IBM, Microsoft snipe over ODF support in Office 2007

In the latest sniping in the long-running feud over document format standards, IBM this week claimed that Microsoft's Excel 2007 corrupted formulas and data in spreadsheets created in the OpenDocument Format.

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In the latest sniping in the long-running feud over document format standards, IBM this week claimed that Microsoft's Excel 2007 corrupted formulas and data in spreadsheets created in the OpenDocument Format.

Microsoft rebuffed the charge, while an industry analyst called the spat an overblown issue that users of ODF-based productivity suites, taking the right steps, can dodge.

Excel 2007 and other parts of Office 2007 began supporting the ODF standard last week with the release of Office 2007 Service Pack 2.

But according to an analysis posted on the personal blog of Rob Weir, chief ODF architect for IBM, Excel 2007 "silently strips out formulas" when reading spreadsheets created by other ODF-compliant programs, such as OpenOffice.org and IBM's Lotus Symphony.

"This can cause subtle and not so subtle errors and data loss," wrote Weir, as results dependent upon dynamic calculations -- today's date, for instance -- become inaccurate.

This data loss is also true when Excel 2007 tries to read spreadsheets created by Microsoft Office 2003 with the aid of a Microsoft-sponsored plug-in or one from Sun Microsystems Inc.

When creating ODF-based spreadsheets, Excel 2007 also saves formulas in a nonstandard location, Weir said. That causes other spreadsheet programs to also fail to read the data properly.

Weir fixed the blame squarely on Microsoft.

"The degree of incompetence needed to explain SP2's poor ODF support boggles the mind and leads me to further uncharitable thoughts," Weir wrote.

Microsoft assigned fault, however, on the latest versions of OpenOffice.org and Symphony that write formulas according to the ODF 1.2 specification. Office 2007's recent update supports ODF 1.1, which is an approved standard. ODF 1.2 has yet to be approved by the nonpartisan OASIS standards body.

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