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Microsoft and its partners start open source Open XML Translator Project

Microsoft has been in the news a lot recently due to its Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) anti-piracy scheme, but the company has a new angle to push today that is decidedly on the positive side. The company will announce that is has started an open-source project to allow interoperability between Open XML, which is used in Office 2007, and the Open Document Format (ODF).

This marks a big change from just a few months ago when Microsoft berated ODF for long load times and greater CPU/memory requirements. A general manager for Microsoft’s information worker strategy was quoted as saying "the use of OpenDocument documents is slower to the point of not really being satisfactory. The Open XML format is designed for performance. XML is fundamentally slower than binary formats, so we have made sure that customers won't notice a big difference in performance." Well, what a difference a few months makes. Unsatisfactory as it may be (to Microsoft); ODF will now get some primetime exposure in Word 2007.

The open source Open XML Translator Project was developed by Microsoft in conjunction with Clever Age, Aztecsoft and Dialogika. Microsoft's main involvement in the project included the initial setup, technical support and partial funding. The prototype Open XML Translator is currently available for download from the SouceForge open-source website and allows users to open and save ODF documents in Word 2007. Versions of the translator will be made available for Excel 2007 and PowerPoint 2007 sometime next year. The translator will also be available in the future to users of older versions of Microsoft Office via an updated Compatibility Pack.

"This project is all about transparency, as there is no translator that is perfect. OpenXML and ODF are very different formats and some hard decisions are going to have to be made when translating from one format to another, like where we have OpenXML features that are not supported in ODF," said Microsoft general manager for interoperability and XML architecture Jean Paoli. Jason Matusow, Microsoft's director of standards affairs went on to say "if one format is put in on one side it will spit out the other format on the other side, in either direction, and that means ISVs or independent research projects can come and take this and make use of it. We want that transparency and the tools to be available to anyone."

It's nice to see Microsoft supporting ODF in Office 2007. Although it's understandable why Microsoft would want to bolster its own Open XML standard, it couldn't ignore the rising popularity of ODF. Also, this news comes just a month after Microsoft announced that it had to remove native PDF support from Office 2007 at Adobe's request.





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