October 13, 2006 9:35 AM PDT

Microsoft-led project to deliver on ODF

Microsoft later this month plans to release a converter that will let Word users open documents saved in the OpenDocument format.

The plug-in for Word, set for release Oct. 23, is the first installment of Microsoft's plan to add support for the OpenDocument, or ODF, standard, which has gained interest from government customers.

By the end of the year, the open-source project building the converters will move past simply opening documents and add the ability to save documents created in Word in the ODF format, said Brian Jones, a Microsoft Office program manager. A first prototype of this "Save to ODF" Word add-on will also be made available later this month.

Next year, the Open XML Translator project, done primarily by developers at French company Clever Age, intends to create converters that can translate between Microsoft's Excel and PowerPoint and the corresponding ODF file formats, Jones added.

The converters will not be packaged as part of the upcoming Office 2007. Instead, Microsoft will make them available from the same Web site where people can get add-on converters for the PDF and XPS formats, Jones said.

OpenDocument is built on XML, and Office 2007 will use Office Open XML by default, another XML-based format.

"Even when we announced Office Open XML and people asked, 'Why didn't you use ODF?', we were expecting that people would build a tool to convert between them," Jones said. "We didn't know at the time that we'd be the one sponsoring the project."

Microsoft does not have any engineers involved in the Open XML Translator project, which is hosted on SourceForge.net. But it does have a program manager who acts as a liaison with the team.

There are other ODF-to-Office-Open-XML conversion projects under way, including one from the OpenDocument Foundation.

In an effort to appeal to government customers, Microsoft is seeking to standardize Office Open XML at the European standards groups Ecma International and ISO, the International Organization for Standardization.

Jones said the Ecma technical committee in charge of Office Open XML submitted on Monday the final specification to the Ecma General Assembly.

The Ecma General Assembly is expected to approve it as a standard in December and vote on whether to submit it to ISO for "fast track" approval, which could take at least another six months, he said.

Jones said the technical committee made substantial revisions to Microsoft's original submission, including expanded documentation.

Participants from Novell and Apple Computer also proposed changes that will make the formats work with non-Windows operating systems and with different programming languages, he said.

IBM decided not to participate in this technical committee, saying that the Ecma process would simply be rubber-stamping as a standard Microsoft's existing Office Open XML specification.

Jones noted that the specification expanded from about 2,000 pages to 6,000 through the Ecma process.

"Just by looking at what went in and what's come out, it's clearly not a rubber-stamping," he said. "IBM would have really benefited by joining the committee."

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4 comments

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It Makes Plenty Of "Sense"; but...
... differences must/will remain to distinguish the products apart. That "Microsoft later this month plans to release a converter that will let Word users open documents saved in the OpenDocument format"; and, here is why from this statement some years ago. R: "Concerning the issues with 1-2-3 that are talked about in the documentation you gave me, most of the issues are related to converting files between older and newer versions of product and converting documents between Lotus and Microsoft. Anytime a file is saved backwards or saved with an older file format than the format the file was created under, such as saving a 1-2-3 , 97 file for Windows 95 into a WK1 format for DOS, then naturally we are expected to loose certain features due to technology and features that are present now that were not present 8 - 10 years ago. Similarly, if we try to convert a file from Lotus into Excel or Excel into Lotus, due to differences in the products not every feature will be converted perfectly with the file filters that are available. Both Lotus and Microsoft create similar spreadsheet programs; however, there are several differences in both programs and these differences will remain to distinguish the products apart. We do try to design conversion filters that will allow as much of the file formats as possible to be exchanged and converted without disrupting the actual file design and format.

In one of your letters you made mention of the @IRR and @ERR functions in the 1-2-3 product. By design the @IRR (notably "absent" in Open Office) will calculate the Internal Rate of Return; where the @ERR is used in conjunction with other formulas, posted was an "ERR" showing an error was received in the calculations. As far as I can see in the program I cannot find an @ERR function that will allow us to calculate an Economic Rate of Return"
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Storage Format vs. User Interfaces
The differences should be in the User Interfaces and not in the
storage formats. I understand the backward compatibility issue,
but there is no reason anything should not be able to be
converted forward. Forward conversion could only be delayed if
the newest formatting converters were not yet implemented in a
particular product, something that should not take long to
accomplish.

Once the storage format issue is resolved, the playing field
becomes much more level and users have a choice of what
programs to use to interface with their data.

Have a nice day!
Posted by lesfilip (496 comments )
Link Flag
MS = Legacy, incompatible products.
i.e. XP, IE, etc. Old outdated software, intentionally made incompatible with the rest of the world. Most countries "get it" and are moving forward with IT system, the US UK are sadly losing any technical advantages we had in the past while clinging to legacy Microsoft technologies.
Posted by Microsoft_Facts (109 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Microsoft - playing catch-up ...again.
First, they tried to kill it. Now they're trying to play along like they're all happy to do it, in the futile hope that they can still somehow embrace, extend, then extinguish the thing. I suspect they will fail in that regard.

Eventually, it will kill their dominance in the office app arena.

Good riddance, I say.

/P
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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