Novell to back Open XML in office suite

Microsoft Corp. and Novell Inc. have wasted little time in demonstrating there is real work being done as part of their recent Linux interoperability pact. Just a month after the historic deal between the companies, Novell said Monday it will support the proprietary document format in Microsoft Office 2007, Open XML, in its open-source version of the OpenOffice productivity suite by the end of January.

Novell also will release software that will bidirectionally translate word processing, spreadsheets and presentations between its version of’s productivity suite and Microsoft Office to the project so Open XML can become a part of that open-source project, the company said.

However, this does not guarantee that Open XML will be integrated into the code, said Justin Steinman, a Novell director of marketing for Linux. “We are going to release the code to the open-source community. Whether it gets integrated or not is up to the community,” he said.

Novell and Microsoft worked together on the translation project, which will allow users of a new release of OpenOffice due in January to create, save and send files as Open XML documents, Steinman said.

Creating interoperability between the OpenOffice and Microsoft Office suites was a goal that was part of the companies’ deal, announced Nov. 2, to make Microsoft’s proprietary software work more seamlessly with Novell’s Suse Linux and other open-source software from the company.

The Open XML work will ultimately allow users to more easily share files between Microsoft Office 2007 and OpenOffice, which support different document formats, Steinman said.

The native document format in OpenOffice is OpenDocument Format (ODF), an XML-based file format recognized as a standard by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Microsoft so far has chosen not to support ODF and instead created its own file format, Open XML, for Office 2007.

Microsoft’s lack of support for ODF has been controversial, and the company further stirred up concern in the industry that it was trying to promote its own proprietary file format as an industry standard instead of ODF by submitting Open XML to Ecma International in November 2005. Ecma is a standards organization that can fast-track technology standards through the ISO.

Ecma plans to vote on whether to approve Open XML for submission to the ISO as an international standard on Dec. 7.

Microsoft released Office 2007, which supports Open XML, last week to business customers. The suite is expected to be widely available to consumers in retail outlets on Jan. 30.

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