Novell: Word, Meet Open Source

Novell  has come through on its first deliverable
stemming from its controversial deal with Microsoft  last year.

The open source software vendor has produced a translator, available for download on its site, that allows users of
OpenOffice, Novell’s version of ODF, to read and edit documents produced
using Microsoft Word 2007.

ODF is the OpenDocument format, which is supported by, and
Open XML is the default file format for Microsoft Office 2007.

Last year’s agreement was berated by open source purists as capitulating to the patent* demands
of a proprietary software vendor at the expense of other open source

But the agreement has opened the door for users of open source software to
open and work with documents prepared using Microsoft Office 2007 software.
After downloading Novell’s plug-in, ODF users can choose to save documents in the .docx format and can open Word documents sent via e-mail.

Translators already exist between ODF and earlier versions of Office.

Novell is also working on a project to create the bi-directional translator
for spreadsheets and presentations prepared using Office 2007.

“We’re still hard at it on the translator project,” Novell spokesman Kevan
Barney told

But some critics have said that the translators aren’t good enough for
real-life business applications. For instance, they say, the translators
accurately reflect the contents of documents, they are imperfect with
regards to style and formatting.

Sam Hiser, director of business affairs at the Open Document Foundation,
which helped create the ODF standard, noted that “this affects the way
documents flow across business processes.”

“I think we have a different definition of interoperability,” he told last month, when Microsoft shipped its version of
the translator.

Barney admitted the translators are not 100 percent faithful but said that
he has worked with them “for years and I’ve never had a significant problem.
It’s never inhibited our ability to do business,” he said.

* Corrected to reflect that Microsoft claims that some open source distributions infringe on its patents, not its trademarks.

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