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Microsoft Office 12 Will Support XML

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The new default file format for some programs in the next Office suite will make it easier for other programs to interoperate with them.

Industry standard Extensible Markup Language technology forms the base of the next version of the company’s flagship productivity suite. Called Microsoft Office Open XML Formats, they will be the default file format for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint when the new Office product arrives in 2006.

Developers attending the Microsoft Tech Ed conference in Orlando next week will hear more details about the new XML file formats. Benefits of moving to XML in addition to better interoperability include better security and much smaller file sizes.

XML is a system for tagging and organizing the content of a document. Where HTML defines how a web page will look, XML defines what that document will contain.

“Making XML the default Office file formats is, for me, the culmination of a 35-year dream,” said Charles F. Goldfarb, the inventor of the markup language technology.

“In 1970 we had just one system that could share documents between an editor, a back-end database and a publishing package. Now Microsoft is enabling hundreds of millions of people to routinely create XML that can interoperate with every kind of back-end system and Web service.”

Data recovery will be better as well. Office 12 will be able to open and use a document when one part of that document, such as an image or a chart, is damaged. The new data formats will be able to attempt to fix corrupted files when users try to open them.

“Customers have asked us for improved file and data management; improved interoperability; and open, royalty-free, published file format specifications — without sacrificing backward compatibility,” said Steven Sinofsky, senior vice president of Office at Microsoft.

“We’re confident that by adopting XML-based default file formats, we are delivering the tools that will help IT professionals address these challenges, while enabling developers to integrate Office even further into their customized solutions.”

Office 12 won’t be Microsoft’s first foray into XML. The company had introduced XML within the HTML file formats supported by Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in Office 2000. Support expanded with the releases of Office XP, Office 2003, and the company’s InfoPath product.

But there have been user complaints about the XML handling capabilities of those programs, likely stemming from an XML format that was not as open and interoperable with other programs as Office 12 should be.

People interested in the new file formats and the next version of Office can get additional information at a preview site, http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview, beginning Monday, June 6, to coincide with the start of Tech-Ed.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.

Microsoft Office 12 Will Support XML
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