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[ossig] Microsoft to Support OpenDocument
>From FOSS-PDI list, thanks to Sunil Abraham of IOSN.
In a surprise move, Microsoft is bending to pressure from governments
and will sponsor an open source project to build tools that enable
conversion between its Open XML formats in Office 2007 and OpenDocument
(ODF). The forthcoming Office suite will also support an add-in for
saving directly to ODF.
The Open XML Translator project will be hosted on SourceForge.net, and
is available under the BSD open source license. Microsoft says anyone
can submit bugs and contribute to the project. A beta of the Open XML
translator for Word 2007 will be made available Thursday, which can
convert .docx Word documents to .odf and vice versa.
That final Word 2007 translation tool will ship by the end of 2006, with
converters for Excel and PowerPoint slated to follow early next year.
Each will be made available free of charge. Microsoft is expected to
ship Office 2007 sometime in the first quarter, after announcing a
slight delay last week.
Microsoft has tapped France-based partner Clever Age to create the
OpenDocument tools, along with independent software vendors Aztecsoft in
India and Dialogika in Germany. The translation software will be made
available to older versions of Microsoft Office as well through a
compatibility pack that adds support for Open XML.
Although it was reported in May that the OpenDocument Foundation was
working on a compatibility plug-in, Microsoft's decision to spearhead
the effort is quite an about-face for the Redmond company. OpenDocument
has become a thorn in Microsoft's side, with a number of governments
looking to move to standardized document formats.
The release of OpenOffice.org 2.0 finally provided a viable and free
alternative to Microsoft's ubiquitous Office suite, as well as bringing
OpenDocument into the limelight. ODF is backed by the OASIS standards
body and was certified by the International Standards Organization
(ISO). The state of Massachusetts turned up the heat last September,
announcing plans to switch to ODF and OpenOffice.org by January 1, 2007.
Microsoft responded to the public pressure by developing its own Open
XML formats, which it has submitted to European standards body Ecma for
certification. The company has long said it would not support
OpenDocument, claiming a lack of interest from customers and noting the
necessity for backwards compatibility with older Microsoft Office
However, Microsoft is now acknowledging the importance of
interoperability and says it wants to make choice an option for its
"We believe that Open XML meets the needs of millions of organizations
for a new approach to file formats, so we are sharing it with the
industry by submitting it, with others, to become a worldwide standard,"
said Microsoft XML architect Jean Paoli. "Yet it is very important that
customers have the freedom to choose from a range of technologies to
meet their diverse needs."
By providing a downloadable add-in that enables customers to import
OpenDocument files and export to the format, Microsoft is also making
Office 2007 a possibility for businesses and governments like
Massachusetts that do opt to switch to ODF. But the translation will not
be seamless, the company concedes.
Microsoft notes that OpenDocument still has gaps that are being worked
out by OASIS, such as spreadsheet formulas, macro support and support
for accessibility options. Citing Open XML's accessibility features for
disabled workers, file performance and support for integrating external
XML data, Microsoft says ODF "focuses on more limited requirements."
OpenDocument won't be the only third party file format supported by
Office 2007. The new suite will also support saving to Adobe's PDF
format through a downloadable add-in. Menu options built into the
software will direct customers to a page with the free add-ins.
Sunil Abraham Manager firstname.lastname@example.org www.iosn.net
International Open Source Network - Software Freedom for All
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