The first compatibility pack for Open XML was released in November of 2006. This add-in for Office XP and 2003 (which also works with Office 2000 in some cases) enables users to open, edit and save Open XML files using prior releases of Office. The compatibility pack is designed to ease the pain of introducing a new file format. As we learned in Office 97, changing file formats can create some significant deployment and compatibility challenges. It is a migration that we're handling with all due care and consideration for our customers' business continuity requirements.
The availability of the compatibility pack has been an interesting discussion. Today, the compatibility pack is only available as a manual download. In other words, Microsoft does not "push" the compatibility pack to users using its update tools. IT organizations or end users must manually download the tool, and deploy or install it themselves. Many organizations have (literally) demanded this be made available as an automatic update, while others would be dissatisfied with this, claiming that Microsoft is "forcing" Open XML onto its existing user community.
We decided to make it available as a manual download, and not as an automatic update, and during the first 12 months of its release, the compatibility pack has been successfully downloaded over 20 million times. This means that 20 million people have elected to manually download this 26.2MB software to their computer. This is a significant number of people adding Open XML to their environment.
Why do people download the compatibility pack? – to use Open XML, of course. If a user of Office 2003 or XP tries to read/edit an Open XML file type, Windows will offer the "Use a web service to find the appropriate program" dialog box to direct you to the compatibility pack download site. If you have updated Office with the latest service packs, you will get a similar (but more user-friendly) dialog box that directs you to the same place.
On the download center, users select their language, get the bits and off they go. The 20 million people who have already completed this demonstrate that Open XML is already in widespread use today, about 1 year after its formal introduction with Office 2007. This is in addition to the adoption Open XML is gaining in the broader software community: http://www.openxmlcommunity.org.
What is also interesting about the compatibility pack statistics is that they do not reflect deployment by IT organizations… It takes only one download by the IT desktop management team to prepare thousands of desktops with the compatibility pack (I have worked on a handful of these directly). The usage numbers for the compatibility pack are likely to be significantly higher than the download statistics indicate.
I won't explain in detail how these download numbers compare to things like the ODF Translator for Microsoft Office, but you can look at the download stats on SourceForge for that one and see for yourself. Being a product person (not a standards person) I'm far more interested in what users are doing with the software, so I don't have a positive or negative view of ODF (nor do I care to swordfight with the ODF community). But the statistics do speak pretty clearly about the preference of Microsoft Office users…
I believe in the marketing lexicon this is typically referred to as "rapid traction," but it does come with the responsibility of sustainability (speaking of buzzwords) and maintenance. Our commitment to the standard goes hand-in-hand with our long-term commitment to IT organizations and end users who have taken the opportunity to incorporate Open XML into their Office environment. Instead of the theoretical arguments and "what-if" scenarios that the document format standards community gets into, longevity of Open XML is a real consideration based only on the activity of people who use our products. In other words, Open XML is here to stay.
That's pretty exciting news.
Happy Holidays everybody.
I spend a lot of time working on the adoption of the Open XML Formats,
For IT organizations, it can be a daunting task to migrate document formats in Office, and it the benefits are not always immediately obvious. Microsoft spent a fair bit of time on tools / guidance to make the introduction of Open XML easier, and I'll drive deep on those in future posts. But I wanted to use this opportunity to discuss one of the primary reasons why you should let Open XML in, and how it can help. This will be the first in a 3 part series on file size reduction, document "sanitization" and improvements in document format security.
A tangible benefit of Open XML is file size reduction. Reducing file sizes means lower storage costs and reduced bandwidth consumption. Particularly for those paying for bandwidth on a meter, this can be quite helpful.
Why are Open XML Files smaller? With Open XML, and the Open Packaging Conventions, the file architecture is much more modular and is compressed using a ZIP archive. Storing XML content in a ZIP container lends itself very well to compression, so we do see great results for text-intensive documents like documents and spreadsheets. The benefits don’t translate as well for presentation files, because those tend to be image-intensive (and therefore do not benefit from ZIP compression), but even those are smaller.
The data in this post is a preview of a more comprehensive study we’re working on, but I thought I’d share some of the early returns. There’s no real magic in the study, it’s a pretty simple project. If you want to try this for yourself, you can do what we’re doing: use your favorite search engine / content store to retrieve 100 documents each for word processing (Word 97-2003), spreadsheet (Excel 97-2003) and presentation (PowerPoint 97-2003) format documents, and convert them to Open XML. Results will always vary slightly depending on your data set, but the results should be somewhat consistent with what we’re showing here.
You can do the document conversion using the desktop products, or the Office Migration Planning Manager (and the Office File Conversion tool, specifically), which has a command line interface. Other conversion tools are also available. Quality / results will vary depending on the translation environment.
This post will only discuss the Word documents converted using Word 2007, but the data will illustrate the survey results clearly.
A median size reduction of 52% for documents is quite significant, and translates to real savings for disks and network traffic. We can assume a linear correlation between document size and the number of packets transmitted over a network; therefore we can assume a similar result in bandwidth consumption (bandwidth consumption data will be published in the final paper as well.)
Create a simple document in Word 2007. A great way to generate sample text in Word is by using a formula: “=rand(10,5)”, where 10 is the number of paragraphs in your document, and 5 is the number of sentences per paragraph. You can use this formula to generate documents of increasing length. In doing so, the benefit of compression in Open XML becomes instantly clear. I conducted this test 5 times, on documents ranging from 10 paragraphs of text to over 60 pages. (I have attached them here for you to use.)
I simply added the text, saved the file in binary format first, then saved the file again as Open XML. There is no formatting (beyond my default template, no tables, images or anything other than simple paragraphs.) As the documents increase in length, the benefit of compression is obvious:
Sample file name
If you’re a graph type, we can make the relationship more clear:
This isn’t to say that 5,000 page documents stored using Open XML are going to be 1 – 2 % of their original size, but this is to point out that it is very easy to demonstrate real space savings with Open XML. Depending on the nature of the documents you are creating, especially if they are text-intensive, the size difference can be quite dramatic.
We’ll eventually publish the full data set in a more detailed (and scientific) white paper, and the paper will publish in late January. But as an introductory post, I thought I’d make this an easy one, with a pretty clear benefit. I’ll let you work out the math for your own storage & bandwidth savings, but if you can ask yourself “what would I gain if my files were half of their current size?” – I’ll bet the answer will usually be a good one.
I've created this blog to discuss topics related to Microsoft Office. I'm a Group Product Manager of the Office technical product management team. I'll use this blog to discuss important topics, upcoming releases, Open XML, interoperability and other issues. I'm excited to share this information with you, I'll look forward to adding insight as we move along.