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Web word processor adds PDF conversion

Site converts documents to PDF standard, adding to other new features such as OpenDocument and Rich Text Format support.

A Web-based word processor can now convert documents to Adobe Systems' PDF standard, adding to other new features, such as OpenDocument and Rich Text Format support.

The Writely word processor was launched by privately held Upstartle in August as a Web site to store, edit and share word-processing documents. The site lets people upload Microsoft Word documents, which are then converted to HTML.

"Look for 'Save as PDF' on the action menu in the editor," Upstartle co-founder Claudia Carpenter wrote on the software's official blog last week. Carpenter is one of three software engineers who left Intuit, the maker of Quicken finance-planning software, to found California-based Upstartle.

Eventually, Carpenter said, the company will eventually charge for Writely.

"Note: This is our first to-be-premium feature, meaning it will be part of a paid subscription service once we come out of beta," she said.

A post several days earlier dealt with Writely's new ability to convert documents to Rich Text Format.

Sam Schillace, another Upstartle co-founder, said several weeks ago that Writely had "several tens of thousands of users." But the company is thinking bigger.

"We're almost done with scaling the site past 100,000 users. We should be able to support a million users by the end of the month," Carpenter wrote.

In late November, Schillace announced that Writely supports the OpenDocument format, a publicly available open standard for word processing that has recently been gathering steam from companies like IBM and Sun Microsystems.

OpenDocument has become a topic of debate after Massachusetts said this fall that it would adopt the format and dump Microsoft Office because it wanted to move away from proprietary formats.

Writely saves documents in an XHTML-based format.

Upstartle is just one of a number of software start-ups that are looking to move applications onto the Web in an effort to compete with existing applications like Microsoft Office.

Many of the solutions use innovative programming techniques like AJAX to give the services an interactivity and fresh feel not found in the previous generation of Web services.

Microsoft's Web version of Outlook and Google's mapping product are examples of Web services that use AJAX.

A smaller example is Sydney, Australia-based Remember the Milk, created by two programmers with the aim of replicating collaborative calendar functions typically found in suites like Microsoft's Outlook and Exchange e-mail solution.

Such companies are being snapped up by giants like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. Popular Web service, which lets browsers keep and share their bookmarks online, was snapped up over the weekend by Yahoo for an undisclosed sum.

Earlier this month, Upstartle announced that it would look for investors to pump cash into the company.

Renai LeMay of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney. CNET's Martin LaMonica contributed to this report.