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Microsoft's Office 'Translator' Earns Widespread PraiseMicrosoft's Office 'Translator' Earns Widespread Praise

The company releases free software to bridge the gap between its Office XML format and the open-source OpenDocument format -- a step that could hasten the move towards standardized, fully interoperable office document formats.

W. David Gardner

July 6, 2006

2 Min Read

Microsoft's decision to offer free translation software> to enable its Office software to operate easily with OpenDocument Format (ODF) software was greeted Thursday with elation in some quarters, but with cautious optimism in other quarters.

Hailing the move was Melanie Wyne, executive director of the Initiative For Software Choice (ISC), who said: "We continue to prefer these developments to heavy-handed, and often clumsy government regulation." While Wyne didn't cite the ongoing controversy in the Massachusetts state government, she has criticized the state's plan to standardize its document retention on ODF software to the exclusion of Microsoft Office software. Andrew Updegrove, editor of consortiuminfo.org and an ODF supporter, had faint praise for the Microsoft move while noting that there wasn't really much new to the announcement because Microsoft's chief software architect Ray Ozzie had said Microsoft was working on a translator -- also variously called a converter and a plug-in -- last fall. Updegrove, a partner in the Boston law firm of Gesmer Updegrove, called Microsoft's action a "concession (that) clearly makes it easier for governments and other users to feel safe in making the switch from Office to ODF-supporting software, since Microsoft will be collaborating to make document exchanges smooth and effortless." Microsoft's move may also address the issue of providing office software for handicapped users. "Those with disabilities may simply continue to use Office as their peers convert to ODF software, later changing over themselves when accessibility tools for ODF software become available," said Updegrove in an interview. In announcing the translator, Microsoft indicated it was doing so at least partially "in response to government requests for interoperability with ODF." Microsoft's Jean Paoli, general manager of interoperability and XML architecture, said in a statement: "By enabling this translator, we will make both choice and interoperability a more practical option for our customers." Microsoft Office competitor OpenOffice.org also praised the Microsoft move, but cautioned it represented just a "first step" towards moving to broader ISO standardization. Updegrove called Microsoft's translator a "fall back" move in the long march toward the standardization of office software.

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