Massachusetts approves use of Office Open XML

Enterprise Technical Reference Model - Service-Oriented Architecture

After a month of spirited deliberation, Massachusetts’ Information Technology Division has approved Microsoft’s Office Open XML as an acceptable standard for documents.

Last month, the state posted a draft of its new Enterprise Technical Reference Model, which called for executive offices to use open formats based on Extensible Markup Language, such as OOXML and OpenDocument Format (ODF). Comments were due July 20.

On Aug. 1, the state posted the approved version of that reference model, which included OOXML and ODF.

"The commonwealth continues on its path toward open, XML-based document formats without reflecting a vendor or commercial bias," wrote Henry Dormitzer, interim commissioner of the state’s Department of Revenue, and Bethann Pepoli, the state’s acting chief information officer, in a statement.

The reference model has been a lightning rod for controversy since 2005, when then-CIO Peter Quinn mandated that the agency use only internationally standardized open formats. For documents such as spreadsheets and word processing files, the only available format that met the criteria was ODF.

At the time, ODF was not usable with Microsoft Office, the software suite used by most of the state's agencies. Subsequently, Microsoft submitted its own XML-based format -- OOXML -- to the Ecma International standards body, which approved it as a standard. Microsoft is also seeking the International Organization for Standardization’s approval of OOXML and has incorporated it as the default file format in the latest version of Microsoft Office.

When it posted the latest draft of the Enterprise Technical Reference Model, the IT Division received 852 pages of comments, most of which were about the inclusion of OOXML.

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