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Microsoft Office and ODF: Best Practices

I’ve received a few questions about how to read/write ODF documents from Microsoft Office.  I looked around and did not find a comprehensive Microsoft web page on this topic, so I’m putting together this page as a reference for best practices on how to use ODF with Office.

I intend to update this post as I find more information, so feel free to add a comment if you have a link to some additional material.

Depending on what version of Microsoft Office you are running you may have up to three different ways of working with ODF documents, either through native support in Office or through a third-party extension.  Your options are listed in the following table:

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A few notes on each option:

  • Native support for ODF 1.1 is available in Office 2010, and in Office 2007 once you install Service Pack 2 (SP2).   Using the Office Customization Tool, administrators can configure Office to default to ODF format for new documents.  Office will give you an warning message whenever you try to save a document in ODF format, but this can be disabled according to these instructions.  Some ODF features are either not available, or are implemented in a way that is not interoperable with other ODF editors like OpenOffice.org.  Examples include spreadsheet formulas and change tracking.  Microsoft has written up in detail what features are and are not supported when saving Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents in ODF format.
  • Oracle’s ODF Plugin is available commercially, with support.  It is the only current option for those who require ODF 1.2 support.  It is also the only option that supports Office 2000.  An earlier version of this plugin, originally made available by Sun at no cost for individual use, is still available for download at Softpedia.
  • The ODF Add-in for Microsoft Office is an open source developed under Microsoft sponsorship by several smaller companies.

Unanswered questions:

  • Are there any head-to-head reviews of these three options, preferably one that looks at standards conformance and interop?
  • Are there any ODF options for Office 2008 or Office 2011 (Mac Office)?
{ 13 comments… add one }
  • oversky 2010/12/20, 20:59

    It is more neutral to describe that Microsoft Office 2007SP2 and 2010 support ODF v1.1, while openoffice use ODF v1.2, which is not yet ISO standard.

  • Rob 2010/12/20, 21:09

    @oversky, the post does not discuss what OpenOffice supports. It is not a post about OpenOffice at all. It is about what MS Office supports either itself or via 3rd party add-ons. Was the post or the table unclear on this?

    And btw, ODF 1.1 is also “not yet an ISO standard”.

  • Jean Weber 2010/12/21, 05:06
  • Rob 2010/12/21, 10:28

    @Jean, I think the Oracle ODF Plugin is the latest version of what was formally called the Sun ODF Plugin. My understanding is that the problems the Sun Plugin had with integrating into Office 2007 were resolved in Service Pack 1, which I why I list SP1 as a pre-req.

  • Jean Weber 2010/12/22, 01:24

    Rob, the main thing about the Sun plugin from Softpedia is that it is free, unlike the Oracle version. And it is supposed to work with versions of MSO back to Office 2000, unlike the MS ODF Add-in. So it’s a reasonable choice for individual users.

  • Rob 2010/12/22, 12:23

    @Jean, Ah, OK. I didn’t see that the Sun Plugin download was still available. I’ve added a link to that. Thanks!

  • Inigo 2010/12/24, 05:28

    Hi Rob – you’re also missing Office 2011 for the Mac. As far as I can see, there is no native support at all for ODF in Office 2011.

    I haven’t tried any of the ODF plugins with it, but I’m not confident that any of them would work – I’ve got the impression that they’re Windows-specific.

    I have no information on Office 2008 for the Mac, but given the lack of support in Office 2011, I think it’s probably safe to say there’s no support in 2008 either.

  • Rob 2010/12/24, 10:34

    @Inigo — OK. I’ll add Office 2011 to the list of “unknowns”.

    My understanding is that the open source ODF Add-in (last column in the table) was written mainly in XSLT with some C# to integrate it into the Office UI. The XSLT transforms would be portable, of course. The open question is whether the Mac versions of Office have equivalent hooks for 3rd parties to add their own file filters. At best there would be some integration work required, but the base Add-in code is open source, so anyone sufficiently motivated is welcome to try.

  • oversky 2010/12/26, 20:49

    @Rob,
    Thanks for clearifying the status of the ODF 1.1.
    What make me confused are the following two statements
    “Native support for ODF 1.1 is available in Office 2010, and in Office 2007 once you install Service Pack 2 (SP2). ”
    “Some ODF features are either not available, or are implemented in a way that is not interoperable with other ODF editors like OpenOffice.org.”
    As I understanding, the missing features are new in ODF 1.2. However, these statesments make me feel that Microsoft made an incomplete ODF 1.1 impletement. But I think Microsoft ODF does pass ODF 1.1 validation, doesn’t it?

  • Rob 2010/12/26, 21:40

    @oversky, “Native support” does not say anything about the quality of the support or the interoperability with other editors. “Native” (with respect to Office) means it comes from Microsoft, not from a 3rd party.

    If you want more info on what is and isn’t supported with ODF in Office 2007/2010 , the links I provided go to pages where Microsoft provides additional details.

  • Hikari 2011/01/03, 20:46

    The really important matter is if Office2010 supports all ODF features, and if ODF created by Office2010 is editable by other editors. That’s what we should worry about.

    And what’s the difference in ODF 1.0 1.1 and 1.2?

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