Rivals welcome Microsoft's change of heart on ODF, PDF

Say adding support for file formats to Office will benefit users — and maybe Microsoft itself

Microsoft Corp. announced yesterday, as expected, that it will add support for the ODF and PDF file formats to Office — a change of heart that won the software vendor some words of praise from rivals such as IBM and OpenOffice.org.

For example, John McCreesh, a spokesman for OpenOffice.org, said that Microsoft's turnaround on supporting ODF — formally, the Open Document Format for Office Applications — will give desktop application users more flexibility. That could open the door for more users to switch from Office to OpenOffice.org's namesake suite of open-source applications, although McCreesh noted that people could also migrate in the other direction.

"The whole purpose of having an open standard is to give people freedom of choice," he said. "[Microsoft's announcement] means we have a level playing field, which is what it's all about."

IBM, one of the fiercest critics of Microsoft's ultimately successful effort to have its own Office Open XML format approved as an ISO standard, also praised the new stance by Microsoft, which previously had left Office users to rely on plug-ins that enabled documents to be stored in ODF.

Microsoft "will definitely benefit" by being able to meet ODF support requirements from customers looking to use that format instead of Open XML, said Bob Picciano, general manager of IBM's Lotus Software unit. Picciano added that he hopes Microsoft is as serious about contributing to the future development of ODF as company officials said it was yesterday.

As part of its announcement, Microsoft said it is joining the technical committee at the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards that maintains and updates the ODF specification.

In addition, the company plans to take part in an ODF working group set up by the ISO international standards body and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), which jointly ratified ODF as a standard two years ago. Meanwhile, Microsoft employees will also participate in an ISO/IEC working group that's being formed to maintain the new Open XML standard as well as another one that will work to improve interoperability between various file formats.

The support for ODF and Adobe Systems' Portable Document Format (PDF) is scheduled to be added to Office 2007 in a Service Pack 2 release that is due in the first half of 2009, Microsoft said. Specifically, Office 2007 SP2 will include built-in support for ODF Version 1.1 as well as PDF 1.5 and PDF/A, an archiving-oriented subset of Adobe's format.

Microsoft said it will also add support for its own XML Paper Specification (XPS) file format as part of Office 2007 SP2. XPS was developed by Microsoft to be an alternative to the widely used PDF.

Users with Office 2007 SP2 installed on their PCs will be able to save documents as ODF, PDF and XPS files just as they now can save them in Open XML and Office's other native formats, Microsoft said. In addition, SP2 will enable users to set ODF as their default file format.

1 2 Page 1
Page 1 of 2
7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon