The Burton Group - a US technology research organisation - have released an interesting report into the alternative file standards in use. They compared MIcrosoft's Office Open XML (OOXML!), which is standard in the new versions of Office 2007, with Open Document Format (ODF) which is championed by Sun, IBM and Google. And the conclusion that they reached finds Microsoft’s OOXML document format to be more useful than the rival ODF format.

Their report is titled "What’s Up, .DOC? ODF, OOXML, and the Revolutionary Implications of XML in Productivity Applications."

We changed from the previous file formats (like .DOC) because of the flexibility and security needed for document files - especially some of the highly graphical content that can be created in Office 2007. The new versions of Office can read older file formats, and there's a converter for Office 2003 that allows it to read the new files.

Today ODF is a recognised ISO standard, whereas OOXML is new, and seeking approval. And that's led to a political (with a small 'p') debate about whether there can be two standards. But much of that debate hasn't addressed whether one standard is 'better'. Burton have tackled that head on.

They said:

“ODF represents laudable design and standards work. It’s a clean and useful design, but it’s appropriate mostly for relatively unusual scenarios in which full Microsoft Office file format fidelity isn’t a requirement. Overall, ODF addresses only a subset of what most organizations do with productivity applications today.”

Any debate about file standards is asking for a salvo of commentary - ZDNet wrote about the story  yesterday, and within 18 hours had 180 comments on the blog - mostly with people on both sides of the fence throwing comments at each other!

But better that you take a look yourself at the report, to weigh up whether the benefits that Burton describe are useful to you.

Their report is titled "What’s Up, .DOC? ODF, OOXML, and the Revolutionary Implications of XML in Productivity Applications." and is a free download (you'll need to register to download it)