Draft 1.3 of the Ecma Office Open XML formats standard

Wow, we finally have an updated draft of the Ecma Office Open XML formats standard! http://www.ecma-international.org/news/TC45_current_work/TC45-2006-50.htm I've been waiting for a long time to be able to share all the great work that's been going on in Ecma TC45, and it's so awesome that we have a new public draft. I can't wait to hear what everyone thinks. If you go to that site, you'll see three different downloads:

  1. Draft 1.3 of the spec - The big download is the spec itself in PDF form. It's about 25 megabytes and is around 4000 pages.
  2. Draft 1.3 of the spec in the Open XML format - Alternatively, you can download the .docx version of the spec. Once Beta 2 comes out, you can open it that way (although opening 4000 pages of content with beta software may be slightly problematic <g/>)
  3. Schemas - The schema files are also available for download. They are available in a ZIP file, that also contains an index.htm file that describes each xsd

We've been working really hard over the past 5 months bringing this standard along. There is still a lot of work to do, but you'll see pretty clearly that we've made a ton of progress over the initial submission from last year. We have weekly 2 hour phone conferences (they are actually at 6am my time which is not ideal <g/> ), as well as 3 day face to face meetings about every 2 months. The contributions from everyone has just been outstanding. It's so awesome to work with such a diverse group of people. While the initial submission was made by Microsoft, it's now completely in Ecma's control and we've had a lot of help from Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, The British Library, Essilor, Intel, Microsoft, NextPage, Novell, Statoil, and Toshiba.

***Note*** Remember that this is just a draft. Some sections of the spec are much further along than others, so keep that in mind while you are looking through the spec. If you are in an area that looks like there isn't much information, odds are we just haven't gotten to that yet.

While I'm sure we'll be able to spend the next several months talking about all this, some of the big things I wanted to point out are:

  1. Public feedback - While the Ecma organization is completely open and anyone can join, I understand that some people just aren't able to make that commitment. That's why I was really excited that we have a mechanism set up now so that anyone can give feedback on the spec: ecmatc45feedback@ecma-international.org
  2. Technical discussion - If you are looking for technical discussions around the formats, you can also go to the openxmldeveloper.org site where there is a forum for a wide range of technical issues for developers who want to implement the formats.
  3. Navigating the PDF - The PDF file was actually generated using Word 2007. Bring up the Bookmark pane and you can easily navigate through the document structure (it's over 4000 pages, so that helps a lot!). You will also notice that in the reference sections, you can easily navigate through element and type reference just by clicking on the section number next to the element or type's name.
  4. Spreadsheet Formulas - Check out 15.5 (starts on page 247). There are about 160 pages of content describing the formula syntax and about 360 different functions. You'll notice that there is still a ways to go, but this is already a huge amount of really useful information.
  5. Depth of documentation - I know we've said this a million times, but this is a huge project. Migrating all the existing Office documents into an Open XML format and then providing full documentation is a ton of work. Many people don't realize how large these applications are, and how much there really is to cover. If you want an example, download the spec and look a the documentation for the simple type "ST_Border" which starts on page 1617 (it's in the WordprocessingML reference section under simple types). That shows a list of almost 200 legacy border patterns that you can apply to objects in a Word document. Tristan Davis, the Word representative on the Technical Committee, had to wok on every single one of those and provide images so anyone else could reproduce them. He created almost 200 documents, took screenshots of each one, and then provided the description and image representation in the spec. This format is 100% compatible with the existing base of Microsoft Office documents, so nobody will need to worry about losing features, even if it's the "Maple Muffins" border style (page 1643) :-)
    1. Want some more depth? - Check out section 14.5 starting on page 135

I'm so excited right now, I'm really rushing just to get this blog post out. I can't wait to hear from people about what kinds of questions they have, or what they hope to do with the formats. We've going to have a lot of fun over the coming months (especially once Beta 2 is out the door and everyone can start to experiment with the files). More information to come, but that's it for now.