Version 1.0 of new software to convert Word documents between Open XML and Open Document Format has been released.

Open XML Translator is available for download from SourceForge.net and Microsoft's website. The work has been funded by Microsoft but it did not contribute any code to the project, said Jason Matusow, senior director of intellectual property and interoperability at Microsoft. Instead, the company provided architectural guidance and management to the project, he said.

A French company called CleverAge wrote the code and built most of the Open XML Translator, while Aztecsoft in India and Dialogika in Germany did the quality assurance and testing.

The translator allows Microsoft Word documents based on Open XML to be translated into ODF and vice versa, Matusow said. Once downloaded, it can be used as a plug-in for Microsoft Office 2007, the documents of which are based on Open XML. Developers also can build it into software they are developing.

The team is currently working on translation between ODF and Open XML for spreadsheets written in Microsoft Excel 2007 and presentations developed in Microsoft PowerPoint 2007, Matusow said.

Much has been made of the fact that Microsoft did not provide native support in Microsoft Office 2007 for ODF, though it provides support for 30 other file formats and uses Open XML as the default document file format. Matusow defends that decision by saying Microsoft tries to meet its customers' wishes, and there was no customer demand for ODF - supported by rivals IBM and Sun - when development on Office 2007 began. IBM and Sun both use ODF as the default file format in their own rivals to the Microsoft Office suite.

"A standard is about a stack of paper - market adoption is the ultimate driver of activity," Matusow said. "What gets built and used is the defining element. That's why we look at the customer discussion as being so important."

However, government customers that may be required to use only industry-standard technologies in their IT infrastructure requested that Microsoft provide a way to translate between Open XML and ODF. ODF recently was approval by the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) as a global standard, while Open XML is awaiting approval.