Open-Source File Format Is to
Be a Part of Microsoft Office


By KEVIN J. O’BRIEN

Microsoft was set to announce Thursday that it would make the interchangeable document format of a competitor available in its own market-leading Office 2007 software during the first half of 2009.

The company, under pressure from European regulators, national standards organizations and its own government clients, said it planned to give customers the ability to open, edit and save documents in Open Document Format — the main competitor to the Microsoft Word format — through a free update.

With the update, consumers will be able to save text documents in ODF format and adjust Office 2007 settings to automatically save documents in the rival format.

Next year, Microsoft will also let consumers open and save files in Adobe’s Portable Document Format 1.5 and PDF/A formats.

Chris Capossela, a senior vice president in Microsoft’s business division in Redmond, Wash., said the decision stemmed from Microsoft’s commitment to make its programs more compatible with rival software, part of general move away from a longstanding defense of its proprietary software.

The research firm Gartner says that Microsoft’s desktop operating systems and Office application packages were on more than 95 percent of computers around the world.

ODF was developed in 2005 by the Oasis Forum, a group that includes Microsoft competitors like I.B.M. and Sun Microsystems. The idea was to let consumers save and archive documents, spreadsheets and presentations in their formats of choice. The result was OpenOffice, a software application package that resembles Microsoft’s Office 2007 — and can save files in Word formats — but also enables users to save documents in 25 formats. It is free.

In May 2006, OpenOffice backers persuaded the International Organization for Standardization in Geneva to designate ODF as the world’s first global standard for interchangeable documents. Microsoft responded by developing a competing interchangeable format of its own, called Office Open XML, or OOXML, which won its own I.S.O. standard in April after Microsoft promised to develop it into a truly open and interchangeable format.

Ivar Jachwitz, the deputy managing director of Standards Norway, the Norwegian national standards-setting body, which adopted ODF as a recommended format for government archives, said the proof of Microsoft’s commitment to ODF and interoperability would be seen next year, when the updated version of Office 2007 reaches consumers.

“We have heard a lot of promises from Microsoft, but as of yet, we are hoping for results,” Mr. Jachwitz said.

Open-Source File Format Is to Be a Part of Microsoft Office - NYTimes.com

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