Case Study


To be able to collaborate efficiently and successfully with your counterpart, you have to speak the same language – or have a reliable translator. The same goes for document processing, where different proprietary “languages” have made communication difficult.

Interoperability between document formats

In the past, exchanging documents was often hindered by proprietary file formats. Then, this was supposed to be remedied by open standards. However, two ISO standards are competing for the favor of users: Office Open XML (OpenXML), the standard file format in Microsoft Office (ISO/IEC 29500:2008), and Open Document Format (ODF), used by LibreOffice among others, and further office suites (ISO/IEC 26300:2006). In order to ensure exchangeability – interoperability – between these two document formats, OpenXML documents must be converted to ODF, and ODF documents to OpenXML, so that they can each be opened in the other office application. Although they have similar features, there are subtle differences in their details, and especially some properties that exist in only one of the formats, that make conversion a real challenge.


In 2006 Microsoft launched an open source project for the purpose of developing a converter between OpenXML and ODF. This initiative was to make it possible for users to open and save ODF documents directly in Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Today, add-ins for Microsoft Office are available for free. An additional command-line tool allows conversions to be performed automatically – even without the corresponding office application.


The project OpenXML/ODF Translator Add-in for Office was an international multi-team project with teams in France, Germany, Poland, the USA, and India. DIaLOGIKa was responsible for:

  • specifying the features to be translated
  • technical consulting for the other project teams
  • development tasks (converter for text documents)
  • quality control (scenario-based tests, testing and release management)

Quality control was conducted using real-world administrative as well as business documents, and was supported by users at the European Commission and Fedict in Belgium, and others Interested parties could actively support the project at the collaboration platform SourceForge, which was used intensively for project communication, development, and quality control.


Well over 3 million downloads attest to the high level of interest in the project: The OpenXML/ODF Translator Add-ins for Office are being used in great numbers around the world, including many within the European Commission. There are further projects to which DIaLOGIKa, with our expertise in document formats, has delivered significant contributions:

  • Collaboration on an ISO white paper from the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems (FOKUS) on “Interoperability of Document Formats”
  • Development of an open source converter for Microsoft’s binary Office formats to OpenXML.


Preparation of a conversion tool within the framework of an EU research project for the preservation of our cultural and scientific heritage (PLANETS) Collaboration with producers of ODF apps at international events (ODF Plugfests) Moreover, DIaLOGIKa is a member of the committee for “Document description and processing languages” for DIN, the German Institute for Standardization (NA 043-01-34 AA).

Cross-Platform Technology

The backbone of the converter consists of XSL transformations between the XML-based document formats. Additional chunks of code in .NET/C# enable special cases to be handled efficiently and the converter to be embedded in office apps. Using XSLT and .NET/C# allows the command line converter to be utilized on other platforms besides Windows, as long as a .NET runtime environment – such as Mono – is running there.

A Powerful Partner

Our many years of Office expertise and our early work with file formats have made DIaLOGIKa one of the most important developer partners for Microsoft.

“Due to the in-depth knowledge accumulated by DIaLOGIKa in the OSS world and in the EU institutions‘ IT applications, DIaLOGIKa has been in an ideal position to contribute to the OpenXML / OpenDocument format conversion initiative by identifying and implementing the word processing features required for the day-to-day work with international documents in an increasingly interoperable world.“

Vijay Rajagopalan (Microsoft USA, Senior Director Interoperability & Platform Strategy)

Questions? We love to answer!

Your Contact Partner

Dirk Vollmar

Project Manager Document Life Cycle

+49 6897 935-0

+49 6897 935-100


  • .NET/C#
  • XSLT


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About us

DIaLOGIKa GmbH creates customized software solutions for national and international clients. Our work focuses on the innovation fields of Telecom Data Request / Provision Procedure, Telecommunications, Document Life Cycle, Digital Security, Embedded Systems, Green Mobility, and Safeguards.

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