It had to happen – I was bound to be sent a DOCX file. This is the new file type associated with Microsoft Office 2007. It’s all to do with the Office Open XML format Microsoft is keen on, and, of course, my copy of Office 2000 can’t open it. To be fair, Microsoft does have download that allows Office 2000 to open DOCX files, but it comes with health warnings and caveats, so I haven’t tried it.
I have wondered in the past about keeping the faith with Microsoft or whether I should go the Open Source route and install OpenOffice etc. Indeed I wrestled for a long time with getting Linux installed permanently on my PC (and not just booting up a distro from a CD every now and again).
So, I read with interest that IBM has decided to join the OpenOffice.org development community and is even donating some code that it developed for Lotus Notes. (Interestingly, Ray Ozzie, who developed Notes now works for Microsoft). OpenOffice.org was founded by Sun and works to the Open Document Format (ODF) ISO standard – not Microsoft’s Office Open XML (OOXML or Open XML) format.
Apparently, the code that was developed for Notes was derived in part from what was originally Microsoft-developed technology! It seems that IBM’s iAccessible2 specification, which makes accessibility features available to visually-impaired users interacting with ODF-compliant applications, was developed from Microsoft Active Accessibility (MAA). IBM has already donated the iAccessible2 specification to the Linux Foundation. iAccessible2 can run on Windows or Linux and is a set of APIs to make it easy for visuals in applications based on ODF and other Web technologies to be interpreted by screen readers that then reproduce the information verbally for the blind.
Luckily, I’m not visually impaired and have no use for this technology, but I have a friend who works a lot with Web site design so that they can be used by visually-impaired people, and I have listened with interest while he talks about things I previously took for granted. It is important.
Anyway, even if IBM’s motives are not pure and they secretly hope that OOXML never becomes an ISO standard, making this kind of technology freely available has got to be a good thing.
Maybe we should all take another look at OpenOffice.