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Microsoft Ends Era Of Closed File Formats 651

RzUpAnmsCwrds writes "According to an MSDN Channel 9 interview with an Office file-format developer, the next version of Microsoft Office (Office 12) will default to newly-developed XML file formats in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The new formats will apparently include XML files along with other files (images, etc) inside of a Zip file. Microsoft will also be providing extensive documentation of the new format to the public through MSDN. The developer likewise announced that Microsoft would be releasing updates for Office 2000, XP, and 2003 to read and write the new formats when the new version of Office is released. If this interview is correct, it could mean the beginning of the end of Microsoft's proprietary file formats." Coverage at Beta News, Information Week, and the Washington Post.
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Microsoft Ends Era Of Closed File Formats

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  • by haluness ( 219661 ) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @09:43AM (#12703867)
    Would'nt this approach cause MS to loose its lock-in ability based on file format?

    Of course this assumes that lock-in was one of their goals with a propietary format
    • This may be an indication that they've found a way other than MS Office to make money. Cos it's going to be a big problem for them financially if they haven't. MS Office being one of their most profitable products.

      • by IntlHarvester ( 11985 ) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @10:06AM (#12704134) Journal
        The future profitibility of MS Office is as a component of network groupware systems. Because if you are primarily using Office in standalone mode, you are just fine with any version of Office released in the last 8 years. So, the "value" has to be in improved collaboration or document management.

        In this respect, Microsoft needs open formats just as much as anyone. Ever try to write a server-based system that reads information from DOC files? Using winword.exe with automation just doesn't really work. XML lets MS use a relatively lightweight parser in a server-based system.

        Oh, and changing the default fileformat will surely spur some upgrades, but from what I've seen the corporate market is generally not in a big hurry to get onto the latest version of Office. I don't foresee a repeat of Office 97.
        • We have both Office 95 Pro and Office 97 Pro at home, and I actually prefer to use the former (older) version when I have to produce Word documents.
        • I'm with you on this. Much as I'm not keen on MS, the SharePoint server is absolutely phenominal in terms of actually getting things done in a group. Tie it with a properly configured Exchange Server and a 2003 domain, and you have a rock solid (Yes, solid) platform for group work, communication and management that OSS can't even touch.
        • on a windows server you can use com objects to open a doc file very quickly. I do it in PHP every once in a while. Locked-in file formats don't even figure in most peoples' thinking. They just want software they're familiar with. Most people don't have software ideology.
      • The model of using lock-in as nearly the only way to force customers into staying with the product family may be over. It has been frustrating too many paying customers for too long.

        Microsoft has lots (and lots and lots) of very very smart, motivated developers and marketers, and there is always the hope that they can begin to use those resources to build a product that really competes without resotring to bogus, short term ploys like lock-in.

        Hmmm... Who turned on my "hopefulness neuron" today? :-)
      • Well, considering that on Tuesday, they were granted a patent [] on marshaling XML to and from objects, I'd guess they still have their bases covered. Yeah, the XML is "open", but you can't write an application to convert that XML into an object map without violating their new "intellectual property".
    • by SgtChaireBourne ( 457691 ) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @10:09AM (#12704159) Homepage
      Would'nt this approach cause MS to loose its lock-in ability based on file format?
      No. The lock-in continues via DRM and ties to "Office Servers". MS is really pushing the server based aspects of Office 12, so there will be hooks to the server like crazy. MS is also really pushing the DRM encumberance in Office 12 []. In all likelihood, the XML files will still have key components encrypted so as to support MS' DRM and as a 'side effect' lock out competitors.

      The interesting thing is that all this server based control and logging of DMR'd functions gives an enormous boost to the type of information available for international and corporate espionage. Through backdoors, security holes or escrow keys it was possible before to get only the documents themselves for the most part. Now it's possible to monitor who's collaborating with who, and see everyone in the distribution chain.

      That much can be guessed even now during the vaporware stages. However, as more technical information becomes available it will be possible to guess whether these same functions can be used for more than monitoring and can actually be used to stifle or suppress dissent or specific individuals or groups.

    • by Shalda ( 560388 ) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @10:13AM (#12704197) Homepage Journal
      The existing Office document formats are all pretty well documented by 3rd parties. It hasn't even scratched Microsoft's sales. Microsoft's vision on this takes several forms. First, Office is a suite of programs that interoperate. You can embed your spreadsheet in your Word doc or your PowerPoint presentation. Update your spreadsheet and it also updates wherever those numbers also exist. Their second angle is for developers. They want you to use .NET for your in house development. Your user needs to send out a letter? Your program will pull up a document and prefill nearly everything. Thirdly, the now have something they can take to governments and other organizations that are demanding open formats. Finally, no matter how well it's documented, there will be dozens of odd little quirks. But that's ok, so long as you're using the tools that Microsoft provides. Proprietary formats get cracked, quickly and easily. Microsoft wants an end to end lock in.
  • Yes and No (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    They will use an "open" XML format, but some of the objects embeded in that XML file will be binary (read prorpietary).
    • Re:Yes and No (Score:4, Informative)

      by aldoman ( 670791 ) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @09:59AM (#12704057) Homepage
      No they won't.

      Watch the video - the entire file format is completely open.

      He admitted that inside the ZIP they are currently storing the binary copy to make it easier to test and profile against the formats, but when Office 12 is released it'll just be the one XML, completely open format. He also made a point that they are going to have 'thousands' of examples on MSDN, along with very detailed documentation and whitepapers.

      Now whether it's patented or not, I don't know. But this is a _VERY_ big step for Microsoft. It's going to make translating between this and OASIS (which OpenOffice2 and a lot of others are considering/implementing as their default) as simple as an XSLT transformation.
      • Re:Yes and No (Score:3, Informative)

        by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
        Last time I checked the XML format stored a serialized form of COM objects that where not documented. Better than nothing but not really all that open.
      • So they claim. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mcc ( 14761 ) <> on Thursday June 02, 2005 @10:28AM (#12704368) Homepage
        Watch the video - the entire file format is completely open.

        Honestly, I am not going to believe it until I see it.

        Microsoft has lied before.

        It's quite possible they don't intend to open their file formats at all, they just intend to make the Washington Post and its readers think they've opened their file formats. In the meantime, if Microsoft actually wanted to "end the era of closed file formats", all they'd have to do is, you know, actually comply with the letter of the antitrust decision currently handed down against them in the E.U. and the spirit of the toothless antitrust "settlement" currently in effect against them in the U.S.. Mysteriously, they haven't.
  • ZIP patent... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Vo0k ( 760020 ) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @09:43AM (#12703876) Journal
    AFAIK ZIP was evil because of some patent issues, and that's why gzip was developed. The patent has supposedly expired in the US, but not necessarily in all other countries (same as with GIF). Any info on that?
    • Java "jar" files and Mozilla "xpi"s. So whatever there might have been [] is presumably a non-issue now.
    • Re:ZIP patent... (Score:4, Informative)

      by andi75 ( 84413 ) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @10:05AM (#12704123) Homepage
      To clean up some confusion:

      gzip and zip are completely different things. gzip compresses a stream (and does a much better job than compress, which it has replaced entirely. However, gzip is slowly being replazed by bzip2 nowadays), whereas zip is an archive format that can store individual (usually compressed) files. The huge advantage of zip over compressed tar archives comes from the fact that you have random access, i.e. can extract a single file from a potentially HUGE archive).

      GIF had patent issues with the LZW-Algorithm it used. The patent has expired recently, but the GIF issue is completely unrelated to ZIP (ZIP uses LZ77).

      About the patent issue: There are a dozen or so zip-related patents, but they're all highly specific and shouldn't stop anyone from using zip, or even writing a zip utility. See also Patents on data compression algorithms [].

      • Re:ZIP patent... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by evilviper ( 135110 )

        The huge advantage of zip over compressed tar archives comes from the fact that you have random access, i.e. can extract a single file from a potentially HUGE archive).

        Actually, I don't find much of an advantage. In my experience, even if you are trying to extract a tiny file from a large archive, it still seeks through the majority of the zip file, and is only slightly faster than uncompressing the entire thing.

        Despite that, tar and gzip could be even better. A little programming and you could modify

    • That would be the LZW [] patent held by Unisys (and IBM in some countries). You're right in that it has expired in most countries now. Gzip was made as an alternative to the Unix compress program because it used LZW, not to PKZIP. Gzip uses the LZ algorithm, which is older and slightly slower but compresses better.

  • Convenient... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Thursday June 02, 2005 @09:44AM (#12703877) that they've all but killed off all of the commercial, vendor-supported competition.

    And whatever happened to Office Integrated Rights Management [], essentially a DRM for Office documents (New Office locks down documents []) that (of course) requires a Windows server to administer, and only works with Microsoft Office? You don't think that they're just going to let that go by the wayside, do you?

    And what about patents?

    Sure, OpenOffice is great, but commercial enterprises will stick with commercial solutions for which there is support. And yes, this could be built for something like OpenOffice (and indeed exists for StarOffice), just as it has been for Red Hat, but I can't see this as anything more than a much belated, empty gesture on Microsoft's part. This sums it up: "Microsoft is doing this as a way to protect its presence on the desktop." Microsoft even dug up Charles Goldfarb [], "co-inventor of the concept of markup languages", for its press release to say, "Making XML the default Office file format is, for me, the culmination of a 35-year dream," Charles F. Goldfarb, the inventor of the markup language technology, said in a statement released by Microsoft. Nice touch.

    Also, "Microsoft Ends Era Of Closed File Formats" is a little overreaching, don't you think? They're looking for the biggest lock-in of all with the proprietary Windows Media formats. Microsoft wants to be everywhere there is any kind of media, and it's NOT open. Boy, I can't wait to live in a world where Microsoft controls and meters content and has everyone from the end consumer to cable, satellite, and telecom operators, movie and TV production houses, and everyone in between by the balls, which is exactly what will happen if they get their way. (And submission to SMPTE *hardly* means anything. Standards are standards AFTER they've been vetted by standards bodies, have had the patent searches and pools completed, etc., and have been, you know, actually approved. Not when they've been "submitted for consideration". Further, that gesture is nothing more than an attempt to get pinhead PHB-type managers and executives on board with Microsoft when their technical underlings are pulling for open standards like H.264 - then Microsoft can shoot back to the management, Hey, we're just as open as the MPEG family of standards! Look, we even submitted our codec to SMPTE! It's not our fault they take so long to approve things! Do you really want all that H-dot-whatever-gobbledeygook that your oddball IT guys are talking about? After all, that's what *Apple* uses. You don't want an Apple technology, do you? Go with us; you know Microsoft is the right choice for your 18-million-customer cable service! [] Utter bullshit. And ignores the fact that all of the codec improvements and tools will NOT be open; the SMPTE submission is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to put Windows Media everywhere as well by claiming to be "open" when they're anything but.)
    • Re:Convenient... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Thursday June 02, 2005 @09:53AM (#12703996) Homepage Journal
      Also, "Microsoft Ends Era Of Closed File Formats" is a little overreaching, don't you think?

      That's exactly what I was thinking. If Microsoft was really opening up Office, why didn't they go for the OASIS Spec []? Me thinks that this is an attempt by Microsoft to lead the industry around by the nose, thus solidifying their place as "Industry Leader". And with a proprietary document format, they can make minor, but frustrating, changes every version just to keep the competition on its toes.
      • Re:Convenient... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by metlin ( 258108 )
        They are a business, they need not do the altruistic best thing unless something was in it for them.

        Right now, they're choosing the middle ground - opening up a format in a way that they have the upper hand and yet, folks can't fault them.

        If you were a company whose motive was profit, would you really care about doing something that would make you part of the pack?

        MS sees itself as being different from the pack, and so, this is a logical choice for them. It may not the perfect choice or the right one, bu

        • I am tired of this "they're a business, they are interested in profit not xxxx". Just because they're a business it don't mean that they're free of any responsibility. They must have responsibility, and those responsibilities must be enforced by the government.

          Microsoft should be punished if they attempt to lock you in so you can't have access your data (this include data made for you) unless you pay them some money. Every format should be open and available to other developers (be them open source or not)
      • Because OASIS is one specification which might be completely and utterly incompatible with the way Office lays things out, and would require a significant investment to change to it?

        Also, I am sure there will be some features missing in the OASIS spec, and that means Microsoft has to go and lobby with OASIS to get it implemented...

        all this so that other competitors can read/write its file formats much easier? Don't think so.
        • Because OASIS is one specification which might be completely and utterly incompatible with the way Office lays things out, and would require a significant investment to change to it?

          Bullocks. We're talking about a file format for a word processor and a spreadsheet. If OOo and MSOffice can interchange formats today (not to mention all the extra "export" formats that MSOffice handles) then there's no reason why they can't follow the OASIS spec. The worst case is that MSOFfice adds a few features for some of
          • Re:Convenient... (Score:3, Insightful)

            by KagatoLNX ( 141673 )
            Ummmm, hello people. This is an XML format.

            If MS needs extensions, that's what namespaces are for.

            As long as MS extensions don't change formatting functionality (this is really not rocket science, Word is not an innovator here), they can tack whatever metadata they need into the file format and still have it be portable.

            If you don't believe me, look at what Inkscape has done with SVG. Psodipodi built on it, adding a namespace to provide their needed data. Inkscape did the same on top of that. It prod
      • Still, you have to admit, it's miles better than a closed, binary document format which gets minor-but-frustrating changes every version.
    • Re:Convenient... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by telbij ( 465356 ) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @10:12AM (#12704190)
      Well I gotta hand it to you for a what amounts to an absolutely brilliant troll. You had me nodding my head the whole way through, but actually your response is just as hyperbolic as the story title. I really don't care to get into all the details... but one thing you said,

      I can't see this as anything more than a much belated, empty gesture on Microsoft's part.

      is true from the MS perspective, but that doesn't mean nothing good can come of it. Having a documented XML format could do wonders for OpenOffice compatibility, which wouldn't necessarily put a dent in Microsoft's monopoly, but it would make life a lot easier for those of us who don't want to participate in it. I'm not saying it'll pan out, just that there are possible real benefits.
    • Do you really want all that H-dot-whatever-gobbledeygook that your oddball IT guys are talking about? After all, that's what *Apple* uses. You don't want an Apple technology, do you?

      Life must be interesting on your planet, Dave.

      First of all, video file formats are hardly a concern of "IT" -- this is really all being hashed out in Hollywood boardrooms, and is completely offtopic in a discussion about MS Office.

      Second, it really boils down to either giving Dolby a bunch of money or giving Microsoft a bunc
  • I don't mean to be downbeat here , but I have heard this a few times before .
    So i will belive it when i see it .

    MS don't seem to be that eager to open anything up , just look at the recent fun the EU courts are having
  • Because, let's face it, the only reason this is happening is because MS have lost the battle to outlaw reverse engineering. Now they'll have widely available specs for their file format -- and all you'll have to do is license the 20 or so patents that protect these formats, and you'll be able to make a competing product that can read Excel files.

    Remember, GIF was a completely open format -- but that didn't mean Open Source software got to use them freely.
    • and all you'll have to do is license the 20 or so patents that protect these formats, and you'll be able to make a competing product that can read Excel files.

      Nope. The NDA will forbid making a competing product.
  • Governments and other entities have been begging for their data to be unlocked for ages and now they are answering the plea...sort of...

    To truly be the end of an era, they should give out the complete specs on their formats as well... I know it isn't going to happen but that would be more complete.
    • From your post:

      To truly be the end of an era, they should give out the complete specs on their formats as well... I know it isn't going to happen but that would be more complete.

      From the blurb:

      Microsoft will also be providing extensive documentation of the new format to the public through MSDN.

      It's one thing not to RTFA ....but at least you could read the fucking headline.

  • XtraML (Score:2, Interesting)

    by OakDragon ( 885217 )
    I wonder if they'll do the same thing to XML as what FrontPage did to HTML...
  • I will believe it when I see it. I wouldn't be surprised if the XML format they choose is renamed XML+ and it doesn't work like normal XML. Can anyone say J++?
  • I'll be impressed when Microsoft provides save-as-XHTML and save-as-clean-XML options from Word that write human-readable files without oodles of proprietary namespaces, useless attributes, and structure that only a Philadelphia lawyer could love.

    (I say this having just gone through my semi-annual search of third-party conversion software in the neverending quest to figure out a way to get from Word documents to rationally structured XML.)
    • I say this having just gone through my semi-annual search of third-party conversion software in the neverending quest to figure out a way to get from Word documents to rationally structured XML.

      Have you tried Webworks Publisher []? I've had reasonable success outputting XML from Framemaker with it and I know they have a version for Word as well. It is closed/proprietary/expensive but if you are serious about converting Word docs it is worth a try. When I used it, it was somewhat buggy, but by far the best

  • What I want to know is, will this new format separate information from presentation?

    For instance, will the format be

    <font name="arial" size="18" style="bold">my heading</font>

    or will it be

    <heading level="2">my heading</heading>

    I definitely prefer the latter (with information and presentation separated), but sadly I think it is more likely that we'll see the former.

    If you have the presentation separately then it is much easier to for instance standardize a look a feel within a c
    • Depends.

      If you are using the styling tools in MS Word/Excel/whatever, and applying a 'headline' style to all of the headlines, then it'll do the second.

      However if you don't bother and just use the font pulldowns and size pulldown menus it will do the first.

      So really, it all depends on how you set it up.
    • I think it will depend on the way the author of the document made it. If the author has used styles, you will certainly have something like

      <p style="Title 1">My heading</p>.

      If the author hasn't used styles, you will have something like

      <font name="arial" size="18" style="bold">My heading</font>

      Since MS Word has to be able to read the file and associate styles with paragraphs, I don't see how they would do it without mentioning the name of the style used by a paragraph somewhere in
  • Of course, they have the OPTION of just going with a pretty decent already-designed XML/zip-based file format, but we all know they're going to be re-inventing the wheel on this one. Play nice with others? Never! And I wonder what kind of "extensions" to XML they'll managed to squeeze into it? :) But hey, I guess it's still a step in the right direction for them. It pretty much kills the OpenOffice advantage of file format lock-in. (Of course, OO still has the advantage on price...)
  • Microsoft profits off of vendor lockin. Barring legal decisions which they are actually made to obey, I can't envision them ever doing anything to change that situation.

    No doubt it will be "open" to anybody willing to sign something saying they won't develop a competing product or tell anybody what they read, or something equally worthless. They may SAY they won't do that, but I'll have to actually see it happen to believe it and even then I'll be looking the gift horse carefully in the mouth. Any paten
  • by Mikito ( 833242 ) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @09:50AM (#12703962)
    Hopefully this file format change will bring about the end of ever-changing file formats from one version of an app to the next. Who among us doesn't have files saved in an old version of, say, Word, which can no longer be read correctly in a newer version of Word?
  • First, an earthquake. Then the sun must be dark as sack cloth and the moon as red as blood...and then Microsoft opens up their file formats.

  • Whats the license of the docs explaining XML format ?
  • Consider this. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PsychicX ( 866028 ) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @09:54AM (#12704009)
    It's interesting that they're doing this. I've been playing with OOo 2.0 beta lately, both under windows and *nix. I'm an Office user, but a home user, not a power user (I'm not a business dealing in several hundred page docs, I just do my homework). And I basically can't see any particular difference between the two packages. I have Office 2000, and so I'm using it, but I'd probably be perfectly comfortable using only OOo (2.0, I hate 1.1)

    Anyway, my point is that MS is making it clear that they're not threatened by competing packages, and I'm not entirely sure why not. OOo could easily replace Office for many (I hesitate to say most) users, and if we switch to totally open formats, they'll be able to interoperate without any difficulties. I'm not trying to say that OOo is in a position to hurt Office...but I'm curious if it might be. MS doesn't seem to think so, and I'm really, really wondering what makes them so nonchalant.
  • MS looks like it's goal is to catch up with, which have had this kind of XML support for many years. Other, lesser, suites also have zipped XML files, like AbiWord.

    The one thing that these others have in common, that MS Office lacks, is support for the OpenDocument [] DTD. v2 will use OpenDocument as its main format.

    Note that many of the articles linked to by the original post express skepticism about how open MS' XML will actually be. Recall that in the last

    • MS suddenly supporting PDF export like in OOo or StarOffice

      Shhhh. It's coming in a few months.

      And remember, Microsoft was the first to do it. Anyone else who claims to be doing it added the feature after Microsoft did, and their version isn't as good.

      You can get a virus from exporting to PDF using OpenOffice
  • I'll believe it when I see it, from the company that said "the binary is the specification". Far too often it seems like these announcements are followed up with "small changes" that add that little proprietary touch to what could be an open format.

  • I click on the link and get an ASPX (ASP.NET) runtime error..


    A refresh seems have it just report a generic (properly rendered) "there is a problem with the forums" page.
  • by Bytal ( 594494 ) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @09:59AM (#12704060) Homepage
    For those who don't want to watch the video, the new format will supposedly offer a %75 improvement in file size. The old, binary format did not use any compression at all. Some of the other features include having the formatting information at the end of the file so that a half transmitted file still contains all the content.
  • Access to the MSDN documentation will require a MSDN developer's subscription and a signed NDA. The NDA will of course forbid the use of file format specification in unsecured software. Appropriate copyright, patent and other licensing fees will be required of developers writing commercial software to access the new file format.

    All kidding aside, I think any hope about this is misplaced. There will no doubt be numerous restrictions on the use of the format information.

    There's also the fact that MS has
    • by SolidGround ( 883883 ) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @10:22AM (#12704295)
      First of all, the entire MSDN library can easily be accessed online ( []), second an MSDN subscription doesn't involve any kind of NDA. The only times I've personally come across this was with pre-release stuff and with their limited beta programs and in those cases it's nothing that any other company doesn't do either.
      • Office 2003 XML Reference Schema Patent License []

        Just TRY to use the Office XML Specification in an Open Source application. Go ahead, I dare you.
  • Even with OO as good as it has gotten I still have trouble trading documents with people.

    Maybe now that will end. Maybe I will be able to use the faster loading kword than OO soon too.

    It will be interesting to watch the aftermath.
    With document format soon to be history office applications will need to compete on price and quality.

    It will be interesting to see who the winners will be with the format question out of the way.

    Will quality improve? Will price improve? Will people go with whatever is cheap
  • I've been doing this for a while:

    Yawn. This is a great idea, but not anything new. Microsoft should have done this years ago, as there is an obvious benefit to their customers and innovation is obviously moving to open formats. They would have done it earlier if they didn't need so depserately competition to spur them into action. IE7, XML Office ... what's next? Bash at the Windows DOS prompt?

  • by dyfet ( 154716 ) on Thursday June 02, 2005 @10:00AM (#12704073) Homepage
    Take look at Office 2003 XML Reference Schema Patent License [] and reconcile that with the claims and headline of this article.

    In particular; consider "Microsoft may have patents and/or patent applications that are necessary for you to license in order to make, sell, or distribute software programs that read or write files that comply with the Microsoft specifications for the Office Schemas." taken from the same page...

    What changed? How is that an "improvement" exactly?

    • That is for Office 2003 which obviously isn't open. This article is refering to the next version of office. Now many of these restrictions MAY still exist with the next version, but we'll have to wait and see.

      Presumably, much of this is going away since they are saying the new version will be open, but what is "open" to MS may not be quite what you'd expect ;-) Again, we'll have to wait and see, but your above reference doesn't apply to what is being discussed (except to point out past conditions).
  • So, now that we've got billions of word 2002/2003/XP and excel/ppt docs sitting around, why can't they just open the spec up to those as well so we don't have to resave in the new format...

  • a converter for old .doc to new XML?
  • I love it how they do something everyone else has been doing for years and they act as if they're god's gift to humanity because of it.

    "Our Glorious Scientists have slashed disease rates ten times!" Yes, when you no longer sleep in your own feces and the whole ten person family doesn't eat with their unwashed hands from the same bowl, it does tend to improve hygeine.

  • According to Reuters: The new default formats for Word, Excel and Powerpoint will change, respectively, from ."doc," ".xls" and ".ppt" to ".docx," ".xlsx" and ".pptx," Microsoft said.

    Great, now I'll have people calling me up asking "what program do I use to open a 'dot D O C X' file with?"

Syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semicolon. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982