Novell has announced it will support Microsoft's proprietary document format Open XML in its open-source version of the OpenOffice productivity suite.

The company will also release software that will bi-directionally translate word processing, spreadsheets and presentations between its version of OpenOffice.org's productivity suite and Microsoft Office to the OpenOffice.org project so Open XML can become a part of that open-source project, the company said.

According to marketing director Justin Steinman it will then be up to the open-source community whether to incorporate Microsoft's format into open source. "We are going to release the code to the open-source community. Whether it gets integrated or not is up to the community," he said.

Novell and Microsoft worked together on the translation project, which will allow users of a new release of OpenOffice due in January to create, save and send files as Open XML documents, Steinman said.

Creating interoperability between the OpenOffice and Microsoft Office suites was a goal that was part of the companies' deal, announced last month, to make Microsoft's proprietary software work better with Novell's Suse Linux and other open-source software from the company.

The Open XML work will ultimately allow users to share files between Microsoft Office 2007 and OpenOffice, which support different document formats, Steinman said.

The native document format in OpenOffice is OpenDocument Format (ODF), an XML-based file format recognised as a standard by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Microsoft so far has chosen not to support ODF and instead created its own file format, Open XML, for Office 2007.

Microsoft's lack of support for ODF has been controversial, and led many to believe the company is trying to make its own proprietary file format an industry standard instead of ODF by submitting Open XML to Ecma International in November 2005. Ecma is a standards organisation that can fast-track technology standards through the ISO.

Ecma plans to vote on whether to approve Open XML for submission to the ISO as an international standard this week. Microsoft released Office 2007, which supports Open XML, last week to business customers. The suite is expected to be widely available to consumers in retail outlets on 30 January.

Find your next job with techworld jobs