Novell is working with Microsoft and other developers to create bidirectional open source translators for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations between OpenOffice and Microsoft Office.
The companies said the first translator, for word processing, will be available by the end of Jan. 2007.
The translator is likely to ease the transfer of documents and data between OpenOffice and Microsoft Office. Despite a still cautious and sometimes contemptuous reaction to Novell’s partnership with the proprietary software giant, open sourcesoftware and open standards supporters are among users that will benefit.
The OpenOffice-Office translators will be available as plug-ins to Novell’s version of OpenOffice, according to the company. In addition to releasing as open source code the code that integrates Microsoft’s Open XML format with OpenOffice, Novell will submit it for inclusion in the greater OpenOffice open source project.
Novell also reiterated its support for the open document format (ODF), which Microsoft has resisted.
“Novell supports the ODF as the default file format in OpenOffice because it provides customer choice and flexibility. Interoperability with Microsoft Office has also been critical to the success of OpenOffice,” said Novell Chief Technology and Strategy Officer for Open Source Nat Friedman.
The Office software interoperability deal is further evidence that Microsoft does not want to adopt ODF but wants its own standard instead,Illuminata Senior Analyst Gordon Haff told LinuxInsider.
Although there were not many details released in the Office compatibility announcement, Haff said that Microsoft might gain some support for itsOpenXML format if its documents can be converted to ODF and back, but that ODF remains the only true open format standard.
“I don’t think this changes things in a fundamental way,” he said.
Because of Novell’s support and influence on the OpenOffice project, which is also supported by Sun, it is likely that the new compatibility will benefit all Office software users, Haff added.
Though Microsoft’s OpenXML format may be based on open standards, it still is not available royalty-free, Open Source And Industry Alliance (OSAIA) Director of Public Policy Will Rodger told LinuxInsider.
“There’s really only one open solution on the market and one for the foreseeable future, and that’s ODF,” he said. “If it’s openness we want,then why are we even bothering with translators?”
Although he could not speculate on Microsoft’s strategy on file formats, Rodger noted it is clear that ODF is making progress in the market.
“ODF is gaining traction and is definitely going to take market share,” he said.