Something happened last night that took me by surprise and I want to get the experts on this blog to comment.

A client sent me two files last night created in Open Office and saved in the .osd format. Naively I tried to open these spreadsheet documents using Excel from the Microsoft Office 2007 suite. I was operating under the assumption that all the powers that be had agreed on a standard XML format for office files, but apparently I was completely wrong. Office 2007 could not read the file at all.

This perplexed me so I did some fiddling around with the files. I changed the extension to .zip and sure enough WinZip recognized it and opened the files to show me a list of XML files contained within. The same thing happens when you change .xslx files (Excel’s XML format file) to .zip. So I changed the extension on the original files again, only this time I used .xslx. Excel got further along when I used it to open the file, but it reported that the schema was not what it expected.

So my question is what happened? I thought everyone had agreed that XML was the perfect file format for documents because it could be parsed by all of the applications. Obviously, somewhere along the line the concept of a standard was lost. I’m just curious as to why?

Now, I know the knee-jerk response will be the familiar chant that Microsoft is evil, yada, yada, yada. But I would like some objective reasoning. The idea of a standard XML format that can be read by any office application seems to be a rational no-brainer to me. As a user and creator of documents, I really and truly do not care what application made it, I just want to double click it and have it open so I can get some work done. Is that really too much to ask?