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It's nice to see Becta trying to take a pragmatic approach here, and it's certainly good advice having been through the mill with my partner who bought and installed Office 2007 for her first year coursework (after the uni said open office wasn't an option) only to find that saving the documents as the required .doc format wiped out all equations in the text. At least paper is still interoperable.

The problem for me is that for interoperability to work there has to be some definite advice, and simply put: the advice:

#To ensure widest compatibility of files between different applications, users of Office 2007 should not save in Microsoft's new Office format (OOXML).

Simply isn't practical if you actually want to *use* the features of Office 2007. In fact Office 2007 isn't as functional as Office XP when saving in "Compatibility Mode". As said before, equation editor from 2007 is just not compatible with previous versions as it relies on the XML based ODF. and it's not the only component where this is the case. With new PCs coming pre-installed with Microsoft Vista, and suppliers charging an "Upgrade" fee to re-install XP (*head explodes*), it's inevitable that Vista and Office 2007 will make their way into our environments.

I'm pleased to see
# Pupils, teachers and parents should also be made aware of the wide range of free-to-use products currently available and on how to use and access them.
# The ICT industry should be facilitating easier access to 'free-to-use' office productivity software.

Frankly, what I'd really like to see is an affirmation of the right (within reason) of students / pupils / others to use the office productivity tools that suit them best. Once this is established, we can lay down the rules as to how documents need to be exchanged and shared for interoperability purposes. It's great that Becta have put out (to my mind) the right advice here, but surely it would have been more helpful to set out the guiding principles for document sharing instead of giving advice for a specific product so that we don't have to go through all this again in 2010, 2013, 2015, 2017....

It would also help to get the idea out there in the general consciousness that alternatives are already here and in use, rather than the tone of the final two recommendations, which imply that the message needs to be got out there about these alternatives. I'm afraid I just see this as laziness. The alternatives are here and in use, it's just easier to put off the discussion until tomorrow, when someone else might have done all the hard work.

What's IMNSHO [http://www.auditmypc.com/acronym/IMNSHO.asp - link added by Seb] needed are recommendations that affirm interoperability generally instead of ones that only discuss and restrict specific products.

Last week's announcement from Microsoft that standard support for the XP platform will be withdrawn from 14th April 2009 - http://support.microsoft.com/lifecycle/?p1=3223 - came as a bit of a shock, though extended support will be available until 2014, which we will no doubt have to pay for.

The key question is of course when security patches and driver updates will stop being developed.

I remember wanting to upgrade to Windows 98 to get CD ROM support. Windows 2000 gave me USB support and much better Internet connectivity; and XP improved stability and security (well mostly). I have yet to
really understand a killer reason to upgrade to Vista, let alone to Office 2007. Anyone out there able to let me have a few?

Good to see Becta advising caution on upgrading, but is it time to start to look at alternatives? Having just bought my daughter a new laptop (comes with Vista naturally) and then forking out another £94 quid for Microsoft Office (student edition), only to find that her lecturers and university ICT infrastructure do not support Office 2007, I can only agree with the previous poster. Document interoperability is more critical than features. I
suppose the issue has taught my daughter how to use rich text format (rtf), which will be useful in an electronic world full of documents formatted in incompatible standards (sic).

Anyone able to read my dissertation written on a Tandy word-processor using Scripsit - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scripsit - stored on an 8"

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