3/3/2006 8:25:36 PM, by Jeremy Reimer
A consortium of companies and organizations have banded together to form the "ODF Alliance," a group dedicated to promoting the office software file format first implemented by OpenOffice.org. The alliance consists of more than 35 members from various countries around the world. It includes companies such as Red Hat, IBM, Novell, Sun Microsystems, and Corel, and governmental organizations such as the American Library Association and the Information and Communications Technology council for the city of Vienna.
The OpenDocument file format was formed by the industry consortium OASIS, a group headed by Sun Microsystems, and was based on OpenOffice.org's native file format. OpenOffice.org is itself an open-sourced version of Star Office, the proprietary office suite that Sun purchased when it acquired the German company Star Division in 1999. The idea behind OpenDocument was to use a text-based XML format (compressed in a zip file to conserve disk space) in order to make it easy for other products to interoperate with it. The specification was finalized in 2005 and OpenOffice.org was the first software suite to support it. Other projects, such as KOffice, AbiWord, and IBM Workplace are adding support for the ODF format, either natively or through plug-in format translators.
In today's highly networked world, it turns out that operability is a very useful thing to have, which is why Microsoft decided that they would also jump on the XML bandwagon, introducing a new XML-based file format (.docx) for Office 2003. Not only that, but the company is planning to make the next version of the Office XML format the default for Office 2007 (formerly known as Office 12). This means that when users of Office 2007 go to save a file, they will automatically save in .docx, not .doc.
While most people don't consider file formats to be terribly exciting, the question of which format to adopt led to an increasingly dramatic series of announcements from the government of Massachusetts. In January 2005, the government approved Office XML 2003 as an appropriate file format, then in September of that year reversed their…