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Microsoft creates Office plug-in for Moodle

The free download lets people use Word, Excel and PowerPoint to save files directly to the online services used by schools and universities.

The Office add-on for Moodle allows those using Office 2003 or Office 2007 to save documents directly to the popular open-source online education system. Microsoft

Microsoft is releasing a free add-on that could make life easier for teachers, professors, and others who use the online educational system Moodle.

The plug-in, which works with Office 2003 and Office 2007, allows users to save Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents directly to the open source online service. It also allows users to edit directly in Office a document saved on Moodle, which is widely used in colleges and at some K-12 schools as well.

"We know that it's out there in force," Jon Perera, general manager of Microsoft's Educational Products Group, said of Moodle. "It became a really logical and thoughtful step to make those two systems work better."

The Office add-on for Moodle also allows people to use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to directly open documents stored on Moodle. Microsoft

Saving documents to Moodle from Office used to require up to eight steps, but the new add-on cuts that in half. Opening an Office document from Moodle is now a single step, Perera said.

The add-on helps those using the current version of Office for Windows PCs, but doesn't help the many educational users on a Mac. Perera said Microsoft is evaluating how to support Moodle in Office 2010, which also includes browser-based Office Web Apps that run on both Macs and PCs.

"At this point the only thing we are announcing is the add-in for Windows," Perera said. "As we ship Office 2010, we'll look at how we integrate (that version of Office)."

Microsoft is trying to pay closer attention to the trends in schools, since it knows that shifts in computing often show up first within colleges.

"Students in particular, and I think universities as a whole, are really hotbeds for innovation," Perera said.

The Moodle add-on for Office is a free download from Microsoft's Education Labs group, which recently also offered a chemistry plug-in for Word.