I got an interesting email today.

It being Saturday, this is a rare thing. Well, it’s a rare thing anyway, my email has been 90% spam since january, but this was interesting in a sort of XML-type way, so you get to hear it to.

Last week, Microsoft put a new newsgroup on it’s public NNTP server (news:msnews.microsoft.com) called microsoft.public.office.xml, which immediately caught my interest. A little while ago, there was some question over whether MS was going to back down on the “Office Will Do XML” stuff, so I asked. I was answered. This is what they said:

From: "Cybarber"

Hi,
There has been a lot of talk about Microsoft scaling down on XML in the
versions of Office 2003.

Hopefully this rumour is unfounded and XML functionality will be in the
Standard edition aswell.

Is there any clarity about this subject already?

From: "Joe_MSFT"

In short, yes, the Professional version will have additional XML capabilites
from the other editions, primarily those based on how customer-defined XML
schema can be used. This was done because the product editions have been
designed to meet the needs of different audiences. A brief overview is
here:
http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/newsroom/office/factsheets/OfficeSKUFS.asp
We will be publishing more details in the coming months.

Can you use XML with all 2003 versions – yes. They will all continue to
have XML Web services support through the Web services toolkit and Word and
Excel will be able to be saved in their respective native XML file formats
that allow for content reuse, transformation, construction and such.

From: Aquarion

Does this mean that any given Office 2003 file in it’s native XML format
– from any version of Office – can be transformed by, say, an XSLT
stylesheet?

It’s possible to remain within XML specs, yet having the main content in
a binary format, and I’ve heard rumours that this is the case.

From: "Joe_MSFT"
I’m not sure I understand what you’re asking, but let me explain.

The binary file format is separate from the XML file format. With
Office 2003, users can choose to save Word and Excel files in EITHER the
binary or XML file format. The binary file formats are similar to what
has existed for the previous versions.

The Word XML format is new for Office 2003. Previous versions of Office
will not know how to interpret the XML and simply open it as a plain
text file. There is no straightforward way to convert old binary files
to XML files, however you could open an old binary file in Word 2003,
for instance, and now save it as XML. This XML file is now usable by
any program that can interpret XML tags.

So it looks like all versions will save as XML, but only the high-price versions will have all the XML modification/DTD stuff in it.