Microsoft is softening its stance on open source software by sponsoring a project to develop a program that will convert Office documents to OpenDocument

The Open XML Translator project will open on, which hosts code-sharing projects.

The prototype software released on will translate Word documents to OpenDocument and vice versa, and will be backward-compatible with older versions of Office.

The plan is to ready a plug-in for Office 2007 by the end of the year, and have more software ready for Excel and PowerPoint next year.

Microsoft has previously shown great reluctance toward compatibility with open source documents, but the recent support for OpenDocument by government customers in Massachusetts and Belgium may be changing its mind.

The translation between Office documents and OpenDocuments products is not going to be exact, as programmers will find some features are unique to Office 2007.

French IT solution provider Clever Age, as well as software vendors Aztecsoft in India and Dialogika in Germany are all working on the translation software.