Sun Releases Own ODF Plug-in for Office

Separate from Microsoft's efforts to create a translator that supports Office 2007's Open XML formats and OpenDocument, Sun has released the final 1.0 version of its own ODF plug-in for Office. However, Office 2007 is not yet supported due to what Sun calls a bug in Microsoft's newest suite.

Sun ODF Plugin 1.0 works with Office 2003, Office XP and even Office 2000. It fully supports Word, Excel and PowerPoint files - something the Microsoft-backed plug-in does not yet do. Office 2007 is not supported due to an issue in Word 2007 in which the application ignores installed filters and only opens documents with its own. And, of course, Word does not natively support ODF.

"This even happens if you explicitly select the ODF filter! I hope Microsoft will fix this issue with the next service pack. If not, we will work around this bug by doing the same kind of integration like in PowerPoint and Excel," said Sun developer Malte Timmermann.

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The difference, Sun says, between its plug-in and the translator project, is integration. Because the plug-in works like any other file-type filter, users can work directly with the ODF document in Word. This means saving can be done like a regular file -- not requiring a separate Save As export command -- and ODF can even become Word's default file format.

"Conversion is done with StarOffice code, using it's proven and high quality filters. The other Plugin is developed from scratch, using XSLT, and there are things that can't be transformed with XSLT, because you need information about the computed layout," Timmermann added.

The Sun ODF Plug-in 1.0 is completely free and requires no extra downloads like the .NET Framework or Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack. At the moment, only English is supported, but Sun is working on a multi-language version that will simply detect and select what language of Microsoft Office is being used.

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