Microsoft announced yesterday that it is expanding the list of file formats that will be supported by a future update to its Office productivity suite. With the release of Office 2007 Service Pack 2, due in the middle of 2009, the suite will offer increased support for the Open Document Format (ODF), the XML Paper Specification (XPS) and PDF 1.5, as well as PDF/Archive.

The updated version of Office 2007 will allow users to open, edit and save documents using ODF, save documents in XPS and PDF fixed formats directly within Office without having to install third-party plug-ins and set ODF as the default file format for Office 2007.

To also provide ODF support for users of earlier versions of Microsoft Office (Office XP and Office 2003), the company will continue to collaborate with the open source community in the ongoing development of the Open XML-ODF translator project on SourceForge.net.

"Microsoft's support for ODF in Office is a great step that enables customers to work with the document format that best meets their needs, and it enables interoperability in the marketplace," said Roger Levy, senior vice president and general manager of Open Platform Solutions for Novell Inc. "Novell is proud to be an industry leader in cross-platform document interoperability through our work in the Document Interoperability Initiative, the Interop Vendor Alliance and with our direct collaboration with Microsoft in our Interoperability Lab. We look forward to continuing this work."

In addition, Microsoft has defined a road map for its implementation of the newly ratified International Standard ISO/IEC 29500 (Office Open XML). IS29500, which was approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in March, is already substantially supported in Office 2007, and the company plans to update that support in the next major version release of the Microsoft Office system, code-named Office 14.

Microsoft announced it will be an active participant in the future evolution of ODF, Open XML, XPS and PDF standards. The company plans to join the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) technical committee working on the next version of ODF and will take part in the ISO/IEC working group being formed to work on ODF maintenance. The company will also be an active participant in the ongoing standardization and maintenance activities for XPS and PDF. It will also continue to work with the IT community to promote interoperability between document file formats, including Open XML and ODF, as well as Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY XML), the foundation of the globally accepted DAISY standard for reading and publishing navigable multimedia content.

"We are committed to providing Office users with greater choice among document formats and enhanced interoperability between those formats and the applications that implement them," said Chris Capossela, senior vice president for the Microsoft Business Division. "By increasing the openness of our products and participating actively in the development and maintenance of document format standards, we believe we can help create opportunities for developers and competitors, including members of the open source communities, to innovate and deliver new value for customers."

"The demand for a document format that everyone can use is something I hear from our customers on a regular basis," said John D. Head, framework manager at PSC Group LLC, a Chicago headquartered information-technology and professional services consulting firm. "I am very pleased that Microsoft is enabling Microsoft Office to support ODF directly from the software. This will allow us to develop solutions that create documents that can be edited by any user, regardless of what software or operating system they use. In a world where software companies want people to select one software package for their entire user base, the reality is that different user groups and types need options."