Fulfilling a Promise to Advance Interoperability


Posted by William Kennedy
Corporate Vice President, Office Communications and Forms

Many customers today organize their private and professional lives in e-mail, where they routinely store essential data.  Microsoft Outlook and similar programs have long since replaced the rolodex or the pocket diary as people’s primary repositories for contacts, photos, calendar items and more.  As the tools we use change, so do the reasons we use them.  If you’ve ever searched through old e-mail for a friend’s phone number, or if you work within an organization concerned about regulatory and compliance issues, you likely understand why having easy access to the data stored in e-mail files is important.

Given the importance of Outlook and our other high-volume products to computer users we’ve taken great strides to advance their openness and transparency, in keeping with our Interoperability Principles.   Today, we have met another milestone on the path toward greater interoperability.

This spring, we released detailed technical documentation for a file format (.pst) used in recent versions of, Microsoft Outlook, our most popular e-mail application.  By releasing the technical documentation and protocols for communicating with Outlook data, we are making it easier to enhance corporate compliance, e-Discovery, security, search, and enterprise content management. These types of applications can interoperate with the .pst data, even if they run on other platforms – including those of our competitors.  The documentation we have released provides a new way of accessing this data, regardless of whether Outlook is installed. 

This is not the first time we have released detailed technical specifications for the protocols used to communicate with our products. We’ve done it before with Microsoft Office 2007 SP2, and more recently with Microsoft Office 2010.  We’ve published more than 33,000 pages of technical documentation relating to interoperability with Office products, spurring some 250,000 downloads over the past year alone.  The .pst file format documentation follows the publication of thousands of pages of protocols provided since the release of Microsoft Office 2007 SP2 and the publication of the Outlook Personal Folders File Format (.pst) Structure Specification under the Microsoft Open Specification Promise.

Today we also released two open source projects for developers that complement the documentation and provide an easier path to access the data.  You can find more information about these tools onInteroperability@Microsoft.  The code is available on Codeplex.com under the Apache 2.0 license, allowing developers to freely download and use the code in accordance with the terms of that license.  While the .pst file format previously required a Microsoft Outlook license to access, the documentation and tools obviate that need, enabling greater interoperability with the data than ever before.

Customers, partners and competitors are responding positively to the release of our Outlook documentation.  We’re confident that the information released today will inspire new innovation, enable greater customer choice and increase opportunity in the market.  We believe they will also help our customers better navigate today’s complex IT environments, where better access to information and increased transparency are steadily improving interoperability.


Tags: ,