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Microsoft Office and XML:
An Interview with
Charles Goldfarb

SEPTEMBER 12, 2003

Charles F. Goldfarb is the father of XML technology. He invented SGML, the Standard Generalized Markup Language on which both XML and HTML are based. His XML Handbook (ISBN: 0130497657) is now in its 5th edition with over 100,000 copies in print in six languages. We asked Charles about his reasons for writing XML in Office 2003.

Tell us how a quote from you ended up in Microsoft's press release announcing the new features in Office 2003?

Jean Paoli, Microsoft's XML architect, was an early implementer of my markup language technology about 20 years ago. He and Peter Pathe, the Microsoft VP for Office, visited me last fall to preview the product and frankly, I was ecstatic. I felt my original vision for markup languages was starting to be realized, so I gladly agreed to share that opinion in their press release.

Did this also relate to what inspired you to write this book?

Very definitely. I realized that for the first time, XML would be part of the productivity toolset of over 300 million people — not just software developers, but normal human beings! They would need help learning what XML was all about and how it could improve their daily work.

Can you put in terms a layperson can understand what affect the inclusion of XML in OFfice is going to have on the typical Office user?

Well, it really takes a book, but ...

In a nutshell, it eliminates isolation by supporting information sharing, Web Services access, and enterprise-wide data integration:

  1. Office users will be able to share documents more easily, without error-prone rework.
  2. Office documents will be able to contain live data from Web Services.
  3. The data in Office documents will be capturable for enterprise databases, and live enterprise data will available for use in documents.

Does XML in Office bear on Microsoft's broader and highly publicized .NET and Web Services initiatives?

Indeed, that was probably a prime motivator for Microsoft. XML in Office provides data capture at the source for .NET applications. It also provides convenient information access for end users, minimizing the workload for the IT department.

Why did you choose to work with Priscilla Walmsley on this project?

Office relies on XML Schema, which is a very powerful and complex technology for defining the types of XML documents you want to create and process. Priscilla is one of the W3C experts who developed XML Schema, and she has a real gift for explaining it clearly, as I learned when I edited her book Definitive XML Schema (ISBN: 0130655678). Plus, she is herself an Office power user, so she understands how to be relevant to the needs of Office users.

To the XML in Office 2003 home page ...