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Document Interoperability Initiative Drives Development of New Tools


Fraunhofer FOKUS and industry experts collaborate to help organizations test and verify conformance with standardized document formats; updates to additional translator projects unveiled.

LONDON - The variety of software programs and document formats in the market can make it difficult for organizations to exchange data among disparate systems. For example, to carry out their public service, communicate with citizens and operate efficiently, most government employees need to access, read and edit multiple types of documents. International standards for document formats are an important step toward providing individuals and organizations with this kind of document interoperability, but the creation of standards is just the beginning.

In fact, technology industry experts participating in an ongoing series of Document Interoperability Initiative (DII) forums concluded that document interoperability would be enhanced through an independent tool and Web site that allows for the testing and validation of documents created by implementations of the IS29500 and ECMA-376 standards. Today, Fraunhofer FOKUS, a leading German research institute, detailed its plan to build such a document format test library and validation tool. Carried out in collaboration across the industry as a result of the DII forums, the Fraunhofer FOKUS project will help organizations and industry players determine whether documents have been developed based on the internationally standardized formats ISO/IEC 29500 (Office Open XML) and ECMA-376 (Ecma Office Open XML). Making this determination will help organizations ensure that their users can easily access and exchange data between documents, which will help improve their overall efficiency. Microsoft is supporting these activities both as a development partner and through project funding.

“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,” said Klaus-Peter Eckert, senior researcher at Fraunhofer FOKUS. “Creating these tools will not only ease the effective exchange of data today, it will also improve long-term benefits for data archiving.”

Fraunhofer FOKUS detailed its project plans at a DII global forum in London on May 18. It included discussions on the operation of the project, how vendors and other interested parties can participate, and the expected development path for the project over the coming months. This event is the eighth in a series of events throughout the world that have brought implementers, customers, standards professionals and document-format technical experts together to identify tools and techniques for achieving improved interoperability between implementations of popular document format standards.

Updates to Other Technical Tools Deliver Improvements to Document Interoperability

These forums continue to yield practical results. Updates to several existing interoperability solutions were also unveiled today, including tools for developers and users, from browser plug-ins to APIs.
• Open XML Document Viewer v1.0 released, including new Opera plug-in. This tool provides direct translation for Open XML documents (.DOCX) to HTML, enabling access to Open XML documents from any platform with a Web browser, including many mobile devices. The project already includes a plug-in for Firefox, Internet Explorer 7 and Internet Explorer 8, and now also offers a plug-in for Opera, allowing users to view Open XML documents (.DOCX) within the Opera browser on Windows and Linux platforms without the need to install Microsoft Office or other productivity products. More information can be found at
• Beta availability of Apache POI 3.5 - Java API to access information in the Open XML Format. This software development kit (SDK) for Java developers interested in working with Open XML documents is now available for the beta version of Apache POI 3.5 beta 5. The beta version offers extended support for XLSX, and improved support for DOCX and PPTX. More information can be found at
• Availability of support for .XLS and .PPT file formats for the Office Binary to Open XML Translator. This project, which originally went live in February 2008 with support for the Word binary format (.DOC), now supports Word (DOC), Excel (XLS) and PowerPoint (PPT) binary formats and combines software tools and guidance to show how documents written using any of these formats can be translated into the Open XML format. The translator enables users to more easily access existing content in the binary formats and translate it into Open XML and other formats such as OpenDocument Format (ODF). More information can be found at
• Improvements to the Open XML-ODF Translator. This translator improves interoperability between the ODF and the Open XML formats, and as part of the continual evolution of the project offers improvements in the quality and completeness of translation. The translator will continue to be the solution for Microsoft Office 2003 and Office XP users who want to edit ODF documents; Service Pack 2 of the 2007 Microsoft Office system includes built-in support for documents of version 1.1 of the ODF. The translator is designed to be interoperable with various desktop suites, and can be used with Novell OpenOffice to add read, edit and write support for Open XML documents. More information can be found at

“The collaborative work being done through the Document Interoperability Initiative is invaluable to the evolution of these document translator projects,” said Doug Mahugh, lead standards professional for the Microsoft Office Interoperability team. “Document interoperability is about people and companies dedicated to working together — over the long haul — to solve customer issues.”

“At Microsoft, we will continue to champion increased openness through access to our products and collaboration with others to build interoperability solutions that can be applied to real-world problems,” said Jean Paoli, general manager for Interoperability Strategy at Microsoft. “Greater interoperability fosters choice and flexibility for customers, which we believe will fuel technology innovation and economic growth.”

About the Document Interoperability Initiative

The Document Interoperability Initiative is a global program of technical vendor discussions, labs and solution-enablement programs to increase interoperability between document format implementations across a range of formats, applications, platforms and devices. This initiative is open to any vendor that wants to collaborate with the community to identify and address interoperability issues between different implementations of document formats.

The DII forum in London, May 18–19, 2009, is the eighth meeting in an ongoing series, which began last year. At these events, participants have studied and tested document format interoperability in a variety of scenarios, such as mobile platforms, accessibility technology and document management by IT administrators. Additional DII document interoperability events are currently planned for the coming months in Beijing and Berlin. Further information on these and past events can be found at

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