Microsoft is hoping to let Word do better in Chemistry class.
The software maker said on Wednesday that it is releasing an add-on for the word processor that makes it easier to include labels, formulas, and chemical images into documents. Chem4Word, as the add-on is known, was introduced on Wednesday at the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society.
It's available as a free download from Microsoft's Education Labs Web site. Microsoft also said it plans to release the code under the Apache open-source license later this year.
Chem4Word, which works with both Office 2007 and the forthcoming Office 2010, was developed through a partnership of Microsoft Research and three professors at the University of Cambridge, the company said in a blog posting. The feature builds on the example Microsoft set by including a math equation editor into Word 2007.
"Microsoft Research worked closely with key individuals in the field of chemistry to develop this tool, but Microsoft Office provides the tools and resources to enable other domains to develop on top of Office applications," Alex Wade, Microsoft Research's director for Scholarly Communication, said in the blog.
The company said the tool taps into Chemical Markup Language (an XML for chemistry), which lets one include both chemical structures and the underlying data into their documents.