One of the biggest issues IT managers face when considering an alternative to Microsofts Office productivity suite is file format compatibility.
With 99 percent of the business world running Microsoft Office, IT managers need to ensure that their users can create documents that business partners, suppliers and customers can open and view without problems.
While Office alternatives such as Corels WordPerfect and OpenOffice.orgs OpenOffice.org do a pretty good job when it comes to compatibility with Microsoft Office documents, theyre not perfect.
During the last year, support for the OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications standard, an open format that can be used in any software, has gained momentum. ODF, which covers applications such as word processors, presentations and spreadsheets, uses XML data tagging to format and store documents.
The standard is supported, most notably, by the OpenOffice.org productivity suite.
ODF support among all office suites would be of great benefit to enterprises. Users would be able to view any document with the productivity suite of their choice without having to worry about file format compatibility.
Since the commonwealth of Massachusetts decision to standardize on ODF, a number of vendors also have voiced support for the standard.
Novell, for example, announced in January that it plans to provide complete ODF support in its next release of SUSE Enterprise Desktop, due this year. Other vendors that have thrown their support behind ODF include Google, IBM and Sun Microsystems.
Not all productivity suite vendors offer ODF support, though. ThinkFree and Corel, for example, will support Microsofts competing Open XML when Office "12" is released. Corel has chosen not to support ODF in its recent WordPerfect X3 release .
The reason: Corel executives said that customers havent asked for it.