Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Document Speed

The latest chapter of the war of words between Microsoft (with its Office Open XML format) and the ODF Alliance has Microsoft claiming that Office Open XML is faster:

“The use of OpenDocument documents is slower to the point of not really being satisfactory,” Alan Yates, the general manager of Microsoft’s information worker strategy, told ZDNet UK on Wednesday. “The Open XML format is designed for performance. XML is fundamentally slower than binary formats so we have made sure that customers won’t notice a big difference in performance.”

Yates cited a study carried out by that compared 2.0 with the XML formats in Microsoft Office 2003. But Marino Marcich, the managing director of the ODF Alliance, claimed this was not a fair comparison as it was not testing Open XML itself and only examined one implementation of ODF.

The ODF Alliance is right, here. The study compared the speed of OpenDocument files in, with the speed of Office Open XML files in Microsoft Office. Which is really unfair because the general speed of the application will hugely affect the results – anyone who has used will know it’s pretty damn slow.
Right now it isn’t possible to compare the two directly because neither supports the other format yet – you can’t yet open OpenDocument files in Microsoft Office, nor can you open Office Open XML files in That should change soon, however, as an import filter allowing OpenDocument files to opened in Microsoft Office should be released soon and it’s likely that a future release will support Office Open XML. Then, and only then, can proper speed comparisons take place. And I’ll bet that there’s hardly any difference in speed.

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