Microsoft yesterday announced the creation of the Open XML Translator project, so its Office suite will support the open-source ODF (OpenDocument Format).

The move comes in response to government requests for Microsoft products to be compatible with ODF, such as the national governments of Belgium and Denmark and the state government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The company said that the next edition of Office – Office 2007, now expected early next year – will include menu options for XML, ODF and Adobe's PDF formats. The ODF support would include Office's three main formats, namely Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

A prototype of the first translator for Word's 2007 version will be posted Wednesday on, a popular site for open-source development. It can be found here, and is available under the BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) licence, designed for open-source use and revision of software without licensing fees, within general guidelines and principles.

A final version of the Word translator will be available in late 2006, with Excel and PowerPoint translators to follow in 2007, Microsoft said. The translators will be backwards-compatible, and users will be able to download free compatibility packs for "older versions" of Office, although Microsoft did not specify what the earliest version of Office it will support is.

Partner companies will author the translation tools, naming French IT company Clever Age, India's Aztecsoft and Germany's Dialogika as collaborators for the Open XML Translator.

Microsoft had previously opposed ODF, with Office format documents still being the world's most popular.

ODF is the Oasis (Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) OpenDocument Format, designed to create an open-source document standard. ODF has received support from open-source advocates including Sun Microsystems.