Microsoft has given in to pressure from several parties including some governments and announced that they are to offer new free open source software which will make it possible for the Office suite to handle documents in rival formats. The company will develop tools that will enable conversion between its Open XML formats in Office 2007 and OpenDocument. This will allow Word, Excel and PowerPoint to handle documents in rival technology formats. These tools will be released under an open source license, and will be made available as free downloads.

Microsoft has explained that the move is in response to governmental requests for interoperability with OpenDocument format, and that the tools will be developed with the aid of French company Clever Age and India’s Aztecsoft and Dialogika of Germany.

"This tool promises to be a very significant development in the trend towards practical open document standards and, critically, customer-friendly means to move between them," said Andrew Hopkirk, director of the e-government operability framework programme at the UK’s National Computing Centre.
The move marks a departure from the traditional stance of Microsoft of keeping a strong hold of its own source code. The company has also, in the past, spent time and money fighting OpenDocument at every turn.

It is believed that the final tool will ship at the end of 2006, with converters for Excel and PowerPoint arriving early in 2007.