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Microsoft Maps Out OOXML Developer Tools

Come May, developers who want to write and release their own programs to work with Office 2007's much-discussed default file formats will finally get their chance.

That's when they'll be able to get their hands on the final release of the first software development kit (SDK) for Office Open XML (OOXML). Microsoft this week disclosed the plan as part of a partial roadmap for its OOXML tools -- even as OOXML's fate as an international standard hangs in the balance.

"May's final release of 1.0 of the SDK [means] developers will be able to go live" with their applications, Doug Mahugh, senior product manager for Office client interoperability, told InternetNews.com.

The SDK is meant to spur developers to create applications that take advantage of 2007 Office System, simplifying the building of writing applications that support scenarios such as server-driven document creation.

Version 1 of the somewhat clunkily named "2007 Office System Microsoft SDK for Open XML Formats" has been in beta testing as a community technology preview, or CTP, since the company's TechEd developers conference in June.

"[The] Office Open XML SDK [is] designed to help developers create client and server solutions that take advantage of the [OOXML] formats," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com. "We are now close to delivering on that promise."

The roadmap release comes as debate over the file formats is raging in international standards circles. Microsoft has been trying to get OOXML adopted as a standard by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

The format is currently under consideration by ISO members with a decision expected March 29. It's unclear how many national delegations will vote in favor of OOXML, although the U.S. delegation to the ISO has signaled its likelihood to support it.

The specification has its critics, of course -- such as backers of the rival Open Document Format -- and some have challenged Microsoft's tactics in lobbying for international approval for OOXML.

In spite of the debate, work around OOXML continues.

Mahugh said that between now and May's official release of the SDK, Microsoft plans one more version 1 CTP release -- this one in April.

Added a spokesperson in an e-mail, "Version 1 will include an update of the CTP that was released in June 2007 and will contain the Open XML Packaging API," or application program interface (DEFINE:API).

Meanwhile, version 2 of the OOXML SDK is currently scheduled to see its first CTP beta release in July.

"Version 2 will contain all the necessary components of the Open XML API architecture, including WordprocessingML, SpreadsheetML, PresentationML [the OOXML formats for Word, Excel and PowerPoint, respectively] and Shared ML API," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an e-mail.

It's unclear, however, when version 2 ultimately will ship.

"The final release [of 2.0] will sync to the release of what's codenamed Office '14'," Mahugh said, referring to the next major release of the Office applications suite. However, Microsoft has yet to disclose a planned delivery date for Office 14.