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Microsoft eases access to Office binary formats for OOXML

Responding to requests, Microsoft will sponsor open-source project to build translators between older office formats and Open XML.

Microsoft has made changes designed to make it easier to access the technical documentation for its older Office binary document formats and will sponsor an open-source project to map those binary formats to Open XML.

The moves are in response to requests from other participants in the standardization process that Microsoft is leading to make Office Open XML an ISO (International Organization for Standardization) standard.

In a blog on Wednesday, Office program manager Brian Jones said that the documentation for the binary document formats will be available for download under the terms of its Open Specification Promise (OSP), which is designed to let third parties write software using Microsoft's technology without fear of patent infringement claims.

There are already translators between Office binary formats and ODF, the defaults file formats, and the open-source product OpenOffice.

Jones also said Microsoft will be sponsoring an open-source project with software vendors--which he didn't name--to create a bridge between the binary formats and Open XML.

"The thought here was that the most effective way to help people with this was to create an open source translation project to allow binary documents (.doc; .xls; .ppt) to be translated into Open XML," Jones wrote.

Meanwhile, the conflict between supporters of Open XML and ODF continues.

The ODF Alliance issued its rebuttal (click for PDF) to a recent Burton Group study that argued that Open XML will get plenty of market adoption and that large companies should only use ODF to make an "anti Microsoft statement."