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Sun to release ODF translator for Microsoft Office

StarOffice plug-in for Office 2003 translates Word and ODF Writer files; spreadsheet, presentation translators set for April.

Sun Microsystems is releasing a plug-in for Microsoft Office 2003 that will allow two-way compatibility with the OpenDocument Format, the company announced Wednesday.

The StarOffice 8 Conversion Technology Preview plug-in is based on the OpenOffice.org platform. OpenOffice is the free open-source office suite that uses OpenDocument Format (ODF), a standard XML-based format adopted by several private companies and government organizations. The format is a direct rival to Microsoft's Open XML (OOXML) format.

Sun's plug-in will allow people already using Microsoft Office to switch between Word (.doc) documents and OpenOffice Writer (.odt) documents with minimal additional memory added to the file, according to Sun.

The initial StarOffice plug-in will be available for free download from Sun's OpenOffice site in mid-February, according to Sun spokeswoman Terri Molini. The plug-in only works for converting between .odt and .doc documents in Office 2003, but Sun expects to include spreadsheets and presentation file conversion capabilities by April. Sun is also evaluating whether it will introduce support for older Microsoft Office versions.

Microsoft released its own ODF document translator for Word in early February. It, too, announced plans to eventually include translation of spreadsheets and presentation documents.

ODF was made an official standard by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards in May 2005 and by the International Organization for Standardization in May 2006. Microsoft's OOXML standard was adopted by Ecma International in December 2006. Microsoft competitors Sun, IBM and Novell are supporters of ODF. Sun is also the founder and a main contributor of code to OpenOffice.org.