Binary documentation and translator project

Brian Jones has some good news today for developers who want to work with both the binary Office formats (doc/xls/ppt) and the Open XML formats: one of the proposed dispositions to the DIS 29500 comments describes how Microsoft is going to make it easier to get information about the binary formats and provide open-source tools and guidance for translating binary documents into Open XML.

All the details are in Brian's blog post, and here's the key portion of one of the proposed disposition:

To make it even easier for third party conversion of Binary Format-to-DIS 29500, Microsoft agreed to:

  • Initiate a Binary Format-to-ISO/IEC JTC 1 DIS 29500 Translator Project on the open source software development web site SourceForge ( in collaboration with independent software vendors. The Translator Project will create software tools, plus guidance, showing how a document written using the Binary Formats can be translated to DIS 29500. The Translator will be available under the open source Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) license, and anyone can use the mapping, submit bugs and feedback, or contribute to the Project. The Translator Project will start on February 15, 2008.
  • Make it even easier to get access to the Binary Formats documentation by posting it and making it available for a direct download on the Microsoft web site no later than February 15, 2008. The Binary Formats have been under a covenant not to sue and Microsoft will also make them available under its Open Specification Promise (see by the time they are posted.