Are we living in world, where everyone has the same chances? Are we free in what we do and in which way we do it? Although all this questions seem very philosophical at first glance and improbable, no impossible, to answer for everyone. Sadly it is much easier to explain why this is, and why Open Source projects are so important for us.
When I was at school ( it is not different at university now) I was living in a world dominated by Microsoft. Do not understand me wrong, I do not have much against Windows, but for me it is impossible to switch to Linux. But what I will tell you about office software is in the exactly same way true for all other kinds of software.
At first there came an office
On university I had courses on marketing, I really try hard to get it down in a way that’s easy to understand. Microsoft’s Office came quite at the beginning (1989). The versions of office are the following:
As there were many 1.x versions, leaving out 2 might be reasonable, but what’s about the gap between 4 and 7? Believe me or not, that was only marketing. They even left out “unlucky” 13. After 11 major releases Office is broadly used nowadays, and whatever Microsoft does you are going to buy a new office with your next PC/Mac. Why will you? Because Microsoft owns your documents. Not close to “Facebook owns your photos”, but they own one right: The right to be the only one who can open and save your documents. So, you still can access your pictures on your hard drive, but not your office documents.
Office Open XML
That brings us to the year 2006, where Microsoft introduced a new file format, called Office Open XML, It is standardized (ISO/IEC 29500), so a new age begins. An age, where you not solely rely on Microsoft as everyone, really everyone can implement the standard and exchange documents. Ärm, to good to be true – right. Okay that was the “should” situation. Office 2007 is now (at the time of writing, used info from here) unable to open Office Open XML* (* I am speaking of Office Open XML, which is described in the standard. Microsoft calls that “Strict Open XML”).
Some facts now:
- You saved your documents, your impression in a format, which can only be opened in one program (at that time  ONLY Office 2007)
- Apparently still we need reverse-engineering to free your content
- (my opinion) Microsoft needed 3 additional years in order to get their standard implemented (beware: only import filter) and all in all 6 years for an output filter, which is capable of writing (Office 2013) and reading (Office 2010)….
Why Office Open XML??
For Microsoft it was from major importance to have a new file-format, which only can be opened by their product. That everyone needs to buy the new version. So do many other companies and also a well-known open-source project (Abiword).
Why no import for MS Office 2003?
Okay, I guess it was answered just one paragraph away from here, but I want to focus on something different here. Why not everyone is equal in today’s world. If you are unable to buy / your operating system is not supported by Microsoft you cannot access documents, which rely on this “standard”
Open Document Format
Some people (like me) think that the description of the Office Open XML standard is intentionally made so complicated, that they can say it is an open standard. In fact the import/export filters within LibreOffice are (as far as I am concerned) are based on reverse engineering. [As you likely won’t find loads of standard Office Open XML [docx, xlsx etc.] files in the wild….
So, good news for you: There is a broadly accepted standard, called Open Document Format, which is used in LibreOffice / OpenOffice. But it is not only used by us (I am working @ LibreOffice in my spare time), it is also supported in MS Office (ODF 1.2 with Office 2013, so do not wonder if you get messages like “this file is broken, we will try to repair it”. That means MS Office does not understand the new standard, or it’s a bug from them 😉 ) If you want more infos about the adoption of ODF, please follow this link.
Wait…. One project is missing
Let’s start with the introductory video:
So what does the documentliberation project do? It straightens out the way from a world with proprietary formats to the open (document format) world, where the content belongs to you. Belongs means:
- You have the choice which operating system you use – on MOST you will find a tool, which knows how to open ODF
- On the 3 big operating systems (and on more like iOS and Android) YOU have the choice which software to use. You can compare them by functionality and price and choose the software, which fits you most
I admit you still need a software to display a document, but I cannot help you with that. If you want a list of all “liberated” formats, please refer to the original homepage.
I hope I could point out the importance of open standards. If you have any question, missing points, false information etc. please leave a comment.
EDIT: Make sure you have a look at the follow-up post