Sep 19 2007
I’ve been using computers since 1984 and I’ve seen many file types come and go. I couldn’t use the word processor documents and spreadsheets that I made 20 years ago with today’s software. There simply aren’t any import filters which recognizes them. What’s going to happen 20 years from now with the software I’ll be using then? Will I still be able to open my Word 2003 and Excel 2003 documents? With the way things change in the computer industry, I wouldn’t count on it.
Opening Todays Files on Tomorrows Computers
This is an issue which is of great concern to software developers and their users. Documents get archived and there needs to be a reliable way to access them at any time. You could always use the application that it was created in, but this software might not work on future upgrades of Windows, or an entirely different computer might be used which will be running a new operating system.
Even if you could open the document on a future system, it will more than likely not format correctly. Newer version of software tends to render a document from a previous version slightly differently. With about 4 or 5 future new versions, the document may look very different from the original.
An Evolution in File Formats
This is where the new OpenDocument standard shines. Its a document specification for office applications developed by a vendor-independent standards body. This XML based file format can be used for word processor documents, spreadsheet, presentation graphics (like PowerPoint), chart graphics, and formulae. The great advantage to OpenDocument is that its free and the technical specification is available for creating files with it.
Microsoft has created Office Open XML for Microsoft Office, but its being rejected on a large scale by businesses and governments. They see it as attempt to keep people locked into Microsoft’s standards. Its no secret that MS Office is the second biggest source of revenue for Microsoft. I should note that the advantage of using Microsoft products is that they all work together seamlessly. No other office application works as well with its own applications and other software in Windows, not to mention the fact that its easier developing custom applications for Microsoft Office than any other office suite.
OpenDocument is being used on more and more free and open source software. It will likely become a standard for free programs. Office Open XML will probably be used by Microsoft in their office suite, but they may even allow future office apps to work with the OpenDocument specification.