Microsoft trying to live up to interop pledge

Company announces incremental steps, improving documentation and collaborating with others to create more translators to convert Office files into other formats.

Microsoft on Monday announced a series of moves that it says back up its February pledge to make it easy for others' software to interoperate with its own products.

The news is mostly incremental. Microsoft is making more documentation available on how its older binary Office formats work as well as a final version of the protocols used in Office 2007. What caught my eye, though, were two new projects.

The first involves Microsoft working with China's Beihang University to develop translators to allow Excel and PowerPoint to open and save files in China's UOF format. In the second, Microsoft is working to design a new translator that converts its Office 2007 documents into HTML to allow software makers to more easily create browser-based applications that can read Office 2007's Open XML Office format.

"Customers want the interoperability at the document level," Craig Shank, general manager of interoperability at Microsoft. "They would like to be able to use documents in different ways."

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