Now there the trouble starts. If you want to jointly develop and edit documents you need to be sure that everyone can access the document and open it for editing. This touches on the issue which word processing technology and which document format to use.
To say it very bluntly: standards bodies should use a standard for that. The purpose of standards is to ensure interoperability and thus to facilitate collaboration. That's what the work of standards bodies strives for. And that's what standards bodies should take into account when deciding about their working processes, as well.
The Open Document Format (ODF) is an agreed and accepted ISO standard (brought into ISO by the standards body OASIS) and has successfully been implemented in various products and offerings including, amongst many others, OpenOffice, StarOffice, IBM Lotus Symphony, Google Docs. The great thing is: since all of these products implement one standard and compete on the level of the implementation, you are free to choose between either of these applications for working with the documents they produce.
In other words: the document formats are .odt, .odp, and .ods. So a document called, say, “standard.odt” can be produced with OpenOffice, I put in my comments using Lotus Symphony, my colleagues from partner companies use StarOffice or Google Docs or whatever for inserting their comments. Nobody is forced to buy one single, specific software. Everyone can use what they like best, what they prefer in terms of look and feel.
Therefore, the Open Document Format is best suited for collaboration.
Several standards bodies these days discuss whether to accept Microsoft Office 2007 formats. This means files with the extension .docx; .pptx, .xlsx. To be clear. these formats are not a standard. Office 2007 has, for whatever reasons, not implemented the Open Document Format standard. After the release of Office 2007 Microsoft pushed for a different document format standard called Office Open XML (OOXML); this standard is in the final process phase of ISO. If Microsoft are going to implement it for their products once it is final – which is not clear by now – the current Office 2007 format is already obsolete. Moreover, Office 2007 is not available for different platforms. So as a Linux user you won't ever be able to access the information contained in Office 2007 documents. On the other hand, Microsoft announced that they are going to implement the Open Document Format some time in the near future.
In addition, once collaboration is done, a compromise found and consensus reached, for publishing the final version of a standard there is also an open and accepted ISO standard available: the Portable Document Format, better known as pdf.
All of this drives me to the following conclusion:
- For document formats the Open Document Format standard is available, widely implemented and best suited.
- PDF is best for publishing final versions.
- Moving to Office 2007 does not make sense at all, since the validity of the format is questionable and since users of different platforms than Windows are excluded.