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ISO and IEC approve Office Open XML document format standard

Geneva, 1 April 2008

The International Standards Organization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) have approved ISO/IEC DIS 29500, Office Open XML File Formats as an International Standard. Approval requires at least 2/3 (i.e. 66.66 %) of the votes cast by national bodies participating in ISO/IEC JTC 1 to be positive; and no more than 1/4 (i.e. 25 %) of the total number of national body votes cast negative. Both of these criteria were achieved, with 75 % of votes cast by national bodies participating in ISO/IEC JTC 1 being positive and only 14 % of all national votes cast being negative.

Open XML is a platform-independent open standard for word-processing documents, presentations and spreadsheets. The standard has been widely adopted by hundreds of organizations throughout the industry, and serves to ensure the long-term preservation of documents by maintaining compatibility and fostering continuing advances in the field of documents and information technology.

Independent software vendors, including Apple, Corel, Microsoft and Novell have already shipped implementations of the Open XML standard within popular applications such as iWork, iPhone, WordPerfect, Open Office and Microsoft Office 2007.

“ISO/IEC approval of this global standard represents an important milestone in our goal to support access to billions of existing binary documents, as well as to enable interoperability across office productivity applications and with line-of-business systems , ” said Dr. Istvan Sebestyen, Secretary General of Ecma International. “The constructive input provided by ISO/IEC National Bodies around the world to improve and clarify the DIS text has resulted in an enhanced open standard that meets extensive requirements to support continued implementation across the industry. I would like to take this opportunity to thank ISO, IEC, JTC 1, the National Bodies and Ecma TC45 for their hard work and for their valuable contributions in this project. The process was very effective, the specification is much-improved, and we are pleased with the impressive support for its ratification.”

IS 29500 marks the culmination of joint development efforts over the past two years by the members of Ecma Technical Committee 45 (TC45) and through its subsequent submission of the Ecma International specification to the ISO/IEC process for additional input from the global standards community.

“ISO/IEC approval maximizes the ability of independent software vendors such as NextPage to deliver solutions to customers who have existing binary documents,” said Tom Ngo, CTO of NextPage and member of Ecma TC45. “As the sole representative of ISVs on TC45, we worked hard to foster interoperability and conformance conditions that help to level the competitive playing field. This approval puts control of Open XML in the hands of the international community.”

Just as we have worked to establish and steward our print collections, the British Library is committed to preserving and providing access to the U.K.’s digital heritage,” said Adam Farquhar, head of   Digital Library Technology  at the British Library, and vice-chair of Ecma TC45. “Establishing Office Open XML as an open standard substantially enhances our ability to achieve this. It’s an important step forward for digital preservation and will help us fulfill the British Library’s core responsibility of making our digital collections accessible for generations to come.”

The U.S. Library of Congress believes that the preservation of digital content for future generations will be much easier if widely used software applications use formats with full public specifications that will be maintained by the global community going forward,” said Martha Anderson, Director of Program Management, National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program. “The approval of Office Open XML as an international standard has important benefits for libraries and other archival institutions for generations to come.

For more information: please contact Dr. Istvan Sebestyen, Secretary General of Ecma International. Email:



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