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Microsoft Office to get ODF & PDF support

Office SP2 to introduce support in 2008

Microsoft is expected to finally add support for ODF (Open Document Format for XML) and Adobe PDF (Portable Document Format) to its Office productivity suite today.

Support for ODF and PDF will be included in the software through Microsoft Office Service Pack 2, expected to be out in the first half of 2009, according to a draft Microsoft press release viewed by the IDG News Service.

Specifically, the service pack will add file-format support for PDF 1.5, PDF/A and ODF v1.1, as well as XPS (XML Paper Specification). XPS is a similar format to PDF created by Microsoft to rival Adobe's popular document-exchange file format.

Microsoft could not immediately be reached for comment.

Microsoft created its own XML-based file format, (OOXL) Office Open XML for Office 2007, the latest version of its enormously popular productivity suite that was released in late 2007. This set into motion a heated rivalry between OOXML and ODF, an open standard supported by companies such as IBM and Sun Microsystems and approved as an ISO standard in May 2006.

Microsoft submitted OOXML to the international standards body Ecma International in November 2005 as an attempt to fast-track it through the ISO. Despite protests and criticisms, that process eventually proved successful on April 1, when the ISO approved OOXML as a standard.

Until now, Microsoft has never said it would natively support ODF, promoting support through software that translates documents between Office file formats and ODF rather than native support.
However, the company has been hammered by the industry - particularly through repeated fines by the European Commission - for its lack of support for interoperability with other companies' products, and Microsoft has made several recent moves to remedy that situation.

Microsoft previously had said it would support PDF in Office 2007, but Adobe, the owner of the specification, blocked that move. As a result, Microsoft said it would pull native PDF support from Office 2007 in June 2006. Adobe has since submitted PDF to the ISO as an open standard. At the same time it pulled PDF support from Office, Microsoft also pulled planned support for XPS.

IBM, an outspoken ODF advocate and critic of OOXML, said in a statement that it supports Microsoft's expected move, saying there is increased interest in ODF and productivity suites that support it, such as its free Symphony software, which is an Office rival now in beta.

Pamela Jones, an ardent open-standards proponent and an outspoken critic of Microsoft during the OOXML standards process on her Groklaw blog, said she had not heard that Microsoft planned to support ODF in Office. "I would be glad if it's true, though," she said.


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