Microsoft Working on Document Format Translator

Microsoft will make the binary documentation for its Open XML file format available under its Open Specifications Promise.

KIRKLAND, Wash.-Microsoft is planning an open-source translator project that will read a binary and then write this out in the Open XML format, bypassing the need for users to have Microsoft Office installed.

This new open-source project will start on on Feb. 15 and will fall under the BSD license, Brian Jones, the senior program manager lead for Microsoft Office and an Office Open XML technical architect, said at a media event here Jan. 16.

"The goal of this project is to encourage people to migrate from binaries to Open XML," he said.

Microsoft will also make the binary documentation for its Office Open Open XML file format available Feb. 15 to everyone under its OSP (Open Specifications Promise), which is an irrevocable promise by the software maker not to take legal action against those who use a covered specification.

This is a change from the current process where the binary documentation has to first be requested from Microsoft and a form completed before the documentation can be mailed to them, Jones said.

While Microsoft's OSP has received much scrutiny and criticism, its provisions are very much in line with similar promises made by competitors Sun Microsystems, IBM and Adobe Systems, Stephen Mutkoski, Microsoft's senior attorney and director of innovation and interoperability, said at the event.

Microsoft's Jones also gave details on the 3,255 comments made by the national bodies who voted down its application to have Open XML become an ISO/IEC standard last September.

Click here to read more about Microsoft's efforts to win approval of its Open XML standard.

A lot of those comments were repeated word for word from different countries, and individual countries also submitted exactly the same comments more than once, he said, adding that after all of those were removed, there were about 1,000 unique comments left.

"Many of these were easily resolved, and the vast majority were delivered in November and December 2007. The comments included things like the fact that dates before 1900 were not supported, that Open XML conflicted with existing ISO standards such as [those] for encryption, language tags and colors, and that it defined the weekend as falling on a Saturday and Sunday," he said.

The final response to these comments, which came in at 2,300 pages, was delivered on Jan. 14, and included changes made as a result of early feedback from the national bodies.