We’re used to hearing that the latest versions of out favourite open-source office suites come with better support for Microsoft Office files, but the other way around?

That’s a little less common, but it’s happening.

Microsoft Office 2021 is due for release on October 5 for Windows and macOS systems. Among the (many) new features Microsoft is talking about is Office 2021’s support for the OpenDocument Format (ODF) 1.3.

“The ODF 1.3 format (using the file extensions .odt, .ods, and .odp) is supported in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint alongside the Office Open XML (OOXML) format (which uses file extensions .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx),” Microsoft’s Alfred Hellstern explains:

He adds: “This change means that Office apps will now save to the ODF 1.3 format only. ODF 1.2 and earlier files can be opened, but will be saved as 1.3. Products that only support the 1.2 format, such as older versions of Office, can open a file saved in the 1.3 format but won’t support the new features when saved”.

screenshot of Microsoft office 2021
Office 2021 includes many new features

OpenDocument formats are (finally) becoming more ubiquitous in everyday life — Microsoft going out of its way to support the latest spec in its latest office suite is evidence to that.

Why? Well, it is isn’t solely down to millions of desktop Ubuntu tapping away in LibreOffice et al. While home user’s activities are important, the surge in use of open file formats in businesses, organisations, and governmental bodies around the world is a factor.

We’ve all heard tales of councils and municipalities switching away from closed-source (and pricey) proprietary file formats in favour of cheaper, equivalent open standards.

Better support for open file formats in Office doesn’t just give Office users a hand, but helps ensure those using ODF files don’t hit hurdles in sharing files with companies or organisations that do rely on Microsoft products.

Get Office 2021

FOSS-friendly file formats

Office Home and Student 2021 costs from $149.99 (US) for macOS and Windows 10 and the newly released Windows 11. It includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Microsoft Teams for PC and Mac.

Office Home and Business 2021 costs from $249.99 (US) and includes all of the above plus Outlook for PC and Mac and ‘the right to use the apps for business purposes’.

Both versions are available to buy worldwide from October 5, 2021 direct from Microsoft and other online retailers.

h/t Jimmy Chou

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