Microsoft Says 'Yes' to ODF in Office 2007
Published: July 12, 2006
by Alex Woodie
Microsoft has softened its stance on a new document format in Office 2007 and instead will offer support for the Open Document Format (ODF), as well as its rival Open XML format, the company announced this week.
Microsoft will deliver ODF interoperability through a project called Open XML Translator, which the company hopes will help form a "technical bridge" between the Open XML formats to be used in Office 2007 and the ODF format backed by open-source advocates and Sun Microsystems, developer of the Star Office suite of productivity applications that is gaining some momentum.
"By enabling this translator, we will make both choice and interoperability a more practical option for our customers," said Jean Paoli, general manager of interoperability and XML architecture at Microsoft. "Yet it is very important that customers have the freedom to choose from a range of technologies to meet their diverse needs."
While Office 2007 will support ODF, Microsoft maintains that its Open XML format will be superior to ODF in several ways, including performance, interoperability with custom XML data, integration with Office, and access for disabled users. "ODF focuses on more limited requirements [and] is architected very differently," Microsoft stated in a press release, adding that the OASIS standards body is currently working to "fill key gaps" such as spreadsheet formulas, macro support, and accessibility support. The translator will make these tradeoffs transparent to everybody, the company added.
Microsoft will distribute the translation tools on SourceForge under the open source Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) license, where anyone can report bugs and other feedback or contribute to the project. Microsoft says the complete version of the Word translation tool is expected to be available free from the download site by the end of 2006, with add-ins for Excel and PowerPoint expected in 2007. Older versions of Office will have access to the translation tool via a free compatibility pack, which also provides free updates to enable Open XML format support, the company says.
Microsoft is working with three companies to develop the translation tools, including the French-based IT solution provider Clever Age, the Indian software company Aztecsoft, and Dialogika, a German software company.