Word 2007 documents rejected by leading science journals: MS trying to impose their ‘standard’ over the one people actually use and which they admit is “really good”

My reply to “Word 2007 documents rejected by leading science journals

Stan Beer wrote: “For reasons known only to itself, Microsoft has changed the default equations editor of Word 2007 so that, unlike previous versions of Word, it is no longer compatible with the globally accepted standard for writing equations in documents, Mathematical Markup Language (MathML).”

Microsoft has never been happy with open standards; they don’t control them you see. Consider how poorly IE tends to render W3C-compliant sites.

I did a little digging and here’s a blog post in which the MS position on formula in Word 2007 is described:

The format that Word 2007 stores its formula in is “OMML” which is short for “Office MathML”, but its only vaguely related to real MathML:

“Naturally there’s been a lot of discussion as to why we even have OMML, since MathML is really good. Brian Jones has addressed that issue in some detail in his Open XML Formats blog. The main problem is that Word needs to allow users to embed arbitrary span-level material (basically anything you can put into a Word paragraph) in math zones and MathML is geared toward allowing only math in math zones. A subsidiary consideration is the desire to have an XML that corresponds closely to the internal format, aiding performance and offering readily achievable robustness.”

There are also descriptions of some differences between how OMML and MathML do things.

So Works 2007 “needs” to break an open standard and ‘desires’ to have it reformatted in the image of Microsoft.

This sounds a bit like “embrace, extend and extinguish” which MS is well-known for.

The author of that page has the nerve to comment “Since both MathML and OMML are XMLs, XSLTs can (and have) been created to convert one into the other. So it seems you can have your cake and eat it too. Thank you XML!”

Sure they can be converted, but that’s not the point; without native support, it becomes a challenge to get it working… and how many average users would be willing to figure out how to do that?

So basically, this is not something people were asking for and if any other company tried to force this through they’d be laughed at and no one would buy their software. But because its MS, they feel they can push through whatever they want.

Stan Beer continued: “It is hard to believe that even Microsoft would be so arrogant as to expect scientists and scientific publishers around the world to switch from the globally accepted MathML standard just so they can use Word 2007. It almost seems as if Microsoft is trying to drive the scientific community into the arms of OpenOffice.org.”

It is hard to believe? :)

BTW, I was checking in Ubuntu Linux and Koffice and Abiword (both separate code bases from OpenOffice.org AFAIK) also support MathML (and ODF).

MS gambled badly with Word 2007 and I really hope they lose their majority Office market share over it. There’s no reason to allow a vendor (even one as big as MS) push you around like that. Beware of FUD which MS will no doubt use to encourage people to stick with them (the current round is over patents, ne? Did you note that even in the MS-Novell deal it appears that OpenOffice.org was specificially excluded from the ‘we won’t sue your users’ part?

Stan Beer concluded: “In any case, as has just been demonstrated by at least two important publishers, the power to dictate standards in the documents space may be starting to shift away from the world’s largest software vendor and toward the user community.”

One can hope…


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