Microsoft Office to Support OpenDocument Format

Since this story was originally reported, it has been updated to more accurately describe the OpenDocument Format standard.

Microsoft announced Wednesday the creation of the Open XML Translator project, so its Office suite will support the OpenDocument Format (ODF) standard.

The move comes in response to government requests for Microsoft products to be compatible with ODF, such as the national governments of Belgium and Denmark, and the state government of Massachusetts.

The company said the next edition of Office—Office 2007, now expected early next year—will include menu options for XML, ODF and Adobe Systems’ PDF formats. The ODF support would include Office’s three main formats, namely Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

A prototype of the first translator for Word’s 2007 version will be posted Wednesday on SourceForge.net, a popular site for open-source development. It can be found online, and is available under the Berkeley Software Distribution license, designed for open-source use and revision of software without licensing fees, within general guidelines and principles.

A final version of the Word translator will be available in late 2006, with Excel and PowerPoint translators to follow in 2007, Microsoft said. The translators will be backward compatible, and users will be able to download free compatibility packs for "older versions" of Office, although Microsoft did not specify what the earliest version of Office it will support is.

Partner companies will author the translation tools, with French IT company Clever Age, India’s Aztec Software & Technology Services (Aztecsoft), and Germany’s Dialogika in Germany named as collaborators for the Open XML Translator.

Microsoft had previously opposed ODF, with Office format documents still being the world’s most popular.

ODF is the OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) OpenDocument Format, a standard based on XML (extensible markup language) that aims to create compatibility among documents created using various office productivity suites. ODF has received support from open-source advocates including Sun Microsystems.

-Steven Schwankert, IDG News Service (Beijing Bureau)

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