Hoping to ultimately establish a standard file format for desktop productivity applications, Sun Microsystems Inc. last week released the latest draft specification of its XML file format that will be included in the next version of its StarOffice suite, which is due later this year.
StarOffice is an open-source productivity applications suite that includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and database applications and runs on all major platforms, including Solaris, Windows and Linux.
"The new specification lets StarOffice users easily share information across applications, thus eliminating the need to save files in different formats," said Bill Roth, Suns group product manager for OpenOffice.org. "It will also simplify the importing and exporting of files from different programs."
The draft specification was released on OpenOffice.org, the open-source community for the source code behind StarOffice, and is available at xml.openoffice.org.
Roth said there had been a lot of discussion in the open-source community about the XML (Extensible Markup Language) specification document, which was first released in October. "Many of the comments, suggestions and recommendations we received have been included in this draft," he said. "We have basically provided more detail, primarily around packaging and the file formats for word processing and spreadsheets."
Iyer Venkatesan, senior product manager for StarOffice, said StarOffice 6, the successor to the StarOffice 5.2 software suite, was on track for release in the second half of this year.
"We are hoping to release it some time in the third quarter, but it may only be in the last quarter, as we are still working with the engineering team on a schedule to incorporate all the feature requests we have received. As such, no concrete release date has been decided on as yet," Venkatesan said.
StarOffice 6 will include the final XML file format currently under discussion. It will also include Asian language support, completing Suns localization road map, as well as feature enhancements to each component. "But exactly what enhancements will be added for this version is still under discussion with engineering," Venkatesan said.
While Sun, of Palo Alto, Calif., is not using StarOffice to compete head-to-head with Microsoft Corp.s Office, StarOffice does offer a viable, cost-effective alternative across the Solaris and Linux platforms. "We have seen a number of wins in the Linux arena, particularly among small businesses and price-sensitive consumers. There have been 4.12 million downloads of Version 5.2 from our Web site since it was released last June," Venkatesan said.