Microsoft backs document-format test tool

The online tool is intended to ensure that different vendors' implementations of OOXML produce compatible results
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

Geman research institute Fraunhofer Fokus and Microsoft on Monday announced plans to build an online tool that will help organisations validate their documents against internationally recognised document-format standards.

The tool is intended to be a step towards delivering on the promise of the ISO/IEC 29500 and ECMA-376 standards, both of which are based on Microsoft's Open Office XML (OOXML) document format, Microsoft said.

Several other tools aimed at easing document-format interoperability were also introduced or updated on Monday by the software maker.

The standards are intended to provide a format that can be supported by productivity software from any vendor. But with different vendors implementing the standard in different ways, organisations need a way to make sure the documents they create are fully standards-compliant, Fraunhofer and Microsoft said.

"The introduction of open standards like ISO/IEC 29500 is the first step toward a new era of document interoperability, but we have no guarantee that any implementation of the standard is correct unless we develop a way to test its output," Fraunhofer Fokus senior researcher Klaus-Peter Eckert said in a statement.

He said the tool Fraunhofer plans to build should help avoid interoperability problems, as well as longer-term problems in data archiving.

Fraunhofer Fokus will build the online document-format test library and validation tool, with Microsoft providing support as a development partner and through project funding.

The project resulted from an ongoing series of forums conducted under the aegis of the Document Interoperability Initiative (DII), the eighth of which is being held on Monday and Tuesday in London, Microsoft said. The DII includes technical vendor discussions, labs and other efforts supporting interoperability across different document-format implementations. Participants include vendors, customers, standards professionals and document-format technical experts.

OOXML competes with the OpenDocument Format (ODF) format, which is based on the format used by OpenOffice.org.

In its announcement, Microsoft noted that developers have released the Open XML Document Viewer version 1.0, a tool for translating OOXML documents into HTML so that they can be viewed by a web browser. The tool already included plug-ins for Firefox, Internet Explorer 7 and Internet Explorer 8, and the new version, released on Friday, adds an Opera plug-in.

The company also highlighted updates to several other interoperability projects over the past few weeks. Apache POI (Poor Obfuscation Implementation) 3.5 appeared in beta-test form on 19 February, extending support for XLSX and improving DOCX and PPTX support.

XLSX, DOCX and PPTX are all OOXML format types. Apache POI is a software development kit (SDK) providing Java libraries for reading and writing OOXML documents.

The Office Binary to Open XML Translator was updated on 7 May, adding support for the .XLS and .PPT file formats. This tool is designed to translate documents using older Microsoft Office formats into OOXML; earlier versions support only the .DOC format.

Finally, the Open XML-ODF Translator has been improved. This tool allows users of Microsoft Office 2003 and Office XP to edit ODF documents. Version 3.0, released on 28 April, has been tweaked to better support Office 2007 Service Pack 2 (SP2), which includes built-in ODF support, according to project developers.

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