Office Open XML

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Office Open XML (also referred to as OOXML or Open XML) is an ISO/IEC standardized ZIP-compatible file format originally developed by Microsoft[1] for representing spreadsheets, charts, presentations and word processing documents.

Starting with Microsoft Office 2007, the Office Open XML file formats (ECMA-376) have become the default[2] file format of Microsoft Office.[3][4]



In 2000, Microsoft released an initial version of an XML-based format for Microsoft Excel, which was incorporated in Office XP. In 2002, a new file format for Microsoft Word followed.[5] The Excel and Word formats – known as the Microsoft Office XML formats – were later incorporated into the 2003 release of Microsoft Office.

Microsoft announced in November 2005 that it would co-sponsor standardization of the new version of their XML-based formats through Ecma International, as "Office Open XML".[6]

Standardization process

Microsoft submitted initial material to Ecma International Technical Committee TC45, where it was standardized to become ECMA-376, approved in December 2006.[7]

This standard was then fast-tracked in the Joint Technical Committee 1 of ISO and IEC.

After initially failing to pass, an amended version of the format received the necessary votes for approval as an ISO/IEC Standard as the result of a JTC 1 fast tracking standardization process that concluded in April 2008.[8] The resulting four part International Standard (designated ISO/IEC 29500:2008) was published in November 2008[9] and can be downloaded from the ITTF.[10] A technically equivalent set of texts is published by Ecma as ECMA-376 Office Open XML File Formats - 2nd edition (December 2008); they can be downloaded from their web site.[11]

The ISO standardization of Office Open XML was controversial and embittered, with IBM threatening to leave standards bodies that it said allow dominant corporations like Microsoft to wield undue influence. Microsoft was accused of co-opting the standardization process by leaning on countries to ensure that it got enough votes at the ISO for Office Open XML to pass.[12]


Under the Ecma International code of conduct in patent matters,[13] participating and approving member organisations of ECMA are required to make available their patent rights on a Reasonable and Non Discriminatory (RAND) basis.

Microsoft, the main contributor to the standard, provided a Covenant Not to Sue[14] for its patent licensing. The covenant received a mixed reception, with some (like the Groklaw blog) criticising it[15] and others (such as Lawrence Rosen, an attorney and lecturer at Stanford Law School) endorsing it.[16]

Microsoft has added the format to their Open Specification Promise[17] in which

"Microsoft irrevocably promises not to assert any Microsoft Necessary Claims against you for making, using, selling, offering for sale, importing or distributing any implementation to the extent it conforms to a Covered Specification [...]"

This is limited to applications which do not deviate from the ISO/IEC 29500:2008 or Ecma-376 standard and to parties that do not "file, maintain or voluntarily participate in a patent infringement lawsuit against a Microsoft implementation of such Covered Specification".[18][19] The Open Specification Promise was included in documents submitted to ISO/IEC in support of the ECMA-376 fast track submission.[20] Ecma International asserted that, "The OSP enables both open source and commercial software to implement [the specification]".[21]

Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation has stated that "Microsoft offers a gratis patent license for OOXML on terms which do not allow free implementations".[22]


The Office Open XML specification exists in a number of versions.

ECMA-376 1st edition (2006)

The ECMA standard is structured in five parts to meet the needs of different audiences.[11]

Part 1. Fundamentals
Vocabulary, notational conventions and abbreviations
Summary of primary and supporting markup languages
Conformance conditions and interoperability guidelines
Constraints within the Open Packaging Conventions that apply to each document type
Part 2. Open Packaging Conventions
The Open Packaging Conventions (OPC), for the package model and physical package, is defined and used by various document types in various applications from multiple vendors.
It defines core properties, thumbnails, digital signatures, and authorizations and encryption capabilities for parts or all the contents in the package.
XML schemas for the OPC are declared as XML Schema Definitions (XSD) and (non-normatively) using RELAX NG (ISO/IEC 19757-2)
Part 3. Primer
Informative (non-normative) introduction to WordprocessingML, SpreadsheetML, PresentationML, DrawingML, VML and Shared MLs, providing context and illustrating elements through examples and diagrams
Describes the custom XML data storing facility within a package to support integration with business data
Part 4. Markup Language Reference
Contains the reference material for WordprocessingML, SpreadsheetML, PresentationML, DrawingML, Shared MLs and Custom XML Schema, defining every element and attribute including the element hierarchy (parent/child relationships)
XML schemas for the markup languages are declared as XSD and (non-normatively) using RELAX NG
Defines the custom XML data storing facility
Part 5. Markup Compatibility and Extensibility
Describes extension facilities of OpenXML documents and specifies elements and attributes by which applications with different extensions can interoperate

ISO/IEC 29500:2008

The ISO/IEC standard is structured into four parts.[23] Parts 1, 2 and 3 are independent standards; for example Part 2, specifying Open Packaging Conventions, is used by other files formats including XPS and Design Web Format. Part 4 is to be read as a modification to Part 1, on which it depends.

A technically equivalent set of texts is also published by Ecma as ECMA-376 2nd edition (2008).

Part 1 (Fundamentals and Markup Language Reference)
This part has 5560 pages. It contains:
  • Conformance definitions
  • Reference material for the XML document markup languages defined by the Standard
  • XML schemas for the document markup languages declared using XSD and (non-normatively) RELAX NG
  • Defines the foreign markup facilities
Part 2 (Open Packaging Conventions)
This part has 129 pages. It contains:
  • A description of the Open Packaging Conventions (package model, physical package)
  • Core properties, thumbnails and digital signatures
  • XML schemas for the OPC are declared using XSD and (non-normatively) RELAX NG)
Part 3 (Markup Compatibility and Extensibility)
This part has 40 pages. It contains:
  • A description of extensions: elements and attributes which define mechanisms allowing applications to specify alternative means of negotiating content
  • Extensibility rules are expressed using NVDL
Part 4 (Transitional Migration Features)
This part has 1464 pages. It contains:
  • Legacy material such as compatibility settings and the graphics markup language VML
  • A list of syntactic differences between this text and ECMA-376 1st edition

The standard specifies two levels of document and application conformance, strict and transitional for each of WordprocessingML, PresentationML and SpreadsheetML. The standard also specifies applications descriptions of base and full.

Compatibility between versions

The intent of the changes from ECMA-376 1st edition to ISO/IEC 29500:2008 was that a valid ECMA-376 document would be a valid ISO 29500 "transitional" document[24], but one change introduced at the BRM (refusing to allow further values for xsd:boolean) had the effect of breaking backwards compatibility for most documents.[25] A fix for this has been suggested to ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34/WG4, and was approved in June 2009 to go forward as a recommendation for the first amendment to Office Open XML.[26]

File formats

The Office Open XML file formats are a set of file formats that can be used to represent electronic office documents. The format defines a set of XML markup vocabularies for word processing documents, spreadsheets and presentations as well as specific XML markup vocabularies for material such as mathematical formulae, graphics, bibliographies etc. The stated goal of the Office Open XML standard is to be capable of faithfully representing the pre-existing corpus of word-processing documents, spreadsheets and presentations that had been produced by the Microsoft Office applications and to facilitate extensibility and interoperability by enabling implementations by multiple vendors and on multiple platforms.

An Office Open XML file is a ZIP-compatible OPC package containing XML documents and other resources. That is, one can see the insides of a .xlsm file, for example, by renaming it as .zip file. Then, the file could be opened by third-party tools like WinZip and the actual .xml files contained therein can be viewed in Web browsers.


Several countries have formally announced either adoption, or the evaluation of adoption of Office Open XML. What this means varies from case to case; in some cases, it means that the Office Open XML standard has a national standard identifier; in some cases, it means that the Office Open XML standard is permitted to be used where national regulation says that non-proprietary formats must be used, and in still other cases, it means that some government body has actually decided that Office Open XML will be used in some specific context.

Belgium's Federal Public Service for Information and Communication Technology in 2006 was evaluating the adoption of the Office Open XML format. It already then confirmed that it would consider all ISO standards to be open standards, mentioning Office Open XML as such a possible future ISO standard.[27]
In June 2007, the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation recommended that beginning with January 1, 2008 public authorities must support at least one of the two word processing document formats Office Open XML or Open Document Format in all new IT solutions, where appropriate.[28]
In Germany the Office Open XML standard is currently under observation by the governmental office for standards in public IT ("Koordinierungs- und Beratungsstelle der Bundesregierung für Informationstechnik in der Bundesverwaltung" (KBSt). The latest release of "SAGA" (Standards and Architectures for E-Government-Applications) includes Office Open XML file formats. The standard may be used to exchange complex documents when further processing is required.[29]
On June 29, 2007, the government of Japan published a new interoperability framework which gives preference to the procurement of products that follow open standards.[30][31] On July 2 the government declared that they hold the view that formats like Office Open XML which organizations such as Ecma International and ISO had also approved was, according to them, an open standard[citation needed]. Also, they said that it was one of the preferences, whether the format is open, to choose which software the government shall deploy.
Lithuanian Standards Board has adopted the ISO/IEC 29500:2008 Office Open XML format standard as Lithuanian National standard. The decision was made by Technical Committee 4 Information Technology on March 5, 2009. The proposal to adopt the Office Open XML format standard was submitted by Lithuanian Archives Department under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania.[32]
Norway's Ministry of Government Administration and Reform is evaluating the adoption of the Office Open XML format. The ministry put the document standard under observation in December 2007.[33]
The Kingdom of Sweden has adopted Office Open XML as a 4 part Swedish National Standard SS-ISO/IEC 29500:2009.[34][35][36][37]
In July 2007, the Swiss Federal Council announced adherence e-Government standards mandatory for its departments as well as for cantons, cities and municipalities. The latest version of includes Office Open XML file formats.[38]
United Kingdom
The UK has put out an action plan for use of open standards, which includes ISO/IEC 29500 as one of several formats to be supported.[39][40]
United States of America
On April 15, 2009, the ANSI-accredited INCITS organisation voted to adopt ISO/IEC 29500:2008 as an American National Standard.[41]
The state of Massachusetts has been examining its options for implementing XML-based document processing. In early 2005, Eric Kriss, Secretary of Administration and Finance in Massachusetts, was the first government official in the United States to publicly connect open formats to a public policy purpose: "It is an overriding imperative of the American democratic system that we cannot have our public documents locked up in some kind of proprietary format, perhaps unreadable in the future, or subject to a proprietary system license that restricts access".[42] Since 2007 Massachusetts has classified Office Open XML as "Open Format" and has amended its approved technical standards list — the Enterprise Technical Reference Model (ETRM) — to include Office Open XML. Massachusetts, under heavy pressure from some vendors, now formally endorses Office Open XML formats for its public records.[43]

Application support

Microsoft, which currently has no products which are compatible with ISO/IEC 29500,[44][45][46][47] has voiced commitment to using the ISO/IEC 29500 standard in their future products.[48]

Starting with Microsoft Office 2007, the Office Open XML file formats (ECMA-376) have become the default[2] file format of Microsoft Office.[3][4] However, due to the changes introduced in a later version, Office 2007 is not entirely in compliance with ISO/IEC 29500:2008.[44][45][46][47] Microsoft has stated that the planned Microsoft Office 2010 will be the first version to implement the ISO/IEC 29500:2008 compliant version of Office Open XML.[45]

The office suite has been able to import Office Open XML files (.docx, .xlsx, .pptx, etc.) since version 3.[49]

Other mainstream Office products that have started to offer import support for the Office Open XML formats are Apple's TextEdit (included with Mac OS X) and iWork, IBM Lotus Notes, Corel Wordperfect and Google apps.

See also


  1. "Q&A: Microsoft Co-Sponsors Submission of Office Open XML Document Formats to Ecma International for Standardization". Microsoft. 2005-11-21. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Microsoft Expands List of Formats Supported in Microsoft Office". Microsoft. Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Microsoft's future lies somewhere beyond the Vista by Evansville Courier & Press". Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Rivals Set Their Sights on Microsoft Office: Can They Topple the Giant? - Knowledge@Wharton". Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  5. Brian Jones (2007-01-25). "History of office XML formats (1998–2006)". MSDN blogs. 
  6. "Microsoft Co-Sponsors Submission of Office Open XML Document Formats to Ecma International for Standardization". Microsoft. 2005-11-21. 
  7. "Ecma International approves Office Open XML standard". Ecma International. 2006-12-07. 
  8. "ISO/IEC DIS 29500 receives necessary votes for approval as an International Standard". ISO. 2008-04-02. 
  9. ISO/IEC (2008-11-18). "Publication of ISO/IEC 29500:2008, Information technology — Office Open XML formats". ISO. Retrieved 2008-11-19. 
  10. "Freely Available Standards". ITTF (ISO/IEC). 2008-11-18. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Standard ECMA-376". Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  12. "ISO publishes Office Open XML specification". InfoWorld. 19 November 2008. 
  13. "Code of Conduct in Patent Matters". Ecma International. 
  14. "Microsoft Covenant Regarding Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas". Microsoft. Retrieved 2006-07-11. 
  15. "2 Escape Hatches in MS's Covenant Not to Sue". Groklaw. Retrieved 2007-01-29. 
  16. Berlind, David (November 28, 2005). "Top open source lawyer blesses new terms on Microsoft's XML file format". ZDNet. Retrieved 2007-01-27. 
  17. "Microsoft Open Specification Promise". Microsoft. 2006-09-12. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
  18. "". Ecma International. ""Ecma Standards and Technical Reports are made available to all interested persons or organizations, free of charge and licensing restrictions"" 
  19. "Microsoft Open Specification Promise". 
  20. "Licensing conditions that Microsoft offers for Office Open XML". 2006-12-20. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  21. "Microsoft Word — Responses to Comments and Perceived Contradictions.doc" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  22. Richard Stallman (2009-05-17). "We Can Put an End to Word Attachments". Retrieved 2009-10-12. 
  23. "ISO (You searched for "29500" in title and abstract". International Organization for Standardization. 2009-06-05. 
  24. "Re-introducing on/off-values to ST-OnOff in OOXML Part 4". Retrieved 2009-09-29. 
  25. "OOXML and Office 2007 Conformance: a Smoke Test". Retrieved 2009-09-29. 
  26. "Minutes of the Copenhagen Meeting of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34/WG4". 2009-06-22. Retrieved 2009-09-29.  page 15
  27. "FED13321-docsPeterStrickx.indd" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  28. "Bilag 8 – Sammenligning af rapporten om "Estimering af omkostningerne ved indførelse af Office Open XML (OOXML) og Open Document Format (ODF) i centraladministrationen" i forhold til de spørgsmål, der skal belyses i de økonomiske konsekvensvurderinger, jf. rapporten om "Anvendelse af åbne standarder i det offentlige"". Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  29. "SAGA 4.0" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  30. Gardner, David (2007-07-10). "Office Software Formats Battle Moves To Asia". Information Week. Retrieved 2007-07-27. 
  31. "Interoperability framework for information systems (in Japanese)". Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Japan. 2007-06-29. Retrieved 2007-07-27. 
  32. "Latest News". Open XML Community. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  33. "Referansekatalog for IT-standarder i offentlig sektor". Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  34. "SS-ISO/IEC 29500-1:2009". 2009-01-19. Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  35. "SS-ISO/IEC 29500-2:2009". Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  36. "SS-ISO/IEC 29500-3:2009". Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  37. "SS-ISO/IEC 29500-4:2009". Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  38. "eCH — Downloads | Standards/Normes | eCH-0014 d". Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  39. "Open Source, Open Standards and Re–Use: Government Action Plan". UK Government Cabinet Office. 2009-02-24. 
  40. Rick Jelliffe (2009-02-26). "Open standards: the UK gets it, probably". 
  41. "INCITS Letter Ballot 3025". INCITS. 2009-04-15. 
  42. "Informal comments on Open Formats". Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  43. "Cover Pages: Major Revision of Massachusetts Enterprise Technical Reference Model (ETRM)". Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  44. 44.0 44.1 "OOXML Implementations: A Community of One". ODF Alliance. 2008-02-20. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  45. 45.0 45.1 45.2 "Microsoft Expands List of Formats Supported in Microsoft Office". 2008-05-21. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  46. 46.0 46.1 Lai, Eric (2008-05-27). = 141&pageNumber=1 "FAQ: Office 14 and Microsoft's support for ODF". = 141&pageNumber=1. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  47. 47.0 47.1 Andy Updegrove. "Microsoft Office 2007 to Support ODF — and not OOXML". Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  48. "An Open Letter from Chris Capossela, Senior Vice President, Microsoft Office". Retrieved 2008-05-26. "... we are committed to supporting the Open XML specification that is approved by ISO/IEC in our products. ... We are committed to the healthy maintenance of the standard once ratification takes place so that it will continue to be useful and relevant to the rapidly growing number of implementers and users around the world." 
  49. " 3.0 New Features". 2008-10-13. Retrieved 2009-10-24. 

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