Monthly Archives: November 2007

Benefits of Office 2007 File Format for Home Users!

Microsoft Word 2007, Excel 2007, Access 2007 and PowerPoint 2007 save their documents into a new file format. Microsoft officially calls them "Office Open XML File Formats". (Big name, isn’t it?) You can recognize them from their new icons and their new file extensions.

The benefits of these file formats for home users are so important that I decided to write about them. As a matter of fact, a lot of web sites, blogs and magazines have discussed Office 2007 file formats and have enumerated their benefits. But they usually talk about the benefits for enterprises or, at least, for small businesses. Here, I enumerate the benefits for home users.

These benefits include:

  1. Absolute 100% safety
  2. Very smaller file size
  3. Backward Compatibility

If you wish to know more on Office Open XML File Formats, read Introducing the Office (2007) Open XML File Formats on MSDN.

Benefit #1: Safety

Finally, the age of Macro-virus have come to an end. Office 2007 File Formats are the first document file formats for Windows (beside ".TXT" Plain Text files) that have absolutely no harm potential—and I mean it!

Have trouble understanding? I’ll explain.

You know that picture and music files cannot contain virus or any other type of malware. (To those tech guys: Yeah, I know about that GDI+ thing.) Only executable files have harm potential. Nearly all document files invented before Office 2007 might have had some rudimentary sort of executable code, including Scripts and/or Macro: Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents (up to 2003) could have macros. Web pages (HTML files) could have scripts. Rich-Text documents (".RTF") could have both macros and all other sort of things. Compiled HTML (".CHM") files could have scripts. PDF files could have scripts, although limited. All of these file types have harm potentials.

Some digital criminals have already exploited these harm potentials and created what we call Macro-Virus: Virus inside documents. Macro-Viruses were once a serious a threat. Because of this, still does not allow its community to write FAQs in any format other than Plain Text. (No one likes to open a walkthough guide on Halo: Combat Evolved and witness it infecting and eating away his/her precious Halo: Combat Evolved!)

Word 2007, Excel 2007 and PowerPoint 2007 documents (with .DOCX, .DOTX, .XLSX, .XLTX, .PPTX, .POTX and .PPSX extensions) cannot contain macros, which mean they are absolutely safe to use. You’ll recognize them with their brand-new icons.

Microsoft have not thrown away Macros: No one denies that Macros are very useful. (Well, no one denies that kitchen knifes are very useful as well.) So, Word 2007, Excel 2007 and PowerPoint 2007 documents with .DOCM, .DOTM, .XLSM, .XLTM, .PPTM, .POTM and .PPSM extensions are macro-enabled counterparts of the above but their icons are decorated with shiny exclamation marks on yellow triangles which will terrify users into being careful opening them.

For more info, read "XML file name extensions in the 2007 Office system" for more info.

By the way, there is another rich-text document type that has no harm potentials: XML Paper Specification or XPS documents with .XPS extensions. They are an international standard now. But home users wouldn’t need bothering them.

Benefit #2: Smaller File Size

Basically these new file formats are .ZIP files. Simple test: rename their extensions to .ZIP and see what’s inside.

Being a ZIP file means being smaller… and Word files are really small when compressed.

Benefit #3: Backward Compatibility

You don’t need to buy Office 2007 to take advantage of these new file formats. Actually, they can be opened and saved by Office 2000, Office XP and Office 2003, if you download and install an update called "Compatibility Pack for 2007 Office System".

You may know that Microsoft also allows people to download Word Viewer 2003, Excel Viewer 2003 and PowerPoint Viewer 2003 for free. You can install "Compatibility Pack for 2007 Office System" on them and you can view and print Office 2007 files with them without paying for Microsoft Office.

Compatibility Pack can also "read, honor, and apply information rights management (IRM) protection to documents" as Microsoft put it. I though you’d like to know.

Extra Bonus

Office Open XML File Formats are written in XML whose details of specifications and schema is available royalty-free from Microsoft web site. Home users may indirectly benefit from this: New web services in the future may be available that will allow users to upload, create, edit or share Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2007 documents online.

Something in common!

How about a riddle for a change?

What do you think the following items have in common:

  1. Lord Voldemort
    Lord Voldemort is the main villain in the famous series of J.K. Rowling’s novels, Harry Potter
  2. Bradley Tank
    Standard lightly armored tank/IFV/APC of the United States.
  3. Master Boot Record
    A logical part of Hard Disk
  4. Norton Ghost
    A full-system backup/restore solution by Symantec corp.

Answer: Microsoft Word thinks they are all human names!

Microsoft Office 2003 or 2007 allows you to mark your documents with Smart Tags: Purple dotted underlines like hyperlinks which instead of opening a web page, pop up a menu with various options. Microsoft Word 2003 or 2007 can recognize certain types of data in your document and mark them with Smart Tag, including human names, addresses and measurement units.

Screenshot of Microsoft Word 2007 having detected irrelevant things as human names

Screenshot of Microsoft Word 2007 having detected irrelevant things as human names

Why don’t you see for yourself! Here is a sample Microsoft Word file.

Fun with Smart Tags.docx

Fun with Smart Tags.docx

Edit (2010-05-19): Note that this funny effect no longer works in Microsoft Office 2010 or Microsoft Office Web Apps.

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