Office 2007, OpenOffice get new development tool kits

Rollouts seek to ease app creation using rival technologies

Microsoft Corp. and the OpenOffice.org open-source project today released separate tool kits designed to simplify development of a broader array of applications supporting their rival desktop software technologies.

OpenOffice.org said its new tool kit enables software developers to add the ability to save files in the Open Document Format for Office Applications, or ODF, to a variety of applications that go beyond office productivity functions. The ODF Toolkit makes it easier to use OpenOffice.org's namesake technology as a programming framework instead of as a full-featured desktop suite, the group added.

Meanwhile, Microsoft said via e-mail that it has released a set of three tool kits aimed at helping companies build applications for components of its new Office 2007 desktop suite, as well as its Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 software. Office 2007 is available to business users now and is scheduled for general release on Jan. 30.

OpenOffice.org has published an initial version of the ODF Toolkit online and is inviting members of the community to add to its development, said Louis Suarez-Potts, the open-source project's community manager.

Previously, Suarez-Potts said, developers would have had to add "a good piece of OpenOffice.org" code to an application to give it the ability to save documents in ODF, an open document format that was accepted as an industry standard by the ISO international standards group last fall.

The new tool kit simplifies that process, according to Suarez-Potts. For example, "if someone has a mail application, they can take the tools we're making available and make it so mail messages can be saved as ODF [documents]," he said.

But e-mail is just one of many applications for which the tool kit could be used to enable users to save files in ODF, Suarez-Potts added. In a message posted on OpenOffice.org's Web site, he noted that the ODF Toolkit makes it possible to develop applications "that will complement and even transcend" the open-source group's flagship desktop suite.

Microsoft's tool kits for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 and the SharePoint Server 2007 and Project 2007 modules within Office 2007 provide technical guidance and sample code so developers can build what Microsoft refers to as Office Business Applications.

The software vendor said the goal is to enable employees to access information from back-end systems through Office 2007's new user interface, which has been named Fluent. Microsoft said it will license Fluent royalty-free so third-party developers can build applications that look like those in Office 2007.

In addition to the tool kits, Microsoft announced that it is setting up two SharePoint-related wikis on the Microsoft Developer Network to enable external developers to share tips and best practices with one another.

It also is creating a portal on MSDN to focus on development around Groove, a peer-to-peer application that Microsoft acquired when it bought Groove Networks in 2005. Microsoft said it will launch the Groove portal this quarter and then over the next few months add a set of templates that will provide sample code for a variety of scenarios for using Groove within the Office suite.

Peer-to-peer technology has become a strategic part of Microsoft's collaboration software strategy, and the company last year named Groove founder Ray Ozzie to replace Chairman Bill Gates as its chief software architect. That appointment was part of a plan for Gates to transition away from a day-to-day role at Microsoft by mid-2008.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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