When Microsoft launches Office 2007 in early 2007, the office productivity suite will introduce new XML-based file formats.
Rather than the traditional .doc, .xls and .ppt formats found in previous versions of Office, Office 2007s new Word, Excel and PowerPoint formats will be designated as .docx, .xlsx and .pptx, respectively.
Duke Energy, of Charlotte, N.C., is planning to migrate to Office 2007, but the IT managers there plan to take it slow. Jeff Worboys, product line manager of desktop productivity applications at Duke Energy, said he is thinking about setting up the new suite so that users are creating and saving files in the Office 1997 to 2003 formats during the migration period.
Worboys is also is looking into the possibility of installing the compatibility pack that Microsoft has made available for Office 2003—software downloads that allow older versions of Office to read, save and write to the newer file formats.
Duke Energy is a Microsoft TAP (Technology Adoption Program) member and is currently looking at Office 2007 with an emphasis on major Office applications that are critical business tools. Worboys said he will migrate more than 30,000 users to Office 2007 sometime in 2008, with some business groups possibly deploying earlier based on need.
"My current plan—of course, its still pretty early—is to have a mixed environment for a little while," Worboys said. "Im looking at putting out the compatibility package for Office 2003 so that if we do create .xlsx files, they will still be usable within the corporation. Well try to keep people away from those formats until we can get a handle on things, though."
To avoid confusion, eWeek Labs recommends that IT managers who deploy Office 2007 initially follow suit—default to the older Office 1997 to 2003 file formats until the entire enterprise is able to read, edit and save using the new file formats.
While getting users accustomed to the new file formats will take some time, Worboys said the move out of binary file formats will be worthwhile.
"There have been problems, especially with Word with internal database corruptions," he said. "With XML-based formats, we should be able to get the data back out without having to request copies off of tape."
There are some IT managers who are less enthusiastic about the new Microsoft file formats, however. They would like to see Microsoft support the OASIS ODF (Open-Document Format).
Theyre out of luck—for now, at least. Although Microsoft finally is allowing users to save in the PDF format in Office 2007, there has been no move so far by the company to support ODF.
Ed Benincasa, an eWeek Corporate Partner and vice president of MIS at FN Manu-facturing, in Columbia, S.C., said Microsoft needs to make it easier for users to exchange documents by supporting industry standards such as ODF.
"Businesses need to communicate worldwide, and software manufacturers should be helping to accomplish document compatibility and not hindering it," Benincasa said. "If Office is the best value, then Microsoft should not have to worry about its market share. Let the product speak for itself and not because of a custom format."
Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at email@example.com.