Microsoft is to expand the range of document formats supported in its flagship Office productivity suite to include built-in compatibility with other formats like XML Paper Specification (XPS), Portable Document Format (PDF) and Open Document Format (ODF).
The expansion will become effective with the release of Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2 (SP2) in the first half of 2009. The 2007 Microsoft Office system already provides support for 20 different document formats within Microsoft Office Word, Office Excel and Office PowerPoint.
Microsoft says the move offers customers greater choice and more flexibility among document formats, as well as creating additional opportunities for developers and competitors.
What this means is that when using SP2 customers will be able to open, edit and save documents using ODF and save documents into the XPS and PDF fixed formats directly within the application without having to install any other code. It will also allow customers to set the default file format for Office 2007.
To provide ODF support for users of earlier versions of Microsoft Office – including Office 2000, Office XP and Office 2003 – Microsoft will continue to collaborate with the open source community in the ongoing development of the Open XML-ODF translator project on SourceForge.net.
"We're committed to giving Office users greater choice among document formats and enhanced interoperability between those formats and the applications that implement them," says Paulo Ferreira, platform strategy manager at Microsoft SA.
"By increasing the openness of our products and participating actively in the development and maintenance of document format standards, we believe we can help create opportunities for developers and competitors, including members of open source communities, to innovate and deliver new value for customers."
The move has been welcomed by partners and vendors. "By enabling Microsoft Office to support ODF and PDF directly from the software, we will be able to develop solutions that create documents that can be edited by any user, regardless of what software or operating system they use," says Graham van Zijl, MD of nVisionIT.
"In a world where software companies want people to select one software package for their entire user base, the reality is that different user groups and types need options. Microsoft is now enabling users to make that choice without preventing them from interacting with their customers and partners. This is a smart move by Microsoft, and one that lets the most important person – the customer – be the winner," says Van Zijl.
"Microsoft's support for ODF in Office is a great step that enables customers to work with the document format that best meets their needs, even as it facilitates interoperability in the marketplace," says Roger Levy, senior vice-president and GM of Open Platform Solutions for Novell. "We look forward to continuing this work for the benefit of customers across the IT spectrum."
Microsoft has also defined a roadmap for its implementation of the newly ratified ISO standard, Office Open XML. The standard, which was approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in March, is already substantially supported in Office 2007 and the company plans to update that support in the next major version release of the Microsoft Office system, code-named "Office 14."
The company has also announced it will be an active participant in the future evolution of ODF, Open XML, XPS and PDF standards. Microsoft will join the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) technical committee working on the next version of ODF and will take part in the ISO/IEC working group that is being formed to work on ODF maintenance.
Microsoft employees will also take part in the ISO/IEC working group that is being formed to maintain Open XML as well as the ISO/IEC working group that is being formed to improve interoperability between these and other ISO/IEC-recognized document formats.
The company will be an active participant in the ongoing standardization and maintenance activities for XPS and PDF and continue to work with the IT community to promote interoperability between document file formats, including Open XML and ODF, as well as Digital Accessible Information SYstem (Daisy XML), the foundation of the globally accepted DAISY standard for reading and publishing navigable multimedia content.