Calling all .doc, .ppt and .xls files, your time is up. That’s the word from the Redmond monster today in what will be a subtle, but significant change for its next version of Office.
The old favourites are being dropped in favour of XML (Extensible Markup Language): the smaller, faster, more secure file format already used in many millions of web page encodings. Users will still be able to revert to the old formats via the “save as” feature but, as everyone knows, once Microsoft gets an idea in its head the change tends to come by force, since many users are simply too uncomfortable with computers to shy away from the default settings.
Importantly, a free tool that will allow owners of previous Office editions to view Office 12 documents will be released to coincide with the new software when it makes its debut in the second half of 2006. In addition, a second tool which can reformat .doc, .ppt and .xml files en mass is also under development (so that’s one massive headache avoided).
In all fairness, giving the market a gentle shove over to XML does make sense. Word files bloat horribly when graphics are added, Excel files don’t offer the security they should for important tables and spreadsheets and PowerPoint files are simply way too big.
It’s like the floppy disk, let it go people, just let it go.