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Sun Announces ODF Converter for MS Office 2003 - MA Already Using it
Wednesday, February 07 2007 @ 11:53 AM EST

Sun has announced a plugin for ODF that "allows seamless two-way conversion of Microsoft Office documents to ODF", they say, specifically Microsoft Office 2003, and get this -- the disabled can use it with their current accessibility devices. Massachusetts is using the plugin right now and an early access version is being made available as a download in the middle of this month and the final release projected for spring. It does text currently (.doc/.odt), but by April, it will do spreadsheets and presentations as well. Here's their press release. Here's the paragraph about Massachusetts:
The Executive Department of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is currently using the converter to meet the previously identified January, 2007 compliance date for the start of a phased migration to the ODF format. In addition to allowing the Commonwealth's existing Microsoft Office applications to read and write ODF text files, the converter permits the continued use of the state's chosen accessibility technologies to meet the needs of people with disabilities.

This is a real achievement that Sun can be justly proud of. Andy Updegrove explains the differences. I also checked what Microsoft's plugin can do, and the release announcement says this:

Open XML Translator provides tools to build a technical bridge between the Open XML Formats and Open Document Format(ODF). As the first component of this initiative, the ODF Add-in for Microsoft Word 2007 allows to Open & Save ODF documents in Word....

It has been tested over Word XP, Word 2003 and Word 2007 in five different languages (English, Dutch, French, German and Polish)...

We'are also planning to work on Excel and Powerpoint and this should be availble by the end of the year (Novembre 2007), so stay tuned and keep on providing feedback as this will help us in future development!

Open and Save, it says. What about write? Neither does spreadsheets or presentations yet, and Sun appears to have distinguished its offering particularly by making it usable right now by the disabled community. You'd have to try them both to see which works best, but Massachusetts is using Sun's plugin right now. And Sun's announcement says its plugin allows one to write ODF documents also.

Update: Note that Updegrove has corrected his article with respect to the Microsoft plugin's capabilities. And here's Microsoft's press release about its plugin:

The completed Open XML Translator enables conversion of documents from one format to the other and is available for anyone to download and use at no cost. When plugged into Microsoft® Office Word, for example, the Translator provides customers with the choice to open and save documents in ODF rather than the native Open XML format. The Translator may also be plugged into competing word processing programs that use ODF as the default format to open and save documents in Open XML.

Here's the rest of the body of the Sun press release:

*******************************

Sun Microsystems Announces OpenDocument Format (ODF) Plug-in Application for Microsoft Office
Wednesday February 7, 9:00 am ET
Users of Accessibility Devices Now Fully Able to Participate in Organizations Switching to ODF

MENLO PARK, Calif., Feb. 7 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Sun Microsystems, Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW - News), the largest code contributor to free and open source communities, today announced the upcoming availability of the StarOffice(TM) 8 Conversion Technology Preview plug-in application for Microsoft Office 2003. The early access version of the OpenDocument Format (ODF) plug-in, available as a free download, will allow seamless two-way conversion of Microsoft Office documents to ODF.

"Organizations can now consider switching to ISO/IEC 26300 OpenDocument Format while protecting employees needing assistive devices only supported by legacy Microsoft software," said Rich Green, executive vice president, Software at Sun Microsystems. "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."

The StarOffice 8 Conversion Technology Preview is primarily based on the OpenOffice.org platform, the open-source office productivity suite developed by the OpenOffice.org community including the founder and main contributor Sun Microsystems. Sun offers distributions and configurations of and support for OpenOffice.org under the StarOffice brand. The initial plug-in application will support the conversion of text documents (.doc/.odt) only, but full support of spreadsheet and presentation documents is expected in April. The conversion is absolutely transparent to the user and the additional memory footprint is minimal.

The Executive Department of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is currently using the converter to meet the previously identified January, 2007 compliance date for the start of a phased migration to the ODF format. In addition to allowing the Commonwealth's existing Microsoft Office applications to read and write ODF text files, the converter permits the continued use of the state's chosen accessibility technologies to meet the needs of people with disabilities.

"Adoption of the ISO Standard OpenDocument Format has grown significantly in the past year, as more governments and businesses around the world embrace the standard," said Marino Marcich, managing director of the ODF Alliance, a group of more than 350 organizations, governments and companies that promotes and advances the use of OpenDocument Format as the primary document format for governments. "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."

The OpenDocument Format was accepted as an official OASIS standard in May 2005, and adopted by the International Standards Organization in May 2006.

The StarOffice 8 Conversion Technology Preview is expect to be available mid-February 2007 at sun.com/openoffice with the final release expected later this spring.


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