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Microsoft, China Translate Files in Open Source

Seeking to make Office Open XML file formats as ubiquitous as possible, Microsoft today said it is funding an open source translator project between China's Unified Office Format (UOF) and the Ecma Open XML file formats.

The UOF translation tools, created in conjunction with China's Beihang University and others, will be available free for Microsoft Office Word 2003 and 2007 customers as open source plug-ins from SourceForge.net.

This arrangement means the tools will be available for use with other individual and commercial projects to support Microsoft Office customers in China who need to work with the UOF standard, Microsoft said in a statement.

Microsoft will post a preview of the UOF translator tools on SourceForge this summer. Final versions will be available early next year.

Jean Paoli, general manager of Interoperability and XML Architecture at Microsoft, said Microsoft agreed to work with the UOF movement because "everyone wants to use their data in slightly different ways."

"That's why we are enabling customers to pick from whatever format they want to use with their Office documents -- whether it's ODF, Open XML, PDF, or new standards like UOF," Paoli said in the statement.

Along those lines, Microsoft today also introduced the beta release of translation tools for Windows XP and the 2003 and 2007 versions of Microsoft Office Excel and Microsoft Office PowerPoint as part of the Open XML Translator project.

Microsoft created Open XML Translator as an interoperability bridge for the Open Document Format it once opposed.

The Open XML Translator, which aims to let users save documents such as word or spreadsheet files in ODF and Office Open XML, is the fruit of a detente.

Microsoft once viewed ODF as a pesky rival to the Office Open XML file format it submitted to Ecma. But the company eased up on its public criticisms that ODF was not satisfactory after its customers called for Microsoft to back the standard.

Microsoft's acceptance of ODF came in the wake of ODF's ratification as an ISO standard last May. Microsoft is seeking the same acceptance for Office Open XML.

Just last week, Microsoft supported ODF as an addition to the non-exclusive American National Standards list.