Microsoft Takes Heat for Office 2003 SP3 File Format Blocking

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2008-01-03 Print this article Print

CorelDraw .CDR files are one of the formats that have been blocked.

Microsoft is facing criticism from a competitor and some customers for its decision to block some older file formats with Office 2003 Service Pack 3, which it released last September. The only non-Microsoft file format that was blocked by Service Pack 3 was CorelDraw .CDR files.
"CorelDraw users can rest assured that they can still use the CorelDraw Graphics Suite normally on a system where Microsoft Office 2003 Service Pack 3 has been installed," Gerard Metrallier, Corels director of graphics product management, said in a statement released Jan. 3.
"This update from Microsoft does not impact CorelDraw at all or the capability of opening .CDR files from within CorelDraw or from Windows Explorer," he said. The service pack also blocks some of Microsofts own file formats, according to a Knowledge Base article the company released that covers the issue. "After you install Office 2003 SP3, some Microsoft Office Excel 2003, Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003, Microsoft Office Word 2003, and Corel Draw (.cdr) file formats are blocked. By default, these file formats are blocked because they are less secure. They may pose a risk to you," the article states. Click here to read more about Office 2003 SP3. Corel, like some customers, is wondering what the basis was for Microsofts decision to block some older file formats for being "less secure." "We have unsuccessfully tried to figure out the basis for categorizing .CDR files as less secure, and sites such as FrSIRT or US-CERT dont have any information about CorelDraw. However, we are currently working with Microsoft to get more details about this issue, as we want to make 100 percent certain our file formats pose no security concern for any of our users," Metrallier said. Metrallier said that if there is a known problem that has security implications, "we will get this resolved as quickly as possible." Microsoft could not immediately be reached for comment. Other online commentators have criticized Microsofts decision to block these older file formats by default. When Microsoft made Office 2003 SP3 available as a free download last September, a company spokesperson told eWEEK that the service pack included new features and tools—such as MOICE (Microsoft Office Isolated Conversion Environment) and File Block—which were developed as part of the 2007 Microsoft Office system. Whats so hard to understand about MOICE? Click here to read more. These two security tools were released separately earlier in 2007,and reduced the threat of malware concealed within Microsoft Office documents, a white paper released along with the service pack said. MOICE allows users to open Microsoft Office documents from unknown senders with relative safety. It uses the converters in the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2007 file formats to convert binary format files into the newer Office Open XML format, the paper said. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.
Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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