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OpenDocument Format Toolkit Union Launched

IBM and Sun Microsystems announced the launch of the OpenDocument Format (ODF) Toolkit Union, a new open-source software community project organized to make document software more innovative, versatile and useful for business.

The ODF Toolkit will use an initial software code contribution from Sun to provide developers with an easy-to-use API for reading, writing, and manipulating ODF documents while accelerating additional application development. One part of the initial code contribution is an ODF Validator, a tool that validates OpenDocument files and checks certain conformance criteria. Capitalizing on the open, elegant nature of ODF, the Toolkit targets developers who want to create new applications and solutions ranging from content management, business workflows and activities to Web-based document solutions.

The ODF Toolkit will break down barriers between people and their data by providing support for a wide range of new applications. The ODF Toolkit Union will complement other industry efforts such as the ODF standardization work done at the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS). These initiatives collectively are eliminating the economical and technical barriers to creativity, use and overall utility of documents.

One example could involve the ability to process invoice and shipping data in ODF formatted purchasing documents. Coupled with ordering and shipping applications, real-time stock and inventory information could always be available and kept current by multiple applications mining the same structured XML-based ODF information generated.

"The future of accessing and distributing software is here today," said Sun's Michael Bemmer. "It is no longer an acceptable business practice to have silos of office document data stored in proprietary formats. The industry has moved forward and is replacing the silos with business content, such as on-premise business applications, software solutions offered over the Internet and applications supported by mobile devices that are critical in Service Oriented Architectures."

"We envision each document literally taking on a life of its own, conveying the actionable insight and business value intended by its creators, rather than the static ledger we have been forced to accept -- until now," said IBM's Bob Picciano.

Developers using the ODF Toolkit will be able to easily produce new applications that:

  • Automatically create reports in response to database queries
  • Index or scan documents to support search services
  • Scan documents to support anti-virus services
  • Scan documents for regulatory compliance, legal or forensic purposes
  • Convert from one editable format to another
  • Render documents via other modalities such as audio, video as in unified communications
  • Import data from an office document into a non-office application; for example, import spreadsheet data into a statistical analysis application for business intelligence use.
  • Render and import documents for mobile device display and editing constraints

Many traditional and leading online office applications offer ODF as the default file format. These include Sun's StarOffice,, IBM's Lotus Symphony, Redflag Chinese 2000's RedOffice, KOffice, GoogleDocs, Zoho and others.

As an open standard supported by a committee of many vendors and independent contributors at the OASIS standards development organization. Since it is not controlled by a single vendor, ODF prevents vendor lock-in by enabling documents to be accessible from multiple applications, rather than by a single vendor's application. The OpenDocument Format standard is an XML-based specification describing the contents and formatting of documents, spreadsheets and presentations. It has been developed and managed by the OASIS standards organization and is available as an international standard, ISO/IEC 26300.

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