Friday, 22 February 2008

Solving the docx problem

Vista is approaching and the need to support it is appearing increasingly inevitable. Laptop HALs is one pressing reason. And in a strange but horribly related way Office 2007 is becoming impossible to resist, and with it the docx support problem.

Just to complicate it, we won't be upgrading everyone simultaenously, nor will be upgrading Mac users to Office 2008 immediately. And of course there are linux users. A minority, but if our plans for a linux based open source desktop go anywhere perhaps a growing minority. (The linux desktop may turn out be our 'get out of jail' strategy to avoid a widespread deployment of Vista)

So docX is not a possibility. Getting an ODF plugin for Office isn't really an option as people need to remember to export the files as ODF. And there isn't one for the Mac and converting the Mac Office users to Neo Office isn't an option. Too much work, too much training too much support.

So we need a left field solution - and that is - make the doc format the default document format for Office 2007. There's a registry hack that fixes that, and there's probably equivalent hacks for the new version of powerpoint and excel. What's more, there's a similar hack to allow Open Office to save in word formal by default.

So we've created a default document format. Admittedly based on Microsoft's proprietary format but .doc is the lowest common denominator. And with a default document format as standard, we don't care which platform or application people use, and we can set up an automatic workflow for normalising or archiving documents using either Xena or Docvert to do the automatic conversion.

Archiving everything as PDF seems like a document archiving strategy that's relatively future proof, even if that's a nother proprietary format. But that's an argument for another day :-)


dgm said...

see for an in depth technical discussion of XML based office formats, as well as my earlier post on the subject

dgm said...

Office 2008 for the mac saves the document type preference in a plist, which means it's readily editable and settable on deployment.

This increasingly has legs...

dgm said...

see for a fairly full description of how to do this.

thx to Adam Reed for the information and link