OOXML projects boost Microsoft interoperability drive

Pressure from EU partly behind new initiatives

Microsoft has unveiled projects to improve data portability between Office 2007 and other document file formats, including the design of a new translator for exchanging OOXML and HTML documents.

The company also posted the 1.0 version of technical documentation for protocols in Office and other software that enable those applications to interact with third-party programs.

The moves are part of a company-wide commitment, unveiled in February, to foster interoperability, an initiative launched under pressure from an ongoing antitrust case in the European Union and competition from Linux and open-source software.

Microsoft has also outlined some efforts it's been making to work in the community to help third parties develop interoperable technologies and promote data portability between its products and others, notably between its controversial OOXML file format and other formats for exchanging documents.

For example, it is working on a new translator to read from documents in the Open XML file format to HTML. Microsoft has posted information about the project on its Codeplex site.

OOXML is the XML-based document format in Office 2007. The ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) recently approved it as an international standard in a vote that is still being contested by some countries that took part in the decision.

Microsoft has said it will support a rival file format and ISO standard, ODF (OpenDocument Format), in Office 2007 in a service pack to be released early next year. It has slated support for OOXML in Office for the next version of Office, code-named Office 14, but no official release date has been set for that product. Many expect it will be released next year as well, however.

In another data-portability effort, Microsoft is working with Beihang University in Beijing to develop translators between Uniform Office Format (UOF), an open standard in China for office documents, and Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint so users have more options to open and save UOF documents in Microsoft Office 2007 and 2003.

Also on Codeplex is information about a project to develop PowerTools PowerShell commands for OpenXML to enable IT managers to perform document management tasks. PowerShell is a command-line shell and task-based scripting technology for Windows Server that provides control and automation of system administration tasks.

As part of its efforts to post information about connection protocols for its software, Microsoft also posted online Version 1.0 of technology documentation for protocols built into Office 2007, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. Nearly 5,000 pages of new technical documentation for the Office binary file formats — doc, .xls, .xlsb and .ppt — for Word, Excel and PowerPoint also went up online.

Microsoft posted a preview of some of the documentation in April to receive feedback from the community about it. Monday's documents are the company's final version of that documentation.

Microsoft has limped towards a more open development and data-exchange policy for some time. However, repeated fines from the EU for not complying with an antitrust settlement and increased competitive pressure from open-source software and Linux pressured it to launch February's formal interoperability and expansive technical-documentation effort.

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