One of the most exciting new features of Office 12 is that it uses XML file formats (http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/developers/filefaq.mspx) by default. Although XML file formats were supported in Office 2003, they were optional in that release. The new Office 12 XML formats, officially known as Office Open XML formats, provide full fidelity storage for Office documents and result in substantially more compact and resilient files. The key advantage is that XML formats enable, or make easier, document management scenarios difficult or impossible to implement with binary formats, including document production, consumption, search, and extensibility on any platform which has an XML parser and supports industry standard ZIP compression. Microsoft submitted Office XML formats to ECMA, a European standards body (http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/developers/ecmafaq.mspx), in the fall of 2005. The recently formed Open XML Formats Developers Group is “a technical community to foster development of solutions using the Office Open XML formats, including solutions across platforms and applications.   It is open to anyone in order to enable broad participation and wide use of the Open XML Formats.  The 39 founding members include Apple, Intel, and BP.” If you are interested and would like to find out more about this, http://openxmldeveloper.org/ is the place to go.

-Vlad

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