Via CrunchGear, MacWorld UK, and APC Magazine — Mac Office users seem to have no way of reading the new OOXML files which Office 2007 for Windows writes by default. APC quotes a Microsoft Mac Business Unit spokeperson as saying, “Unfortunately it is still to early for us to say when the converters will be available”.
9 December 2006 Update: Interesting analysis from from Andrew Shebanow over at Shebanation: How adding OOXML support to the Mac is likely 150 person-year effort. And Mary Jo Foley’s Unblinking Eye points out that the problem is not just with the Mac support. Windows Mobile 5.0 will lack OOXML support until mid-2007.
Is it just me, or does this seem like something less than a coordinated roll-out? The clean, hassle-free way of doing this, with the least suffering for users and admins, would have been like this: Ship Office 2007 with OOXML support, but not as the default. Then over the next year get the rest of the Office ecosystem working with OOXML: the Mac, Mobile, Sharepoint, Excel Live, etc. Get all of the support out there, but don’t force it on people yet as a default. When all the pieces are ready then, via a service pack or version upgrade, change the defaults. Everything goes smoothly from there.
The fact that they didn’t follow this roll-out model suggests that someone at Microsoft really, really, really wanted to get OOXML out fast, even if it wasn’t pretty.
Luckily admins do have the ability to perform a more orderly roll-out in their organizations if they wish. The default format for Office applications can be changed via a registry entry. For example, for Excel the registry entry is:
By default it isn’t there, but you can create an entry of type REG_DWORD and assign it the value of 56 (38 hexadecimal). Once you’ve made that change, Excel documents will be saved in the legacy binary formats by default. Similar registry settings for Word and PowerPoint are:
create REG_SZ with value of “Doc”
create REG_DWORD with value of 0
It should be trivial for someone with a Windows compiler to create a simple application to accomplish this same task. Ideally it would also allow the default to be changed to any other format of the admin’s choice, including turning it back to OOXML if/when admins desire to deploy that way, or changing it to ODF when a good Plugin is available.
10 December 2006 Update: My attention has been drawn to an earlier post from a lead in Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit, where the removal of support for Visual Basic macros is discussed. Damn, that’s cold. Ever get the feeling you’ve been marked for extermination?
Meanwhile, Microsoft makes big noise about interoperability. What kind of example does Microsoft set when the formats for its Mac and Windows Office suites aren’t interoperable? Irreconcilable is the position of increased Microsoft-and-other platform interoperability and the decreased interoperability between Office file formats across two platforms.