Microsoft might be offering up its XML-based Office specs and formats with a promise not to prosecute, but that hasn't stopped it from locking down another patent on the suite.
The company has been awarded a US patent apparently intended to protect the formatting and editing of Word documents that use XML.
Microsoft's patent appears designed not just to cover documents on the desktop but also those being stored and edited online in its Office Web apps - due later this year.
Significantly, the patent award covers "the manipulation of word-processing documents [that] may be done on computing devices that do not include the word-processor itself."
On protection of formatting, the patent said: "There are no feature losses when saving the word-processor documents as XML."
Presumably, this patent is part of Microsoft's Office Open XML file format, which was accepted as an ISO standard after much international politicking last year and is also an ECMA standard.
OOXML is covered by Microsoft's Open Specification Promise, under which Microsoft promised not prosecute those using, selling, or distributing its implementation of a technology or specification.
OpenOffice, touted by many as an alternative to Microsoft's Office, is destined to look a whole lot more like its prime competitive target in the near future. The largely Sun-Microsystems-backed OpenOffice has revealed a planned new look and feel that adopts the ribbon interface Microsoft introduced to its own productivity suite with Office 2007.
The change, part of Project Renaissance, is a risky move: Microsoft's ribbon interface has served to confuse rather than help users, because of its departure from the familiar drop-down system of menus to access hidden features. You can see the change here. ®