The default file format for the next version of Office will be XML, it has been revealed. Office 12 will employ "Microsoft Office Open XML Formats", the default format for the new generation of Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications. Office 12 is slated to be with us in 2006.

Microsoft believes that a move to XML will make for better data recovery, and will also boost security. It is now possible, for example, for files with hazardous code to have the malicious portions spotted before execution. Office applications will also have greatly increased interoperability because of a move to XML.

The formats will improve the sharing of information for collaborative projects and augment corporate workflows. The new file formats will help applications access documents and spreadsheets without manual entry, boosting worker productivity.

Moreover, the formats come with a royalty-free license, meaning any developer can integrate them with their tools without paying Microsoft.