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Novell Joins Microsoft in ODF Effort

It's no secret and not any surprise that Microsoft is working on interoperability with the Open Document Format (ODF). It is, after all, an effort that has been under way since at least July.

Interoperability is also a key part of the November deal between Microsoft and Novell. One of the fruits of that deal is that the ODF to Open XML effort now has the backing and assistance of Novell.

ODF is an OASIS standard based on the OpenOffice.org (OOo) XML format. ODF is the default file format for OOo. Open XML is Microsoft's new file format specification for Microsoft Office 2007.

In response to much criticism for governments around the world, Microsoft launched the ODF to Open XML translator initiative in July of this year.

Justin Steinman, director of marketing for Linux and open platform solutions for Novell, explained that Novell is now contributing its expertise to the ODF to Open XML effort.

"We are the second-leading contributor to OOo after Sun and Microsoft, which frankly needed some the assistance that we provided around working with OOo on a technical level," Steinman told internetnews.com.

Novell will also be providing the ODF to Open XML translator with all editions of OOo that ship with SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) moving forward.

Users won't have to wait for SLED 11 to get Open XML. Novell intends on shipping a patch update to the existing SLED 10 in early 2007 that will include the Open XML plug-in. Novell's OpenSUSE distribution users will be able to download and install the plug-in within the same timeframe.

It is unclear whether the ODF to Open XML plug-in will be picked up by other Linux distributions or even the OOo project directly.

"I never want to speak for what the community will decide; that is their decision. We clearly think this is a good product and we will commit it back to OOo," Steinman said. "I think we have some ability to influence, but it's a community decision and we respect the right of the community to include what they want when they want."

Though the interoperability deal with Microsoft isn't the only reason Novell is participating in the effort, Steinman noted that the Microsoft agreement accelerated the process and it was an item on the table during the negotiations. According to Steinman, patents do not play a role at all in the ODF to Open XML translator effort, either.

Even before the formal interoperability agreement with Microsoft was in place, Novell was actively working on making more Office functionality available to its OOo users in SLED 10. One of the new features that SLED 10 provides users is the ability to run Excel Visual Basic macros in OOo.

Steinman noted that as part of the ongoing efforts to improve interoperability and functionality compatibility, Novell is now also working on getting Microsoft Word Visual Basic macros to work in OOo.

Novell also still has a little bit of work to do to get some proper recognition for its ODF to Open XML efforts.

The ODF to Open XML effort has its official development site on the SourceForge.net open source repository. At press time, the project had only Clever Age, Aztecsoft, DIaLOGIKa and Microsoft as listed contributors to the effort.

Steinman noted that it's just a typo and that Novell will "deal with it."