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Thursday, July 06, 2006
Microsoft Allows Open Document Format for Software

Responding to government requests for interoperability, Microsoft said on Thursday it will offer free software that will allow Word, Excel and PowerPoint to handle documents in rival technology formats.

The translation tools will be developed and licensed as open source software, and will be offered as downloadable add-ins for several older versions of the Microsoft Office system, the Redmond, Washington-based company said.

Microsoft also said the translation tools will be broadly available to the industry to accelerate document interoperability and expand customer choice between Open XML and other technologies.

Electronic document translation between different fixed formats is always going to be somewhat inexact, said Andrew Hopkirk, director of the UK's National Computing Center's e-Government Interoperability Framework (e-GIF) program.

Like human language translations, concepts and specifications will differ in detail, Hopkirk said in a statement released by Microsoft.

"This tool promises to be a very significant development in the trend toward practical open document standards and, critically, customer-friendly means to move between them," he said.

Microsoft is developing the translation tools in collaboration with the France-based IT solution provider Clever Age and several independent software vendors, including Aztecsoft in India and Dialogika in Germany.

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