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Google Apps Drops Export Support for Older Microsoft Office Files

Those using Google Docs can no longer directly export their files to the older Microsoft Office binary file formats.

The change, effective today, means that users can only download Google Docs files to the newer Microsoft Office XML-based file formats, as signified by file extensions with an "X" at the end, such as .DOCX, .XLSX and .PPTX. The change affects "Google Apps, Google Apps for Business [and] Government and Education" editions, according to a Google announcement made last week. Consumer users of the free Google Docs version are also affected by the export limitation, according to a Google spokesperson, via e-mail.

Google's announcement indicated that the change affects Office users from Office 97 to Office 2003. Still, Google Docs users aren't without resources. They can download the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel and PowerPoint Formats, which is available here. The Compatibility Pack allows the newer XML-based formats to be saved as .DOC, .XLS and .PPT files.

Microsoft, in a blog post, has depicted Google's dropping of export support as a major differentiation between Microsoft and Google in terms of providing support for organizations. Google only gave a three-day notice before dropping the export support, the blog notes. However, with the Compatibility Pack installed, the nuisance of saving files to the older format will likely be something that users of older Office suites are already accustomed to doing. For instance, they likely are already used to getting Office files in the new XML formats when working with others outside the company.

The larger question concerns standards support. Microsoft recently announced that full compliance with the Strict Open XML and Transitional Open XML standard will happen with Office 2013. In a peculiarity of the ISO/IEC standard-making process for Open XML, which is the new file format currently used in Office 2007 and Office 2010, Microsoft didn't even support the standard it helped to foster in its products. That led bitter participants in the standardization process, such as IBM (which backed the rival OpenDocument Format standard), to declare that they would only support the Strict Open XML standard for document file format compatibility in their products.

Why Google dropped export capability that it had previously supported is unclear. The Google spokesperson provided the following explanation: "Just a few weeks ago we added the ability to export Google documents directly to the newer Microsoft Office formats (.docx, .xlsx, and .pptx), and we'll be focusing our resources on these newer formats instead."

It's also unclear how the change might affect users of Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office, a plug-in that lets users collaborate and simultaneously edit Office document files. Google's Cloud Connect technology was acquired when it bought DocVerse in March of 2010, but Microsoft was quick to criticize it when the Google first launched the product.

Google has notably dropped some of its Apps capabilities over time. The Google Apps for Teams collaboration service was ended on September 4. Google developers also stopped supporting the Gears project in February of 2010, which was designed to enable offline functionality for some Web apps.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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