File Under: operating systems

Microsoft Frees Interoperability Docs Library

Microsoft released an entire library of documents aimed at helping developers create programs around the company’s file formats.

Included in the library is a wealth of information on how to develop for Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint binary file formats (.doc, .xls, .xlsb and .ppt). Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 documents are also included. The technical documents are aimed at encouraging data portability, or the ability to transfer information from Microsoft products to other applications.

“Microsoft’s cumulative posting of approximately 50,000 pages of technical documentation on MSDN provides consistent, open access for all developers,” said Craig Shank, general manager of Interoperability at Microsoft, “which enhances the ease and opportunities for working with Microsoft’s high-volume products.”

The press announcement, under the headline “Microsoft Takes Additional Steps in Implementing Interoperability Principles,” suggests Microsoft’s aim is to adapt to today’s playing field by opening their software and systems to the marketplace. The strategy rivals Google, Yahoo and the open-source community by being more open and relying on the development community outside the company walls for driving the industry’s technology. Previously, Microsoft played a pretty heavy hand by forcing the industry to rely on their proprietary formats with little or no support. Developers were left with no choice as Microsoft faced very little competition.

These days, as technology moves more online and competing companies begin opening their technology for community involvement, the tables have shifted slightly as Microsoft is forced to adapt or fall behind. Microsoft still owns the dominant method of data file formats. However, developers have shown the power to influence data formats and are most often attracted to where the technology is available.

Lately, that data format of choice has been XML, an open data format particularly popular within web applications. As the the format gains steam through adoption, it has posed a threat to Microsoft’s file formats. In fact, Microsoft’s latest iterations of its file formats, a technology named OpenXML, is based on XML technology.

The new release, coincidentally announced on the first business day after founder and CEO Bill Gates left the company, shows a new interest in working with the developer community in propagating these data formats.

Head to MSDN to access the library and for a lot more information on it and its proprietary licenses.