Managing Documents and Business Processes in Office System 2007 (XML)

October 11, 2006

In past versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint®, Microsoft relied on a default file structure based on binary files written in a proprietary format. These formats have been very hard to read and modify unless you go through the object model of the hosting Office application, such as Word and Excel. As a result, companies have tried to run Office desktop applications on the server, which poses problems with scalability and robustness not to mention expense.Office 2000 and Office 2003 added some modest capabilities for creating Excel workbooks and Word documents using XML. In the 2007 Office release, we  take this idea much further by adopting the Office Open XML File Formats for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. These formats use a new file standard for creating composite documents containing multiple inner XML files that factor out content from other aspects of the document such as formatting instructions, data, and code.The top-level file in the Office Open XML File Formats is known as a package and it is structured using standard XML and ZIP technologies. The internal files contained within a package are known as parts. Many parts within Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files contain XML structured in accordance with published XML schemas. Other parts within a package can consist of binary files for items such as graphics, audio clips, and video.A major goal of the Office Open XML File Formats is to provide a standard approach for reading, manipulating, and generating documents in server-side scenarios where using the object model of a desktop application such as Word or Excel isn’t a viable option. Think about a scenario in a MOSS portal site when you have created and configured an event handler to fire whenever someone uploads a new Word document. The new Office Open XML File Formats make it significantly easier to extract data or to perform hygiene on the document such as removing comments and personal information. You can also use Office Open XML File Formats to develop server-side components that generate Office documents on the fly using data pulled from content sources such as a WSS list or the BDC.To get started working with the Office Open XML File Formats, you need to learn how to program against the new WinFX® packaging API. You must also learn the specific package structure and XML schemas for the type of Office document you are working with. Some of these details will change as you move between Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. Microsoft has started a developer community effort around the Office Open XML File Formats at openxmldeveloper.org and you’ll begin to see the myriad of user based productivity gains that could be achieved.

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