This is old news to a lot of you, but I wanted to call attention to this again because I've read some articles where it appears that some folks still aren't aware of the work we are doing to make the new XML formats backwards compatible. I've already talked about how the existing legacy XML formats will continue to be supported going forward. Even more importantly though, the new Office "12" XML file formats will work in existing Office versions as well. That's right, you don't need to upgrade to Office "12" to use the new XML formats.

We will provide free updates for Office 2000, XP, and 2003 that allow them to both open and save the new XML formats. This is great news for solution developers; IT admins; and end users. I know that for a lot of you who have been reading my blog for the past few months, you're probably already aware of this. I just wanted to call attention to it directly incase you were worried about what the costs were for moving into the new XML formats.

This work is something I've been really proud of since we first started doing the work. It was a really big investment on our part to actually port this back to the past three versions. To just support reading the formats would be one thing, but support both read and write was a pretty big task. It's something I'd always viewed as a must have though. I think there is so much value to these new formats and getting this to as many people as possible is really huge. It also makes it a lot easier for people that have moved forward to Office "12" to share their documents. They can either use the old binary format, or they can use the new XML formats.

Of course, anyone else is free to come along and build a tool that reads and writes the new formats too, so if you aren't currently an Office customer there are still other possibilities. We've talked at length about the royalty-free licenses that we provide that basically allow anyone to build on top of the formats. There has been some discussion around a specific license that is not compatible with ours, but the large majority of licenses out there are 100% compatible so there are a lot of choices. I thought it was worth pointing out again what we at Microsoft are providing directly though.

-Brian