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Google Puts Off Microsoft Office Document Format Change

Google this week announced that it has postponed a planned Google Apps shift in which export support to older Microsoft Office document formats would be dropped.

The company still plans to drop export support to Microsoft Office document formats such as .DOC, .XLS and .PPT. However, that shift will now take place on Jan. 31, 2013, instead of the originally planned date of October 1, 2012.

Google indicated that it never did make that change on October 1, but instead held off to give its customers more time.

"We recognize that some of our customers would like more time before the change goes into effect," the company explained in a blog post. "As you may have noticed, that change did not go into effect on October 1. In order to support our customers and help them through the transition, we have delayed the export format change for scheduled release track customers until January 31, 2013."

Newer Microsoft Office suites, such as Office 2007, Office 2010 and even Office 2013, use the Open XML-based document format that ends in an "X." For instance, files are saved with .DOCX, .XLSX and .PPTX extensions, representing Word, Excel and PowerPoint, respectively. Open XML was accepted as an international document format standard by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 2008 following a rancorous ratification process.

The main change that occurred with ISO standardization was a switch from Microsoft's proprietary binary document format to a standards-based XML-based format, which will help ensure future readability of document files, an important consideration for institutions needing to preserve electronic documents, such as governments. A rival OpenDocument Format (ODF) international standard also exists that's primarily used in non-Microsoft productivity suites, but it's also supported by newer Microsoft Office versions.

Those stuck on Microsoft Office 2003 and older Office versions can download a Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack here. Installing this pack will let users save newer XML-based Office files into the older binary format.

Exactly why Google decided to end support for Microsoft's older binary document format in the Google Apps export process wasn't explained. The company had originally given its customers a three-day advance warning before it planned to make the change.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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