Take the DOCX vs. ODT format for example. They are both open source and assumably have no clear advantage over each other, but DOCX was created to compete with ODT, which had been existed many years before, to help Microsoft take control the market. Though technically the DOCX is open source, Microsoft confuses the users by not supporting completely ODT format in MS Office, as well as making other open suits unable to read DOCX properly with their patent thicket.

But that's the problem of the MS Office, not the DOCX format itself. From another viewpoint, the DOCX format is already widely used, backed by the wealthy creator and will be fully support by LibreOffice in the future, it seems obvious to me that it would gain more benefit for everyone if we focus our energy into DOCX. I feel like people who refuse to use DOCX are either just hating Microsoft and not accept that its ecosystem is richer, or not being aware of the situation (usually not knowing that DOCX is open source).

Question: Is using DOCX actually helping the community in the long term, even with the cost of advertising MS Office for free as well? What happens if LibreOffice cannot support the format completely?

  • 2
    It may be wise to consider that docx is arguably Microsoft's first foray into the FLOSS realm in the modern era. Of course they didn't get it right. Even to this day there are elements of the company dragging their feet against the "new" MS that is a valued member of the FLOSS community. I think we'll eventually see docx either come to its full potential, or some other format entirely become prevalent.
    – RubberDuck
    Dec 1, 2016 at 1:52
  • @RubberDuck but Microsoft is a giant, and they should think about this carefully. It seems pretty clear that they make it for their profit. If not, then they would had supported or forked the odt format, or at least didn't make the docx so restrictive with patent thicket.
    – Ooker
    Dec 2, 2016 at 4:49
  • @Ooker 1) I think you've edited this into an on topic question, I sincerely hope it's reopened. 2) Obviously they did it for profit, but (just as obviously) someone had good enough intentions to convince a notoriously proprietary company to open the format during an era where nothing MS was open.
    – RubberDuck
    Dec 2, 2016 at 9:07

2 Answers 2


Is using docx will actually helping the community in long term,

Certainly not. See the good answer from User for more.

In addition, look in your favorite Linux distribution, for .doc or .docx files in the system (outside of e.g. /home/ or directories used by applications, such as /var/www/) and supplied by distribution's packages. You could use locate(1) or find(1) (perhaps with grep(1)) to find such files (you probably want them to be under /usr/).

You'll discover that most Linux distributions don't have any .doc or .docx files, except perhaps as some examples related to free software trying to process such files (e.g. testcases for such software, for example /usr/share/texmf/doc/fonts/tex-gyre-math/test-word-texgyre_bonum_math.docx on my Debian/Sid, part of fonts-texgyre package).

not knowing that docx is open source

But docx, as the format output by recent MicroSoft Word, is not open source (it is not exactly OOXML, but OOXML with proprietary extensions). It is still a proprietary format, not an open format. The evil is in the details (that is, the "exceptions" and "additions" mentioned in that other good answer).

And that is precisely why .docx is practically unused in Debian (and related distributions, like Ubuntu), and probably on most other common Linux distributions.

I'm hoping (probably naively) that MicroSoft will commit patches to e.g. LibreOffice for better support of .docx by it. Or that the default output format of Word becomes exactly ISO/IEC 29500, i.e. OOXML (without any proprietary extensions). That won't happen soon. See also this about inconsistencies in MicroSoft OOXML. By the way, that OOXML specification is extremely complex, and I guess people need years of work to understand it, and they need even more work to understand how MicroSoft is violating it, and become "bug-compatible" with MicroSoft software.

(I didn't use Word since the previous century, but I heard that MicroSoft Word cannot even be configured to emit exactly according to OOXML standard; please tell me if I am wrong)

When and if that happens, LibreOffice or OpenOffice will soon become fully interoperable with Microsoft Word products. Today, that is not the case (even if they are mostly interoperable in practice; but when you work on the same document with partners having to use Word, these differences hurt a lot).

My belief and opinion is that writing a documentation in .docx for some new free software is practically a sure method to kill any chance of success of that free software (because that .docx format will rightly refrain packagers to incorporate my free software in their Linux distribution, and forbid, or discourage, or slow down other free software developers wanting to contribute to "my" new free software).

  1. I would also like to know what "helping the community" means. With Galtungs definition of peace: "mutual and equal benefit", then does "helping" mean it's benefit to everyone in the community equally?

  2. Here is an input of mine: http://hintjens.com/blog:68. Specifically, I would like to know which license the docx specification is under.
    Source: https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd773189(v=office.12).aspx

It seems that I cannot remix this specification (please prove this wrong as it is an essential part of the following argumentation). With this, I apply what I understood from the blog post: Once docx pushes out odt, Microsoft can create a new standard which is a derivative of docx, keep others from implementing that and use that to take over more market share.

To answer 1) I can not deduce that a non-peaceful future is impossible so this leaves me at no clear answer: Microsoft can opt for mutual and equal benefit but they can also take something because they just can.

However, I hope that I gave you some inspiration.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.