back to article Office 2013 to eat own file-format dog food

With the upcoming release of Office 2013, Microsoft is finally offering full support for the Open XML document standard, a format that Redmond itself created and has been promoting for nearly seven years. "Microsoft continues to lead in giving customers choice and flexibility in file format standards and interoperability," …

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and not a peep about the ARM version of Windows 8 causing this

binary blob you say? would that x86 binary blobs? Well don't ya think that with all this ARM version of Windows 8 stuff they are ready to drop millions promoting has anything to do with that when it can't run those x86 binary blobs?

I think the clue wagon just rolled into the station and it's got Windows RT on the name plate.

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Boffin

Re: and not a peep about the ARM version of Windows 8 causing this

"run those binary blobs"???

You are confusing binary executables and binary (as opposed to text) data. Substitute "mp3" for "docx" and see if your remarks make any sense.

Mind you, Microsoft oft tries its best to make its XML as binary-hodge-podge as possible. Looking at you, SSIS source files.

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Re: and not a peep about the ARM version of Windows 8 causing this

I suspect Doug's point was that, on an ARM platform, Microsoft can likely no longer rely on reusing decade-old Office code, which apparently was embedded in later releases to maintain (limited) backward-compatibility (this is why the OOXML spec included things like "render like Office 98", rather than actual specifications).

Porting decade-old, Microsoft-quality, x86 code to an ARM architecture is probably more trouble (time, cost) that it's worth to them.

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Re: and not a peep about the ARM version of Windows 8 causing this

It's not the porting to ARM which would be the trouble. Win32 on ARM would be virtually identical to Win32 on x86 aside from endian issues and any assembly glue.

But it's not Win32 which is the problem. Windows RT supports the Windows Runtime and a subset of Win32 (predominantly COM and non legacy GUI stuff). All the UI in MS Office would have to be gutted and written virtually from scratch to make use of Metro and much of the legacy backend would have to be wrapped up in nice managed objects which are reusable either from Metro or class desktop. It was probably thankless hellish work.

I doubt any of this has much to do with Office XML though. The motivation for properly adopting it may just be a general realisation that the old spec and half baked implementation sucked and hurt Microsoft more than it did anyone else and it was time to get their house in order.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: and not a peep about the ARM version of Windows 8 causing this

> Win32 on ARM would be virtually identical to Win32 on x86 aside from endian issues and any assembly glue.

In other words it would be completely different when it comes to loading those endian infested binary blobs directly into internal structures.

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Re: and not a peep about the ARM version of Windows 8 causing this

Actually my understanding is that everything Microsoft ever does is little endian, so I don't think they will have any endian mess to deal with. Even Windows NT on powerpc and mips was little endian unlike most OSs run on those systems. Most ARM systems are little endian these days too so windows being little endian on ARM is nothing unusual.

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Stop

"Office Open XML"

ISO/IEC 29500 (ECMA-376) refers to the Office Open XML standard (OOXML) NOT "Open XML". The latter would imply that this was an open as opposed to proprietary standard.

As to whether this is an open standard remains contentious. I believe that it still contains secret, proprietary components; i.e. defined defined in terms of "as produced by Microsoft Office version ..." rather than in absolute terms. Will MS Office 13 be able to open a .docx file and save it as a OOXML file that only contains published components?

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Re: "Office Open XML"

> Will MS Office 13 be able to open a .docx file and save it as a OOXML file that only contains published components?

It almost certainly will produce a _different_ .docx, one that will give problems when attempting to open using earlier versions of Office. The solution of which is for everyone in the world to buy the latest version. As the latest will only run on Windows 8 (and possibly 7) then that will eliminate XP and Vista and bring in even more revenue.

MS are not doing this to 'follow the standard', they are doing this to relive the 90s when newer incompatible Office file formats drove the upgrade cycles.

LibreOffice will probably read the formats quite well, and will be writing them a short time later, if it doesn't already.

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Re: "Office Open XML"

I, like many others, remember exactly how MS achieved its ISO standard so I expect it'll be anything but 'free'. Embrace, Extend, Extinguish.

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Re: "Office Open XML"

Didn't they bribe half the nations on the planet to get it passed? I seem to remember plenty of evidence about their dodgy dealings.

MS don't know the meaning of the word 'open source' or following 'standards'. Well not in the sense that the world understands, they do follow the MS dictionary* definition of 'open source' and open 'standards'.

*The same dictionary that was released in a new version recently where 'metro' doesn't exist.

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Vic
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Re: "Office Open XML"

> will give problems when attempting to open using earlier versions of Office

If I'm trying to sort out incompatability problems between versions of Office, the most important tool in my toolbox is LibreOffice.

It has far fewer problems in that respect than does MS-Office...

Vic.

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Re: "Office Open XML"

> If I'm trying to sort out incompatability problems between versions of Office, the most important tool in my toolbox is LibreOffice.

Same here. And LibreOffice also allows me to open MS Works files and save then in MS Word, which MS Word itself can't do. Apologies for the shameless plug: http://brunogirin.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/libreoffice-to-rescue.html

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@Avatar of They - Re: "Office Open XML"

MS paid the subs or simply pressurised enough of their "MS Partners" to join the national committees and swing the vote to approving OXML. In many nations it seemed to be open to any company to join their Standards committees if they paid the membership fee.

In one country, the standards committee (like most) had only previously seen attendencies of a dozen, and met in a smallish room that was normally suitable. On the day of the OXML vote however, the usual members arrived to find the room already stuffed full of "MS Partners" - the regular members physically could not get in.

At subsequent meetings on other matters, some of these committees were unable to do business as they were short of a quorum (based on a % of members), because the new "MS Partner" members only ever bothered to attend that one meeting.

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docx not welcome here

Anyone sends me a .docx attachment I send back a request for a more compatible .doc version.

As per Richard Plinston I see such "innovations" as docx being default as a means to lever users into a fresher version of Word. I can't see any great improvement in Word since Word III and fully intend to continue with Word 2000.

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Re: docx not welcome here

"Anyone sends me a .docx attachment I send back a request for a more compatible .doc version."

You might want to try that newfangled thing they call LibreOffice. Although I myself was amongst the extremely early adopters of OpenOffice (in the days it was still a Java monster, and, I must admit, a major pain in the nether regions to both use and maintain), I work in a very conservative environment where no-one will even think about using non-big name software for fear of... well, noone can remember precisely what they fear but they do fear it.

Yet in the past years I've been asked to install OpenOffice and now LibreOffice, on *shock* *horror* _work_ desktop machines. For MSOffice format mess makes it impossible to work with outside collaborators reliably, although OOo and now LO do seem to cope with the mess quite well. Even the diehard MS fans have a LO install handy so that they can convert the MSOffice file they receive to a version that they can open with _their_ MSOffice. Talk about an own goal.

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Re: docx not welcome here

I think that the major plus for MS Office 2013 will be the ability to use the ODF 1.2 formats; thus at last achieve the possibility of inter-operability and open standards, just like OpenOffice and LibreOffice etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: docx not welcome here

Or you just install the free "Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint File Formats" from microsoft, it gives office xp / 2000 and 2003 the ability open and edit office 2007 and open xml documents. No forced upgrade there.

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Re:"Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint File Formats"

It came late, doesn't work for the versions of MSOffice that Fihart mentions, and does not always work properly.

But at a pinch it will do, I guess.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint File Formats"

it does work with the version Fihart mentions:

◦Microsoft Word 2000 with Service Pack 3, Microsoft Excel 2000 with Service Pack 3, and Microsoft PowerPoint 2000 with Service Pack 3

Came late? was installed here for older version of office when office 2007 came out and have been updated a few times, last time when office 2010 came out, office 2010 was relase mid June 2010, compatibility pack v4 came out 1st june 2010.

Compatibility, yep, some problems with word 2000 with scripting in the documents.

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Mushroom

Re: docx not welcome here

If anyone claims to me that they cant read a DOCX file, I point them at the free Word Viewer download and Office Web Apps on Skydrive....

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Anonymous Coward

@vagabondo - Re: docx not welcome here

Get real! Who said Microsoft is interested in inter-operability ? MSO 2013 will do its best to read and convert ODF 1.2 documents but will be less than helpful in saving to that format. Want to bet on this ?

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Re: docx not welcome here

I think you're missing the point-- I like to use libre office myself and feel the same as the OP. Why? .doc files have the best interoperability between word and libre office. docx files saved in one and viewed on the other give hellishly screwed results (missing pictures, missing text. . . ). .doc isn't perfect-- e.g. equations seem to get mangled, but it's a hell of a lot better. If WordRT will have odf support, maybe this can finally stop being an issue.

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Re: it does work

Best not to argue with people who are familiar with that dog and why it doesn't hunt. You come off as a shill, especially when post anonymously.

The key phrase from the thread is "collaborate with outside offices using other formats." That means you have to be able to write in the other file formats while maintaining the document formats. And while they'll all let you read newer formats, they don't let you reliably save the format. Especially 12 revisions into the project, which is the worst time for the document to eat itself and when it usually does. And God help you if one of your collaborators is using a Mac version of Word. Because the Mac fanboi can't manage to send an MS file via email, he just keeps sending you the split binary file from the Mac.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: docx not welcome here

there's a world outside Microsoft Office suites, y'know

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Devil

Re: docx not welcome here

Most of my experience with MS Orifice is by way of taking in files from clients destined for page layouts -- Word files for conversion to plain text for final formatting in InDesign, Excel files for export to vector-based infographics for cleanup in Illustrator -- and I, too, am constantly having to write back to clients asking them to please not send .docx files because Word can't open them, despite their having been created in Word.

For the record, I'm still using Office 2004 here -- works fine for me, and I see no reason to jump aboard the endless upgrade treadmill -- and Word 2004 can't read its own .docx files that it creates itself.

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Alert

Re: Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint File Formats"

But the current compatibility pack only gives you office 2007 support, which would be Office Open XML as Microsoft originally intended it which is ECMA 376 version 1. The ISO standard is ECMA 376 version 2, which is what office 2013 will now finally support writing (2010 can read them, but not write them). The ISO standards process did manage to fix some of Microsoft's stupidities even while Microsoft was trying to ram it through, and of course this meant that there was no actual support for the ISO standard in any Microsoft product until office 2010 which could read them, and now office 2013 which can supposedly write them.

So unless they update the compatibility pack for office 2000 and 2003 (and office 2007 for that matter) to allow reading the ISO standard of OOXML, then you are simply lost once 2013 starts writing proper OOXML files (2010 users can still read those though, so that's OK). 2007 and older users will be conveniently left out.

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Re: it does work with the version Fihart mentions (@ AC)

> it does work with the version Fihart mentions: ◦Microsoft Word 2000 with Service Pack 3, Microsoft Excel 2000 with Service Pack 3, and Microsoft PowerPoint 2000 with Service Pack 3

You surely noticed that this is only one of the 2 versions that Filhart mentions, and then again only with the latest service pack for this version. I'll be reasonnable and admit that very few people would have genuine reasons NOT to get the latest service pack for their soft, and that even less people would still be using Word III, but that's still less than stellar in terms of compat.

> Came late? was installed here for older version of office when office 2007 came out [...]

MS was using format incompatibilities as a leverage to force upgrade long before MSOffice 2007 came out.

> Compatibility, yep, some problems with word 2000 with scripting in the documents.

"some problems"? That's a way to put it. "Utterly broken" is another one. Not that it makes much of a difference from when scripting in MSOffice is _not_ broken, mind. That's not a big problem, these are things you would _expect_ not to be backward compatible.

I was more thinking about formatting issues, comments (and other newfangled stuff) disappearing, and the occasional random crash. I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings, but from my (admitedly anecdotic) experience with genuine users, opening incompatible MSOffice docs with LO or OOo and saving to a compatible version is usually more reliable than using MS' own compatibility patch. Especially when the start and destination versions are far appart.

DISCLAIMER: somes users may have come to me only after their nephew-installed compatibility patch failed to do the job, so it is possible (although unlikely) that the LibreOffice conversion step would have failed in some of the instances when MS' own compatibility pack actually did the job. It is also possible that Elton John is not gay.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: docx not welcome here

"If anyone claims to me that they cant read a DOCX file"

if anyone claims to me that they cant read a DOCX file on WINDOWS - fixed that for you - the rest of the world can go hang ?

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Joke

real compatability!

What a mess. Out of interest, can Writer in OOO or LO Open, Edit, Save PDFs?

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Re: real compatability!

Open and edit were embryonary when I left the bleeding edge; I don't think there was much effort in that area since then as it's gimmicky at best (there are other, better suited tools to manipulate PDFs). Saving as pdf was a native feature in OOo almost from the start, long before anyone in Redmond dared to dream of it (although that is quite gimmicky, too, to be honest).

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Go

Re: real compatability!

Not Writer, when you open a PDF in LO it opens in the drawing application, but this functionality is present by default...

It also depends on how the PDF was initially created, many poorly written PDF generation programs (primarily those print to pdf kludges) will just be a single graphic rather than proper text, so your ability to edit them will be fairly limited by that.

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Re: real compatability!

Yes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: real compatability!

Open Office saves files in PDF.

The version I use doesn't open them and therefore doesn't read them - that can be done in Foxit

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Re: real compatability!

Saving as PDF gimmicky? I beg to differ: I use it all the time for documents for which I am the only author but that I want customers to be able to open. Invoices for instance are a typical use case: I create they invoice, they read it (and hopefully pay me), PDF is ideal for that sort of use cases and LibreOffice produces flawless output.

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Re: real compatability!

Indeed, this is the proper use of the PDF format.

My son recently had to do an online course using LibreOffice. All the supplied template files were a mixture of ftc, doc and docx files. After importing them, correcting all the import artifacts and doing the actual work, export to PDF is the best way to ensure that the course tutor can reliably read the document.

This big issue with formats like docx, doc and odf is that they are not designed to be portable. The usually represent the "structure" of the document rather than how it is presented. The presentation decisions are made by the word processor being used and they all have different ideas about how that should be done. This is the crux of the import problem, not interpreting the file format itself but trying to show it in a way that would look the same in all users of the format.

PDF and POSTSCRIPT were designed from the outset to be portable visually by specifying the rendering result rather then the structure. These are the proper formats for transferring documents for reading. For collaboration, you all really need to be using the same package.

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@ Bruno Girin

"Saving as PDF gimmicky? I beg to differ: I use it all the time for documents for which I am the only author but that I want customers to be able to open. Invoices for instance are a typical use case: I create they invoice, they read it (and hopefully pay me), PDF is ideal for that sort of use cases and LibreOffice produces flawless output."

PDF output is not entirely without use, I agree. The example you give is a quite poor one though. PDF is widely used for quotations and invoices only because of the need to some bureaucracies to keep a paper copy of everything (which, in _some_ cases, makes sense), AND he common misconception that PDF cannot be tampered with. In hard technical facts an "informal" GPG/PGP or MIME- signed (optionally, encrypted using the same techniques, if confidentiality is an issue) pure-text email is much more secure and much, much smaller than any PDF.

Moreover, when collaboration is limited or absent and PDF output is wanted, non-WYSIWYG systems are far more reliable than so-called "office" suites. I'm thinking LaTeX of course, but also lout (which I use the most these days as it produces flawless PS, is extremely small, and extremely easy to script, extend, or otherwise customize).

Saving as PDF is useful for presentations and/or brochures that are not to be printed. But again, it is far from flawless, as the PDF format is remarquably vague, so it sometimes happen that you get PDF documents with embedded graphics that just cannot be displayed on a regular computer because of silly DPI specifications (usually more of a problem with printing than with viewing, some printers have little memory). More often even, you get PDFs writen in a combination of exotic fonts (as text, not as graphics), but DO NOT include any info about the fonts used besides the name, so every other character looks like a comic strip insult when viewed on any machine but the one it was created on. Very practical, I can tell you.

PS, yes. PDF, just asking for trouble in the hands of the clueless masses. Although LO's (and before that, OOo's) default PDF output is quite near to flawless, as noted above by someone else.

Therefore, I maintain that PDF output in an "office" WYSIWYG suite is mostly gimmicky. But still nice to have.

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Meh

Re: real compatability!

PDF Import is implemented as an Extension (originally developed by Sun, IIRC) but is now among those bundled with LO by default (presumably OOo too). It opens PDF files in the Draw app, which is kinda logical since PDF is really a DTP-oriented format rather than a word-processing one.

When I played around with it circa OOo 2.something, I though it would be cool to be able to import a PDF that was based on a word-processed document (sans any of the incompatible stuff that wouldn't work, e.g. different-sized pages) into Writer, and might make a convenient end-run around inter-word-processor compat issues, but in hindsight it'd be a lot of work for scant reward to develop that.

I mean, once you turn a typical Enterprise Bastardry .doc (everything inside a really badly-formatted table; why must they always do this?) into a PDF, a lot of the *intent* of what you see is lost. Those tables aren't tables any more, just lines on the page. You'll never get that editable table back in Writer just like it was in Word, and in all honesty would you want it?

Even for more "sane" documents, say technical docs with lots of numbered heading levels, all the outline numbering "logic" gets thrown away for PDF, so only if the creator did some very clever bookmarking do you stand the slightest chance of faithfully reconstituting this to the extent that you could add to it once re-imported into another word processor.

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Anonymous Coward

Normally...

... there'd be at least one working implementation of the standard before it gets the go-ahead. Yet one more way redmond subverted the standardising process.

They did that pretty quick, yet it took them four years to implement something they themselves proposed. Shows you where their priorities are. If that's "continuing to lead", well, then the answer to the easily-overlooked question "where then?" is "down the garden path". Thank you so much, redmond.

All this makes it hard for me not to surmise they'll finally have found ways to be fully conformant to the letter of the spec in a way that's guaranteed incompatible with anyone else. Or maybe they've just been waiting, carefully judging and timing, for the furor they themselves caused to die down enough to go to the next chapter of butt-fscking open standards and office interop.

Hanlon's razor notwithstanding.

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Re: Normally...

Well, Microsoft did manage to engineer a "maliciously compliant" ODF implementation that wouldn't work reasonably well (or even at all, depending) with anyone else's implementation (and isn't it so very weird how everybody else's' ODF implementations were more or less fully interoperable with each other). And this was despite having already having commissioned a pretty decent Office ODF plug-in that did the job right.

Microsoft's promises to adhere to open standards always reminds me of Lucy promising Charlie Brown that this time she really will hold the football in place.

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I wonder how much has this been driven by public sector requirements that products produce documents in (open) standards ?

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If you ask me,

All of it.

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Need a suitable email footer

Office 2013 cannot save as ODF 1.1 it only saves as 1.2, and fair enough too; However, Office 2007 and 2010 will only open ODF 1.1 not 1.2, I wonder if this be addressed, needs to be.

Either way, if I use ODF 1.2 in a business environment, then ideally outgoing emails with ODF files attached will need text appended saying: "If you cannot open the attached OpenDocument/s please upgrade to Microsoft Office 2013 or for a possibly better result you could install OpenOffice.Org or LibreOffice, for other office productivity suite options see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenDocument_software"

But http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenDocument_software is too confusing. Has anyone got anything better actually in use?

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Re: Need a suitable email footer

"If you cannot open the attached OpenDocument/s please upgrade to ..."

You don't see this as a teensy, weensy bit arrogant, quite likely to annoy the recipient?

Or is that your business model?

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Re: Need a suitable email footer

So your preferred business model if you had to do this would be to send ODF attachments to all and sundry and wait for them to complain, if they can be bothered, I think that would be a bigger problem? Which really is the lesser of the 2 evils? (question directed at other readers)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Need a suitable email footer

He didn't suggest another approach, just the flaw in yours. Quite rightly too - it's no different to people demanding MS-format stuff, but you tell people what software to use in a patronising manner. If you think that's a good way to handle business relations you should steer clear of communication and delegate it to someone else or at least get them to proofread your output. You just concentrate on the tech aspects. Your final question is flawed too, by the way. All you've done is suggest another poor approach and ignore that there could be (and are, of course,) others. That said, if I got a document I couldn't open and thought it was really important, I *would* ask them to resend it and tell them what was using. If I didn't judge it important, I probably would have a look, but not if it had such a note as you suggest.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Need a suitable email footer

We use Open Office routinely - meets all our office needs and saves us a few hundred.

Occasionally someone forgets and send an open document format to someone.

They come back with a 'can't open your attachment' problem

We just apologise, re-send the document saved in Microsoft Office Xp .doc format and bob is your uncle.

Result - profit!

How difficult is that?

It seems to me that Microsoft Office users are used to files mangling up and being incompatable between users.

Open Office is rather good at reading old Microsoft format newer Microsoft application writers seem to have forgotten about

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WTF?

Bad faith

The big question is, will the implementation of ODF 1.2 be done in bad faith like their previous implementation of 1.1, that is have they gone out of their way to exploit any deficiencies in the standard to create an implementation which complies with the letter of the spec, but is otherwise intentionally incompatible with every other implementation?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bad faith

Short answer, yes it will.

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Anonymous Coward

UI

But will it still having the retina burning UI?

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