Microsoft-led Group Launches New Open XML-interop Tools

A group of vendors led by Microsoft and aimed at fostering interoperability between different document formats has unveiled several tools to help people translate among documents created in Open XML and documents that use other file formats.

During a meeting of the Document Interoperability Initiative (DII) in Brussels this week, Microsoft and other industry leaders unveiled three tools to translate documents in Open XML, an industry standard approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for document formats that Microsoft originally created for its Office productivity suite.

The new tools were outlined in a blog posting by Peter Galli, a Microsoft senior open source community manager.

Open XML Document Viewer translates Open XML documents to an HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) Web page, allowing readability of those documents on Web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox, he wrote. A Community Technology Preview (CTP) of the tool is available on Microsoft's Codeplex site.

Another new tool unveiled at the meeting is the Open XML/ODF (Open Document Format) Translators Version 2.5, which improves translations between Open XML and ODF through templates and is available now on SourceForge as an add-in for Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 and XP, Galli wrote.

Microsoft also has posted video demonstrations of these tools on YouTube. The Open XML Document Viewer video is available here, and the Open XML/ODF Translators demo is available here.

ODF is a document format that was approved by the ISO as a global technology standard before Open XML was. In fact, Microsoft's decision to create Open XML and then submit it as a standard rather than support ODF was a controversial one, which led the company to create the DII in March as well as undertake other interoperability efforts around the format. The ISO eventually made Open XML an international standard in April after a long, controversial approval process.

DII brings global industry leaders and vendors together to identify, test and develop tools to overcome document-interoperability barriers, according to Microsoft. People attending the Brussels meeting included leaders of open-source projects from companies other than Microsoft. They included Paolo Mottadelli of Sourcesense, Wolfgang Keber of DIaLOGIKa, Julien Chable of Wygwam and Maarten Balliauw of RealDolmen, according to Microsoft.

Another interoperability tool the DII discussed in Brussels that is available now is the Apache POI Java SDK for Open XML, which allows people to read and write Microsoft Office Excel files using Java, according to information about the tool on the Apache Web site.

Even as Microsoft aims to promote more interoperability between Open XML and other file formats, another country has adopted ODF as a standard file format for its documents. On Wednesday Germany said its government agencies will be able to receive, read, send and edit ODF documents beginning no later than 2010, according to a press statement from the ODF Alliance, a group aimed at promoting the standard's use.

To date, 16 national and 8 provincial governments have now formally recommended or required the use of ODF by government agencies, according to the ODF Alliance.

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