Open Specifications General FAQ RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • This material should not be considered as a complete coverage of the frequently asked questions. Its goal is to capture the high-level questions in the Open Specifications areas.



    Who are the intended audiences for the Open Specifications?

    • The Open Specifications documentation is for the following audiences:
      • Implementers: The documentation provides conceptual and reference information for an implementation of one or more protocol, file format, standard, or language specification.
      • Reviewers: The documentation provides a resource for readers who want to evaluate or understand one or more Windows, Windows Server, Office, SharePoint, or Exchange protocol as well as certain Microsoft file formats, the implementation of specific standards in certain Microsoft products, and specific Microsoft languages.


    How do I get access to the Open Specifications?

    • The technical specifications are available to view and download from MSDN at no charge. Many of the technical specifications include patented inventions. Rights to implement the technical specifications under some of those patents are available for no charge under the Open Specification Promise or the Community Promise. The remaining patents are available primarily through various Programs, which principally vary with respect to the scope of the protocols and technical specifications covered. For each program, Microsoft makes available lists identifying the patents and patent applications that cover each of the specifications included.  To access these lists as well as information on patent license agreements or patent covenant agreements, please visit the Open Specifications website or email the Open Specifications Team.


    How do I download a copy of the documents?

    • The technical documentation is available on MSDN in online browsable format. Individual technical documents may be viewed or downloaded in PDF format. Note that links between PDF documents will work only if both PDF documents are saved in the same directory.


    How often are the Open Specifications updated?

    • Microsoft updates the technical documentation in connection with the release of a new version or an update to the relevant product.  In such circumstances, the relevant technical documentation will be updated upon release of the first beta for the new version or update and then again upon release to manufacturing of the new version or update.  In the interim, Microsoft also updates the technical documentation to correct errors or in response to developer feedback.


    How do I know what has changed from one version of a document to the next?

    • Substantive, non-editorial changes in the documents are tracked. The revision history summary at the front of each document summarizes the extent of the changes made by each revision. The change tracking table at the end of each document lists the specific changes made in the most recent revision of the document. If you need help with change tracking, please make a request on the Open Specifications User Forums on MSDN.


    How are the Open Specifications organized?

    • The Open Specifications are organized into separate nodes in the Open Specifications library on MSDN:
      • Forums and Blogs. This node contains a list of the different forums where developers can post questions about the protocol documentation.
      • Licensing Programs. This node contains lists identifying those technical specifications included in various patent license and patent covenant agreement programs. To learn more about these programs, please visit the Open Specifications website or contact the  Open Specifications Team.
      • Preview Specifications. This node contains preview or pre-release versions of the Open Specifications for community review and feedback.
      • Archive. This node contains historical copies of certain documents previously published in the open specifications. This includes specifications that have been retired or replaced with new documents.
      • Protocols. This node contains technical specifications for protocols used by Windows, Microsoft Office, SharePoint Server, Exchange Server, and Microsoft SQL Server.
      • Computer Languages. This node contains technical specifications for certain Microsoft computer languages that are used by Microsoft products.
      • Standards Support. This node contains documentation detailing support for certain standards implemented in Microsoft Exchange Server and Microsoft Outlook, Internet Explorer, SQL Server, Windows WordPad, as well as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
      • Data Portability. This node contains documentation that explains how user-created data in Microsoft Office and Microsoft SQL Server can be extracted for use in other software products.


    Where should I start?

    • If you are interested in interoperability with a particular product or technology, the best place to start is the relevant overview document for that product or technology. In addition, the  Open Specifications website and  Open Specifications Developer Center include additional developer training materials that may provide a useful introduction to particular technology areas.


    Why are some documents marked “preliminary?”

    • Documents that include information regarding new or updated protocols implemented in beta technology are marked “preliminary.”  The information they contain may change if the protocol changes prior to commercial release.  The “preliminary” mark is removed when the final documentation is released.


    How can developers submit document-related issues?

    • Anyone can submit an issue with regard to any of the Open Specifications by posting a question in the relevant User Forum.


    Patents and Patent Licensing and Covenant Agreements

    Do I need a patent license to use the Open Specifications?


    Support and Interoperability Testing

    Are there additional support options for implementers of the Open Specifications?

    • Yes, please visit the Open Specifications website for information about support options for developers implementing the Open Specifications.


    Is sample code available for protocols?

    • Microsoft does not supply sample code for protocols. However, IDL definition files are provided for RPC protocols. Access to Microsoft Windows source is handled through the Shared Source Initiative. Through the Shared Source Initiative, Microsoft licenses product source code to qualified customers, enterprises, governments, and partners for debugging and reference purposes.  


    Does Microsoft make any of its interoperability tests and tools available to developers?

    • To help developers who are implementing the Open Specifications, Microsoft makes a variety of interoperability testing opportunities available. For more information about those opportunities, please visit the Open Specifications website or email the Interoperability Test Team.


    Additional Resources

    The following MSDN blogs contain additional information that may be useful to developers:


    Microsoft Open Specifications Support Team Blog

    Contains technical articles by the Windows and Office Interoperability support team members.


    Office Interoperability

    Contains articles regarding events, document releases, tool updates, and other announcements.

    Microsoft Message Analyzer - Microsoft's free network and message protocol analyzer

    Microsoft Message Analyzer (MMA) is a free network protocol analyzer utility that runs on Windows, which allows you to view and capture network related protocol traffic.  In many cases, when you are posting questions on the Open Specifications support forums, a capture will be required if the on-the-wire packet behavior does not match the documentation.  At the very least, MMA will help the Microsoft Open Specifications support team quickly understand your request. 


    Submitting a MMA Capture:

    You can gather traces and analyze the data using the latest version of Microsoft Message Analyzer. In some cases protocol validation exceptions will be displayed in the UI.  Future versions of MMA will include additional parsers for Windows and Office Protocol Documents. The latest version of MMA is available here:


    Support for MMA:

    For questions about using Microsoft Message Analyzer or the Parsers please visit their forums here:


    The MMA team also has a blog at, which contains helpful tips on filtering, capturing, and many other topics.


    MMA was designed for Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, and future operating systems in mind. For earlier operating systems you can use NetMon, Wireshark, or your favorite capture utility, as long as you can save in Netmon 2.x format or pcap version 2.4.

    Josh Curry (jcurry) | Escalation Engineer | Open Specifications Support Team

    Tuesday, March 25, 2014 5:54 PM