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Microsoft Open Source Project To Enable OOXML Conversion

Microsoft today launched an open source software project on the SourceForge site, aimed at developing conversion tools that will translate Microsoft Office binary files to Office Open XML (OOXML) file formats. According to Vijay Rajagopalan, principal architect in the Interoperability & Platform Strategy group at Microsoft, initial work will focus on a Word conversion solution, with Excel and PowerPoint file formats to be addressed starting in the spring.

"We are hoping that our first beta version of this is going to come out around June 30th. That will give us a good benchmark of what are the capabilities of the Word translator," Rajagopalan said. "Around April we are hoping to publicly make our first technology preview."

The project is aimed squarely at back-office environments. While the Microsoft Compatibility Pack for Office 2007 provides manual file conversion functionality for client PCs, the goal of the open source project is to enable back-end file translation for server-based and services-based applications and environments. The code and logic used in the open source project will be "from scratch", Rajagopalan said, and will not employ any IP found in the Compatibility Pack.

The project was launched in part in response to comments from ISO member organizations, which had participated in a September vote seeking to approve OOXML as an ISO standard. By addressing the issue of moving existing .DOC, .XLS and .PPT binary files to their respective OOXML counterparts, Rajagopalan said Microsoft will help the OOXML specification answer a key critique in the first round of voting. A second vote is slated for the end of February.

"This is more than for the ISO at this particular moment. It's more to show the commitment to the format and make sure that companies can move to the XML based file format," he said. "This will also have a good impact and good positioning for the ISO."

Code produced under the project is being governed by the permissive BSD license, which should help assuage the fears of developers wary of Microsoft's ultimate intentions with the project. The specification for Microsoft's binary Office file formats will be made available as well, under the aegis of the Microsoft Open Specification Promise program.

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

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