This, fresh from from Office Watch: “Office 2007 compatibility pack disappoints”.
Update 11/15: Some readers have written with more information. This may be an issue between the pre-1.5-final-draft version of OOXML and the final RTM Compatibility Pack. Evidently there were some late changes to the OOXML specification, including a change in namespace URI’s. So the problems seem to be between documents created in the beta version of Office 2007 (not sure whether all beta’s including the Technical Refresh) and the RTM version of Office. Confusing to say the least. It looks like the referenced article is being updated with additional details.
Update 11/7: The cited article updated again. This seems to be an issue related to what patch level you are running. If you have all of the updates applied to Windows/Office, the Compatibility Pack works as advertised.
Since there are a number of convertor initiatives under development, it is probably worth backing up and taking a survey of where we stand today:
ODF = Open Document Format, an XML-based document format used in products like IBM Workplace, the next version of Lotus Notes, OpenOffice.org, KOffice, AbiWord, GNUmeric, etc. ODF is an ISO standard and is maintained at OASIS.
OOXML = Office Open XML, an XML-based format which will be used in Microsoft Office 2007 when it is released in January. OOXML is currently a draft specification in Ecma, though it will certainly be adopted as an Ecma standard in December.
The Legacy Formats = the proprietary binary formats that Microsoft used before Office 2007, the familiar DOC, XLS and PPT files.
So, what can be converted to what, using what, and does it really work?
If you upgrade to Office 2007 when it comes out, you will be able to read and write both the OOXML and the Legacy formats. Both are supported out-of-the-box.
If you want to stay on an older version of Office, and need to exchange documents with someone using the new OOXML formats, then you need Microsoft’s Compatibility Pack. As the above article points out, getting this to work in practice requires first ensuring that your patch level is current.
What about ODF? If you are on Microsoft Office, then there are two initiatives underway to bring ODF support to Office. One is the Microsoft-supported (and now Novell as well) odf-convertor project on SourceForge. Their initial deliverable will be the “ODF Add-in For Microsoft Word”. I didn’t have all that much luck with an earlier “alpha” version of the Add-in, but I’ve heard it is much improved. However, in the near term it only supports reading ODF text documents. No support for writing, and no support for presentations or spreadsheets. These other features are slated to be delivered in future phases of the project. The Open Document Foundation is also developing a convertor, which they call the “ODF Plugin”. Sam Hiser will be presenting on it at XML 2006 in Boston, so hopefully we’ll learn more about it then.
If you are running OpenOffice.org, then you already have excellent integrated conversion support between ODF and the Legacy Office formats. But if you need to exchange documents with someone using Office 2007 and its default OOXML formats then you are out of luck for now. However, please note that the recent Novell/Microsoft agreement included a statement (if I’m reading this correctly) that Novell would help add OOXML support to OpenOffice.org. So this support should eventually make it into OpenOffice.org.
So, based on what really works today, I’d offer this recommendation: If you must upgrade to Office 2007 , then turn the default file formats to be the Legacy binary formats. Until the OOXML convertors mature and all Office users have migrated off the beta and have compatible OOXML versions, you’ll only be causing chaos with those you exchange documents with if you save as OOXML.
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