A demonstration plug-in that allows Microsoft Office to save documents in the ODF format has been completed - and seems likely to form the basis for "real" plug-ins from Sun and others.

OpenOpenOffice, (or O3 for short), an open source project to bring Open Document Format capabilities to Microsoft Office users has "reached the predetermined end-of-life condition - that of a 'real' standalone plugin," according to the ConsortiumInfo standards blog.

O3, run by Open Source Victoria, an Australian government-funded open source group, was set up in October to prove that a plug-in running on clients was the best way to handle translation, rather than a server-based approach. "We are happy that the server approach is no longer required," said Adam Kennedy, of Perl developers Phase N in Lismore, New South Wales, creators of the O3 plug-in.

There are no downloadable files on O3's SourceForge page, because the pre-production implementation "proved too difficult to install for us to consider a release," according to a message from Kennedy reported on the ConsortiumInfo blog, but "the methodology does indeed appear completely valid".

The O3 plug-in is listed as one of the responses to an RFI for a plug-in, which was launched by the Massachusetts government in May. "If you'd like a plugin, we can do it. But we might need a little specialist help to deploy the server half," Kennedy told Massachusetts' IT department.

"The project was started in the first place because it appeared obvious that a solution based on a complete installation of OpenOffice was ugly, and that a SOAP-plugin connecting to a remote server which provided the OpenOffice translation was a relatively quick way to solve the problem that people seemed to be missing," Kennedy told Andy Updegrove of the ConsortiumInfo blog. "The idea was too compelling to ignore."

Sun now agrees, and its second proposal for Massachusetts "would appear to be a direct re-implementation of ours," said Kennedy.

"The entire exercise has, I think, served as a useful warning that often it is MORE important that any given solution is trivially procurable (i.e. easy to install and setup) than that the quality of the solution itself is high," said Kennedy.

Microsoft remains determined to promote its own format in opposition to ODF, even though ODF has been approved as an ISO standard.