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Group tackles OpenOffice desktop spec

An array of companies working on Web services specifications is calling for a new open-source standard to handle desktop application documents.

A group of companies working on Web services specifications is calling for a new standard to handle desktop application documents.

Members of the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) have formed a working group to develop an XML file format specification for the OpenOffice project.

OpenOffice, an office productivity software package, is an open-source project, meaning it can be modified and distributed for free. Versions are available for computers that run the Linux, Windows, Solaris and Mac operating systems. And companies, including Sun Microsystems, have distributed their own flavors of it.

The working group is trying to develop a standard data format for the creation of content such as text, spreadsheets and charts. The goal is to develop an interface between the office software and other applications using XML (Extensible Markup Language).

"Our goal is to achieve consensus on an open standard that will protect content--whether it is an 800-page airplane specification or a legal contract--from being locked into a proprietary file format," Michael Brauer, a technical lead of software engineering at Sun and chairman of the OASIS Open Office XML Format Technical Committee, said in a statement.

Microsoft, which controls more than 90 percent of the desktop application software market through its Office products, has decided to take a "wait and see" approach with the working group, said Simon Marks, product manager for Office. Microsoft is an OASIS member and can join the working group at a future date, he said.

"If this turns out to be something that we feel (is necessary) for customers, we can join, but currently we'll just wait and see," he said.

The working group includes representatives from Arbortext, Boeing, Corel and Drake Certivo.