Sun Preps ODF to MS Office Converter

Sun Microsystems announced Wednesday that it is preparing to release a plug-in for its StarOffice 8 productivity suite that will provide two-way conversion between the OpenDocument format and Microsoft Office 2003.

The idea of the plug-in is to enable organizations to transition to ODF while continuing to support Microsoft Office users. Although a number of governments including the state of Massachusetts have pushed for ODF adoption due to it being a completely open standard, there has been some resistance due to certain assistive devices being only supported by Office.

"Organizations can now consider switching to ISO/IEC 26300 OpenDocument Format while protecting employees needing assistive devices only supported by legacy Microsoft software," remarked Rich Green, executive vice president at Sun. "ODF is important because it ensures documents will still be readable long into the future while allowing a wide choice of proprietary and open source software choices to work with the documents."

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The conversion plug-in was developed by the OpenOffice.org community, with the help of Sun developers, the company said. Microsoft recently finished its own plug-in that integrates into Office 2007 and older versions to provide export into ODF, as well as importing files already created in the format. StarOffice is Sun's branded version of OpenOffice, which it sells and supports.

Unlike Microsoft's plug-in, however, Sun has focused on Office 2003 compatibility. Office 2007 utilizes Microsoft's new Office Open XML format, which the Redmond company recently received Ecma certification for and submitted to the International Standards Organization.

Sun's StarOffice 8 Conversion Technology Preview will be available later this month, but only with support for conversion between text documents using .doc and .odt. Support for presentation and spreadsheet files is expected with the final release in April. Sun says the conversion is transparent to the user and memory usage is negligible.

According to Sun, Massachusetts is already using the plug-in to meet its January deadline to begin migrating the Executive Department to ODF.

"This plug-in will simplify and further accelerate implementation of ODF by allowing users to standardize their work flows on ODF, so that they become vendor independent and can choose between multiple implementations and suppliers going forward," commented Marino Marcich, managing director of the ODF Alliance, a group comprised of 350 members that promotes and advances OpenDocument.

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