It's official: Massachusetts approves Open XML

Bringing two years of sometimes rancorous debate to a close, Massachusetts' information technology office has approved Microsoft's Office Open XML as an acceptable standard for office documents.

Last month, the state posted a draft of its new enterprise technical reference model, which called for executive offices to use Extensible Markup Language-based open formats such as OOXML and the Open Document Format (ODF) for office documents. Comments were due July 20. Early this month, the state posted the new approved version of that reference model, which included both OOXML and ODF.

'The commonwealth continues on its path toward open, XML-based document formats without reflecting a vendor or commercial bias,' said Henry Dormitzer, interim commissioner of the department of revenue, and Bethann Pepoli, Massachusetts' acting chief information officer, in a statement.

The reference model has been a lightning rod of controversy since 2005, when then-CIO Peter Quinn mandated the use of only internationally standardized open formats. For office documents, such as spreadsheets and word processing files, ODF was the only available format that met the criteria.

ODF was not, at the time, usable within Microsoft Office, the office productivity suite used by most of the state's offices. Subsequently, Microsoft submitted its own XML-based format, OOXML, to the Ecma standards body, where it was approved as a standard. It currently is going through approval as an international ISO standard. It is also the default file format for the latest version of Microsoft Office.

For this latest draft, the agency received 852 pages of comments when it posted the draft of the reference model, mostly about the inclusion of OOXML.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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