How Does Simple Text Markup Differ Across The Office 2007 Suite

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Our theme recently is things that need to be made more consistent in the office products in order to make document generation development more efficient for developers.  This time around we will focus on difference between the way text is marked up in Word and PowerPoint.

I have found that there are a number of subtle but important differences in the way text is written to the Open XML standard.  This is then reflected in the Open XML SDK’s API.

Examples of these differences are apparent in features such as text color, bolding, underlining and bulleted lists.  The main difference seems that the Word team seems to have taken a more object approach and conversely the PowerPoint team seems to favor attributes.  The result is that the PowerPoint definition ends up with more moving parts.  To illustrate this let’s take a look at the setting of text color and underlining a group of text.

Text color is handled in Word simply by applying a Color object to the run properties.  PowerPoint requires a SolidFill object and child SchemeColor and LuminanceModulation objects to get the same effect.

The differences in the way that text is bolded is very similar.  In Word the run is assigned a bold object, but PowerPoint it is a boolean attribute of the run properties.

So what is the impact to the developer.  Code reuse for those of us who have to generate both documents and presentations is next to nothing.  On top of that the learning curve is practically doubled.

I realize that the two products have evolved through separate paths and isolated team, but time for that type of development is long past.  The Open XML standard should be unified where ever possible across the Office Applications and allow for greater interaction between the products.  Ultimately the synchronizing of these tools will lead to greater adoption.

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