Gary Edwards, an engineer involved in the open-source OpenOffice project and founder of the OpenDocument Foundation, on Thursday discussed the software plug-in on the Web site Groklaw.
The new program, which has been under development for about year and finished initial testing last week, is designed to let Microsoft Office manipulate OpenDocument format (ODF) files, Edwards said.
“The ODF Plugin installs on the file menu as a natural and transparent part of the ‘open,’ ‘save,’ and ‘save as’ sequences. As far as end users and other application add-ons are concerned, ODF Plugin renders ODF documents as if (they) were native to MS Office,” according to Edwards.
If the software, which is not yet available, works as described, it will be a significant twist to an ongoing contest between Microsoft and the backers of OpenDocument, a document format gaining more interest lately, particularly among governments.
“Having a third-party product to save OpenDocument files from Office could give OpenDocument-based products a bump in the marketplace,” said Stephen O’Grady, a RedMonk analyst.
OpenDocument is the native format for the OpenOffice open-source desktop productivity suite and is supported in others, including KOffice, Sun Microsystems’ StarOffice and IBM’s Workplace.
“To the extent that you get people authoring documents in a format that is natively compatible with OpenDocument, that’s an important first step over the long term” to migrating people to OpenDocument-based applications, O’Grady said.
On the other hand, the OpenDocument plug-in could keep people from adopting software built by any of Microsoft Office’s competitors. People who want to save documents in ODF can now use Microsoft Office, rather than OpenOffice or other Office alternatives. “It’s potentially a very positive thing for Microsoft,” O’Grady said.
–Martin LaMonica, CNET Staff Writer