Corel to fully support ODF, Open XML in WordPerfect

With a dominant e-document format yet to emerge, Corel plans more support in its WordPerfect software

Corel is adopting a neutral approach to the electronic document format duel and updating its WordPerfect word processing software to fully support both the OpenDocument Format (ODF) and Microsoft's Office Open XML formats.

The Canadian software vendor announced its new stance Wednesday after previously appearing to favour ODF over the Microsoft format.

ODF, backed by Sun Microsystems, IBM and open-source players, is facing off against Microsoft's Open XML, which will be the default file format for the software giant's upcoming Office 2007 desktop applications suite. At issue is which document format users will favour. Governments around the world are expressing interest in open-standard document formats to help them both ensure continued access to existing information and to ease their dependence on Microsoft Office.

Corel was one of the initial members of two groups set up in March to evangelize ODF -- the ODF Alliance and the OASIS standards body's ODF Adoption Committee. Corel developer Paul Langille was also one of the original four authors of the ODF specification.

Corel arrived at its decision to support both ODF and Open XML over the last few months, according to Richard Carriere, the company's general manager of office productivity. The vendor wants to meet the needs of both consumer and government users, with consumers looking to Corel to offer interoperability with Office 2007 and governments keen for the company to support ODF, he said.

As a small desktop applications provider with some 11 million active users, Corel needs to be very flexible and can ill afford to back one format over another.

It's also still unclear which document format will win out -- ODF or Open XML -- or whether both will coexist, Carriere said. "Companies and governments have not made a decision yet," he added.

Corel is announcing joint support plans as Microsoft prepares to launch Office 2007 Thursday.

Come the middle of next year, Corel aims to offer open, view and edit support for both ODF and Open XML as an initial move toward fully supporting both formats, Carriere said. He wouldn't comment on the time line for when Corel will fully support the format, but said the vendor's efforts will be driven by the needs of its government customers.

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