(Article originally posted at InfoWorld Magazine)
Have you ever received a word document in email, only to find that it cannot be opened or edited by your version of the MS Office? Or perhaps you want to open a paper you wrote in 1996, only to find that you wrote it with Nisus on Mac OS 7, and you are now running Windows XP? Well, you can say goodbye to those days. It’s time to take a look at the format of the future: Open Document Format (ODF).
ODF is a new ISO standard (ISO/IEC 26300:2006) that has already been adopted by several countries including Malaysia, Italy, and Belgium (and the state of Massachusetts). It is also backed by corporations such as IBM, Sun, Google, Red Hat, Novell, and Oracle. It is supported by applications such as IBM’s Workplace, Sun’s Star Office, the open source Open Office and KOffice suite, Mobile Office for your smart phones, and NeoOffice support for Mac is on the way. Heck, even Google Docs supports it, so when you receive a document as an email attachment, you can just open it up and edit it right there in your gmail! It would seem that everyone supports ODF, but the giant itself, Microsoft.
Until 4 days ago.
It was announced on 2007/02/02 (on sourceforge, no less), that the OpenXML Translator 1.0 is available for download. This enables users to use ODF in Office XP to Office 2007. There is also a proof-of-concept plugin for Microsoft Word 97 – 2007 that has been released by the Open Document Foundation.
ODF is not some distant, futuristic standard, it’s something you can start using right this moment. It not only makes document sharing a whole lot easier, it also ensures what you write today, will still be accessible ten years from now.