Word Excellence Day has ticked along to date with almost no direct involvement from Microsoft but last week’s conference was notably different, perhaps thanks to a session on The Open Document Format for Office Applications, or ODF.
The day, which took place on 12 October in partnership with Tikit and run by the UK Document Excellence Group, saw 130 attendees turn up to the BT Centre in St Pauls, London.
The agenda included keynote session ‘Documents and Beyond – The Present and Future of Microsoft Word and Office’, which was presented by Microsoft product marketing manager for Office 365, Levente Nagy.
The session included a look at some of the features available in 365 that were put in after the release of Office 2016, but what is almost more interesting is Nagy’s disclosure that he has joined the LinkedIn groups for the UK Document Excellence Group and, going forward, will make himself available to members. Andrea Bowyer, chair of the group and IT application and training analyst at Ward Hadaway, said: “It’s given our members direct access to Microsoft; we’ve established a proper relationship with them now.”
Microsoft’s piqued interest is unlikely to be a coincidence, given that one of the key focusses of the meeting was ODF; the XML-based file format for spreadsheets, charts and word documents that is gaining global traction but introduces hidden compatibility issues with legal documents.
Selected in 2014 by the UK government as the standard for editable documents across its multiple departments (against heavy lobbying from Microsoft, which urged the government not to adopt a single document format standard but include its own Open XML), ODF allows users to send, view and share office documents regardless of what software they have or device they are using.
The legal sector – notoriously wedded to Word much to the frustration of many a project manager – is unlikely to ditch its favourite bit of software any time soon. But Bowyer said: “It’s a great open standard so we expect to see more of these documents coming through, especially from firms with public sector clients.”
Law firms are advised to beware, as one or two compatibility issues may present serious problems in the editing process. Bowyer warns: “At the moment, there are things that are not compatible with legal documents. When a document is saved in that format, track changes are automatically saved and potentially you would be none the wiser.”
ODF was developed by a committee formed under OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) consortium and The UK Document Excellence Group has contacted OASIS about compatibility issues and plans to write a white paper raising awareness of the issue.
In the meantime, call Microsoft.