Open Source

Should Microsoft open source old file formats?

NLet Foundation, a dutch not-for-profit organization, has called for the opening up of older file formats from Microsoft.

NLet Foundation, a dutch not-for-profit organization, has called for the opening up of older file formats from Microsoft.

An excerpt from iTWire:

Michiel Leenaars, strategy manager at NLnet Foundation and the longest sitting member of the Netherlands national standards body committee responsible for both ODF and OOXML, said: "Surely no-one can make - or judge - a decent re-archiving standard if the original file formats are unknown to them...Currently Microsoft provides part of the specifications under a non-disclosure agreement but these are vastly incomplete, illegible, and available only under very restrictive conditions -- and therefore of little use to either standards bodies or to the software community. "

The request is to enable independent access to files in the older formats and also for integration of Microsoft's products with the Open Document Format.

Interoperability of Microsoft's file formats with ODF, especially in the light of the controversy over Microsoft-backed OOXML, makes quite a case for the requirement. At the same time, there is the problem of the discontinuation of support for older formats in future products.

Considering the Redmond giant's approach to open source, will the formats ever be open?

8 comments
nwoodson
nwoodson

It's laughable. Microsoft will never cooperate (or interoperate) with open source because they can't (openly) profit from it. A good question would be how much open source code has already been hidden in the Microsoft black box? All of the legal victories or standards bodies' victories in the world won't help without tangible enforcement. Multiple standards will do nothing but make developers' lives harder. As long as the public and enterprise users accept that they're helpless to change their computing environment, just continue to pay the MS tax.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

"discontinuation of support for older formats in future products." Office 2003 and Office 2007 do NOT support Word files from Word 2a or Excel files from excel 4 and Excel 5 - that is, CURRENT MS products do NOT support older formats. Forget the bit about future.

ericswain
ericswain

Microsoft is in the business of inovation but thats not to say they aren't out to cover their butts. Even if software developers create a "like" office version such as Open Office, the majority of the IT industry will not bite due to compatibility constraints. If you can now create files with extention ".abc" Microsoft will then make it so that only ".def" will work properly just as in the case of ".doc" and ".docx". If Microsoft decides in the future to release there old code on unsupported applications. It wont be long before they make their old extentions uncompatible with their new applications. After all they are in the business of making money.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Most of the eye candy in Vista is what some of the Linux distros were doing four or five years ago - no innovation there. Most of the security in Vista is what Linux was doing a decade ago, but Vista does it very badly. Microsoft Office 2003 and Office 2007 do not open Word or Excel documents created prior to Office 2000. yet Open Office does open them and save them. At the moment the only Office package that is incompatible with the older MS products is the current MS products. This is a very good reason to stop using the MS products. Most business documents are required to be kept for seven financial years beyond the last financial year in which the matter the document pertained to had any effect on a business. Simply put. Contract Negotiations conducted in Jan 1990 for a contract started in July 1990 that runs for ten years. Contract ends in July 2000, that financial year ends in June 2001. Are required to be kept until past June 2008. Now picture the same thing with a twenty year contract. Contract ends in July 2010, last financial year ends June 2011, files needed until June 2018. Sorry people MS Office doesn't read anything more than just a couple of years old. Woops, can't produce the files in court if needed for a tax audit on that contract. I can see the companies who lose the court cases accepting that it's just bad luck because MS deliberately made the formats incompatible to better their products. personally I think the better the compatibility the more user friendly the more sales. But I believe in customer service to, something MS doesn't.

pr.arun
pr.arun

Considering the Redmond giant?s approach to open-source, will the formats be ever made open?

Merlin the Wiz
Merlin the Wiz

Not too long ago, a file larger than 64 Kilobytes could not be saved by the software then available to the personal computer user. It had to be reduced to a smaller than 64 K file and additional individual smaller than 64 K files had to be created for additional information. These files all used by convention an eleven character maximum file name because eleven characters plus the overhead necessary for the eleven characters were the largest a 16 bit processor could handle in one cycle. Eight characters for the file name and three characters for the file type. As I understand file formats, they are different simply because different document types use different algorithms for data (character) compression. This is to reduce the overall size of the file. As files get larger the compression algorithms used for data storage change because more efficient algorithms are created. It is possible to create a file format that would allow multiple compression algorithms to be used based strictly on the size of the data to be saved, rather than the type of data being saved, but then your word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation manager and e-mail software would all use the same file format and it would be impossible to tell what any file really was without using a file extension naming convention. Can you say MS Windows 3.0 and Office 1.0? The problem, once such a software package has been released to your customers, is how do you continue to force company growth. If you do not grow you will stagnate or die. After all the only personnel now required are the management staff (you), the software writers necessary to correct the errors "bugs" in the code you have already licensed (sold), and the sales staff to continue marketing the software "product". (You can outsource everything else.) Answer 1. Keep separate development teams for each type of software "product" force them to compete for company resources and make sure no one on any team knows anyone else other is working on... except for those few people that are responsible for the "new" overall product development. Answer 2. Use any means available to you to make sure that your software "product" cannot be reverse engineered, copied, or even used without your explicit permission and charge additional fees for everything you can get away with. (charge for support, charge for updates, charge for replacement copies etc.) Answer 3. Advertise to your customers that you will "soon" have a newer, better, faster version of software X or Y that does more and has fewer problems than what they already have. Answer 4. Make sure that every new release uses a different file format than the previous one. Answer 5. Obsolete older file formats with every "new" release. preferably the great-great-grandparents to a release rather than the great-grandparents or the grandparents, because nothing lives forever. Answer 6. Refuse to release any information about any of the software "products" you have sold (licensed) to anyone. Answer 7. When forced to release information due to legal requirements or competition, release the absolute minimum information required and make it as complicated as possible. For instance: A. Remove ALL notes from ALL source code files. B. Provide preliminary files as the finished product. C. Provide A complete source code file as many separate files with no method of linking them together. That is why old file formats will not be released to open source.

glgruver
glgruver

If you want to retain old m$ office files to comply with Federal requirements, you need to convert them to Open Source file format before sending them to long term data storage. Think I'll keep my office 97 around a bit longer, but I use Open Office now for most everything and I am quite happy with it.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The software tools that edit documents are within the relm of the software developer but the files those tools create are the property of the computer owner, not the developer. Fileformats should be open. I don't need a specific brand of hammer to use a specific brand of nail.

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