Open XML Translator project announced
July 6, 2006 Leave a comment
Brian Jones recently announced that Microsoft will be releasing an ODF converter for office. The Open XML Translator project is hosted at SourceForge and is available under the BSD license. From the post:
While we still aren't seeing a strong demand for ODF support from our corporate or consumer customers, it's now a bit different with governments. We've had some governments request that we help build solutions so that can use ODF for certain situations, so that's why we are creating the Open XML Translator project. I think it's going to be really beneficial to a number of folks and for a number of reasons.
There has been a push in Microsoft for better interoperability and this is another great step in that direction. We already have the PDF and XPS support for Office 2007 users that unfortunately had to be separated out of the product and instead offered as a free download. There will be a menu item in the Office applications that will point people to the downloads for XPS, PDF, and now ODF. So you'll have the ability to save to and open ODF files directly within Office (just like any other format).
This should be seen as a fairly large step for Microsoft, who had strongly opposed ODF in the recent past. We may have finally reached a time when Microsoft is no longer able to force its customers into a direction they don't want to go. What's more, they may even be realizingly that interoperability is the way they'll be able to have a bright future. It will be a slow change to be sure, but if this is the seed finally planted it will be looked back on as a water shed moment.
On a different topic, while this should be seen as good news for the consumer it could actually end up being bad news for OOo. Had Microsoft stood their ground and not supported ODF, OOo would have certainly seen rapid mass adoption in some segments. With Microsoft promising to support ODF, that's a lot less likely to happen. But that begets the question – is this just a promise? Has Microsoft really started a turn-around, or is this just an opportunity for them to claim to support ODF, make the implementation so bad and so much of a pain that ODF looks like garbage (as people are unlikely to realize it's the implementation and not ODF itself that is at fault) and then make a large push for a new and improved OXML with the next Office release. I have to say that they seem genuine on this one, but they do of course have quite a track record with these things. Our only option at this point is to wait and see, while proceeding with caution.
The other potential problem is that companies and government agencies have a purchasing edict that all documents must be saved in ODF format, but no real operational procedure that mandates actually using ODF as the final format. ODF is of no use if people simply continue saving documents in the OXML native Microsoft format. Could ODF become another POSIX type situation where support for it is something that companies list as a feature that their product has checked off, while in the real world it's not actually used. The fact that “save” will get you OXML, while ODF will require that you “export” could lead in this direction. Let's hope that doesn't happen (and as this case is a little different than the POSIX one, I'm optimistic that it won't happen the same way).
Microsoft, MSFT, ODF, OpenOffice.org, Open Source