Microsoft backs Chinese XML document format

It's working on translation tools for Open XML and China's Uniform Office Format

Microsoft Corp. today said it will work with the Chinese government to craft tools for translating documents between the company's Open XML and China's home-brewed Uniform Office Format (UOF).

UOF, yet another XML-based document format -- Microsoft's Open XML and's Open Document Format, or ODF, are the others -- is Chinese-specific and popularized by RedOffice, the open-source suite spun off from and used by more than 100 local governments, including the city of Beijing.

Microsoft will collaborate with Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Beijing Information Technology Institute (BITI), Tsinghua University and LitSoft, part of the Lenovo Group, on the project. The resulting tools will be posted on the open source download site SourceForge, which other Microsoft-assisted work, including several Open XML-ODF translators, already call home.

Previews of Open XML-UOF add-ins for Microsoft's Office 2003 and 2007 should show up this summer, said Microsoft, with final releases scheduled to post next January. The first effort: Office 2003/2007 add-ins for opening UOF word processor documents in Word and saving Word documents as UOF files.

The tools will be covered by a BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) style open-source license, and so can be used by other developers free of charge.

In related news, an earlier Microsoft-funded open source project unveiled new beta add-ins for Excel 2007 and PowerPoint 2007 that open and save ODF documents generated by the spreadsheet and presentation applications of The new translators follow the release in February of a similar add-in for Word 2007. SourceForge also has these beta downloads.

Microsoft's latest open-source project follows last week's announcement that it would back ODF's inclusion on the approved format list maintained by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Microsoft, which has battled ODF -- the open source file format won accolades from government agencies and some businesses as a way to ensure documents would be readable down the road -- has made several conciliatory moves since last year.

"Our customers have told us their data needs can't be addressed by a one-format or one-standard-fits-all approach," acknowledged Jean Paoli, Microsoft's general manager of interoperability and XML architecture, in a statement. "Everyone wants to use their data in slightly different ways. That's why we are enabling customers to pick from whatever format they want to use with their Office documents, whether it's ODF, Open XML, PDF, or new standards like UOF.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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