Microsoft to support ODF, PDF in Office next year

Support to be included in Office Service Pack 2

Microsoft Corp. is expected to announce later today that it is finally adding support for ODF (Open Document Format for Office Applications) and Adobe Systems Inc.'s PDF file format to its Office productivity suite.

Support for ODF and PDF will be included in the software through Microsoft Office Service Pack 2, which is expected to be out in the first half of 2009, according to a draft Microsoft press release viewed by the IDG News Service.

Specifically, the service pack will add file-format support for PDF 1.5, PDF/A and ODF Version 1.1, as well as XPS (XML Paper Specification). A format similar to PDF, XPS was created by Microsoft to rival Adobe's popular document-exchange file format.

Microsoft could not immediately be reached for comment today.

Microsoft created its own XML-based file format, Office Open XML for Office 2007, the latest version of its popular productivity suite. This set into motion a heated rivalry between Open XML and ODF, an open standard supported by companies such as IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc. and approved as an ISO standard in May 2006.

Microsoft submitted Open XML to the international standards body Ecma International in November 2005 in an attempt to fast-track it through the ISO standards organization. Despite protests and criticisms, that process eventually proved successful on April 1, when ISO approved Open XML as a standard.

Until now, Microsoft has never said it would natively support ODF, promoting support through software that translates documents between Office file formats and ODF rather than native support. However, the company has been hammered by the industry -- particularly through repeated fines by the European Commission -- for its lack of support for interoperability with other companies' products, and Microsoft has made several recent moves to remedy that situation.

Microsoft previously had said it would support PDF in Office 2007, but Adobe, the owner of the specification, blocked that move. As a result, Microsoft said it would pull native PDF support from Office 2007 in June 2006. Adobe has since submitted PDF to ISO as an open standard. At the same time it pulled PDF support from Office, Microsoft also pulled planned support for XPS.

IBM, an outspoken ODF advocate and a critic of Open XML, said in a statement that it supports Microsoft's expected move, saying there is increased interest in ODF and productivity suites that support it, such as its free Symphony software, which is an Office rival now in beta.

Pamela Jones, an ardent open-standards proponent and an outspoken critic of Microsoft during the Open XML standards process on her Groklaw blog, said she had not heard that Microsoft planned to support ODF in Office. "I would be glad if it's true, though," she said.

At the same time, she noted that there are still myriad problems surrounding Open XML, so she hopes Microsoft will tend to those as well.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon