The Full Wiki

Open Packaging Conventions: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Open Packaging Conventions
Developed by Microsoft, Ecma, ISO/IEC
Initial release 2006-12-07; 3 years ago
Latest release ISO/IEC 29500:2008 / 2008-11-17; 13 months ago
Type of format File archive, data compression
Container for Electronic documents
Contained by ZIP
Extended from XML, ZIP
Standard(s) ECMA-376, ISO/IEC 29500
Website ECMA-376,
ISO/IEC 29500:2008

The Open Packaging Conventions (OPC) is a container-file technology initially created by Microsoft to store a combination of XML and non-XML files that together form a single entity such as an Open XML Paper Specification (OpenXPS) document. OPC-based file formats combine the advantages of leaving the independent file entities embedded in the document intact and resulting in much smaller files compared to normal use of XML.

The OPC is specified in Part 2 of the Office Open XML standards ISO/IEC 29500:2008 and ECMA-376.[1][2]



Both the XML Paper Specification (XPS)[3] and Office Open XML (OOXML) use Open Packaging Conventions (OPC), which provide a profile of the common ZIP format. In addition to XML data and document, files in the ZIP package can include other text and binary files in formats such as PNG, BMP, AVI, PDF, RTF, or even an already packaged ODF file. OPC also defines some naming conventions and an indirection method to allow position independence of binary and XML files in the ZIP archive.

OPC files can be opened using common ZIP utilities. Open source libraries for .NET and Java are available for using Open Packaging Conventions. The Open Packaging Conventions is specified in Part 2 of ECMA-376 (131 pages) but is not dependent on other parts of Office Open XML. The Open Packaging Conventions specification also includes details of the ZIP format since ZIP has not actually been specified by any international standard previously, but has widespread community and developer acceptance. The specification refers to PKWARE's specifcation of version 6.2.1 of the ZIP format.[1]


File formats using the OPC

The OPC is the foundation technology for many new file formats:[4]

Application Filename extension
Autodesk AutoCAD .dwfx
Microsoft Semblio .semblio
Microsoft Visual Studio .vsix
Microsoft Windows Azure .cspkg
Office Open XML Document .docx
Office Open XML Presentation .pptx
Office Open XML Workbook .xlsx
Open XML Paper Specification .xps
Siemens PLM Software .jtx

Package, Parts, and Relationships

Container structure of Part 2 of the Ecma Office Open XML standard, ECMA-376

In OPC terminology, the term package corresponds to a ZIP archive and the term part corresponds to a file stored within the ZIP. Every part in a package has a unique URI-compliant part name along with a specified content-type expressed in the form of a MIME media type. A part's content-type explicitly defines the type of data stored in the part, and reduces duplication and ambiguity issues inherent with file extensions.

OPC packages can also include relationships that define associations between the package, parts, and external resources. In addition to a hierarchy of directories and parts, OPC packages commonly use relationships to access content through a directed graph of relationship associations. Relationships are composed of four elements:

  • an identifier (ID)
  • an optional source (the package or a part within the package)
  • a relationship type (a URI-style expression that defines the type of the relationship)
  • a target (a URI to another part within the package or to an external resource)

OPC packages can store parts that contain any type of data (text, images, XML, binary, whatever). The extension ".rels", however, is reserved for storing relationships metadata within "/_rels" subfolders. The subfolder name "_rels", the file extension ".rels" within such directory, and the filename "[Content_Types].xml" in any folder are the only three reserved names for files stored in an OPC package.

/[Content_Types].xml file
This file defines the MIME media types for all the parts stored in the package. The "/[Content_Types].xml" file defines default mappings based on file extensions, along with overrides for specific parts with content-types that are different from the file extension defaults. For example, one of these defined MIME types is:
<Default Extension="rels" ContentType="application/vnd.openxmlformats-package.relationships+xml"/>
The root level "/_rels" folder stores the relationships for the package as a whole. The "/_rels" folder normally contains a file named ".rels". "/_rels/.rels" is an XML file where the starting package-level relationships are stored. Normally when opening an OPC-based file, applications start by accessing to the "/_rels/.rels" file to read the starting package-level relationships.
Each part may have its own relationships. The_rels folders are where one goes to find the relationships for any given part within the package. To find the relationships for a specific part, one looks in the "_rels" folder that is a sibling of that part: If the part has relationships, the "_rels" folder will contain a file that has one's original part name with a ".rels" appended to it. For example, if the content types part file had any relationships, there would be a file called "[Content_Types].xml.rels" inside the "/_rels" folder.

All relationships (including the the relations associated to the root package) are represented as XML files. If you open a ".rels" file in a text editor, you can view the actual XML markup that defines all the relationships targeted from that part. A typical relationships file contains XML code like this:

<Relationships xmlns="">
<Relationship id="wikipedia_R0" Type="" Target="/FixedDocumentSequence.fdseq"/>
<Relationship id="wikipedia_R1" Type="" Target="/Documents/1/Metadata/Page1_Thumbnail.JPG"/>

which defines two relations for the root package, the first one being considered as the root package (here for an early Microsoft XPS document, before it was standardized as Open XML Paper Specification within the openxmlformats collection), and the other one being used to reference an alternate form (here a thumbnail rendered image of the first page of the document).

The main parts of the embedded documents are often stored within a folder named "/Document" (which may contain subdirectories itself, if the file contains several related documents each of them with various parts), and the optional metadata parts that are not needed for processing the main parts of the document are stored in a folder named "/Metadata" ; however these actual folder names are actually specified within the XML-formatted data in "[partname].rels" relationship files, and the OPC specification allows any folder organisation that is convenient for the application and these two folder names are not required.

Microsoft has submitted a draft in 2006 to the Internet Engineering Task Force for a "pack" URI Scheme (pack://) to be used for URI references to OPC-based packages.[5]. The draft has last been revised in February 2009.


OPC has several advantages like indirection, chunking and relative indirection.[6]


It encourages documents to be split into small chunks. This is better for reducing the effect of file corruption.[7] And better for data access: for example, all the style information in one XML part, each separate worksheet or table in their own different parts. This allows faster access and less object creation for clients, and makes it easier for multiple processes to be working on the same document.

Chunking also benefits programmers. Replacing one stylesheet with another becomes a ZIP file operation, not an XML operation. And it reduces the amount of things that a programmer needs to understand, because they can approach the chunks assuming that all the information on a topic is in that chunk: they are spared the mental toil of having to search through a big file with lots of extraneous elements.

Relative indirection

In the Open Packaging Conventions each file that has reference has its own _rels file with the indirection lists. This makes it easier to cut and paste some information with all its associated resources in some cases, provides name scoping to remove the chance of name clashing between files, and so on.


External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address