable even without a DTD:
    I didn't see anything that I couldn't pick apart straightforwardly with Perl, and if someone asked me to write a script to pull all the paragraphs out of a Word doc that contain the word "foo" in bold, well you could do that. Which seems pretty important to me.
    So, from a technical perspective, there isn't much to worry about right now. From a legal perspective, no, there's no grounds for another antitrust suit, any more than there's grounds for suing Quark for not disclosing their file format.
  • by GOD_ALMIGHTY (17678) <curt DOT johnson AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday December 19, 2002 @05:50PM (#4925944) Homepage
    This is a monopoly. They have been found in violation of Anti-Trust laws and held up on appeal. The government has a legitimate reason to tell them how to conduct their business and every right to do so.

    Simply because the Anti-Trust trial focused on the OS rather than Office software, does not mean that the government has no reason to impose restrictions to keep MS from shifting their monopoly power. MS's monopoly has been under government scrutiny for almost 10 years, but we still get a bunch of posts on here about how the government shouldn't be able to tell 'a company' what to do. Either the trolls are really busy or you guys decided to skip Economics 101 for Libratarian Fanaticism 101.

    In order to maintain a capitalist system, we must have competition. Without healthy competition, we don't have capitalism. The government has an obligation to step into an otherwise free market to ensure that competition stays healthy. There is no magical 'Free Market Fairy' that is going to come along and restore health to the industry.

    So yes, depending on the result of the States' AG cases and the DOJ's settlement, MS could very much be liable for making their document formats some sort of completely bastardized XML. If you want to know the probability, then you should go read the settlements, and the grievences in the new filings against MS.
  • by Ankh (19084) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @07:45PM (#4926837) Homepage
    Wow, what a lot of false information. Maybe this will help a little. Disclaimer: I am XML Activity Lead at W3C, so I have a bias.

    The new Visio is using SVG.

    The new Word lets you use any XML vocabulary you like. How obfuscated it is is *entirely* up to you.

    It's not using base64 to put binary propietary data into XML documents. It's using plain XML.

    It's well-formed, and Word appears not to make up thousands of elements. The person in charge of this project is actually clueful, and was in the W3C XML Working Group (1996-1998 by the way).

    The tools all use XSLT extensively.

    It wouldn't surprise me if you could get Word to read and write the OpenOffice format just fine. There's a restriction that you can't re-order content in Word right now, I think.

    People claiming to have "insider info" and then posting blatant falsehoosd, or claiming you can put binary data directly in XML, aren't helping here. Even if you get high from hating Microsoft, the open source community and Free software world need to understand that the goalposts have moved a little.

    The extent of corporate assets tied up in memos, reportsand other documents is very large, massively higher than the collective value of relational databases.

    Yes, it looks as if Microsoft has suddenly discovered XML just as they suddenly discovered the Web. In fact, they were involved heavily in XML from the start, were among the first to ship commercial support for XML, and have been working on XML in Office 11 for a long time.

    --
    Liam Quin
  • 1337ness (Score:3, Funny)

    by 1g$man (221286) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @09:04PM (#4927147)
    I guess the cool thing now is to put the tagline "Could this be grounds for another anti-trust suit against Microsoft?" on every Microsoft story, even when the context has absolutely nothing to do with anti-trust.

    Huh.
  • by mkweise (629582) on Thursday December 19, 2002 @10:10PM (#4927441)
    ...not as in can of worms.

    In other words they're involuntarily providing the bare minimum of interoperability that the marketplace demands. News for nerds to yawn at.
  • by divec (48748) on Friday December 20, 2002 @05:28AM (#4928519) Homepage

    Just because a file format is XML, it does not mean it's open. Even if it's "real" XML and not a wrapped binary dump (Vvjfio1@1/515...). All XML does for you is to make the *syntax* of the file format clear, not the underlying meaning. Analogously, in German, every noun begins with a capital letter, and root verb forms generally end with "-en"; this tells you a bit about the phrase "Mit grossem Bedauern haben wir vom Ableben Ihres Gatten erfahren", but it's certainly not enough to understand it.


    Even an XML schema is not enough - that just tells you which elements can appear where and what they can contain. That's like knowing that a normal German sentence has the main verb in the second position in the sentence. This still doesn't tell you the meaning of the above sentence, though you can see that "haben" is the verb and "Mit grossem Bedauern" is the first part of the sentence.


    For an XML language to be open, you need a full description of what each possible construct in that language means.

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