Microsoft has released tools that should make it much easier for users to share and save text-based files.
Moving files between computers can be frustrating
Working with three partners Microsoft has released a translation program that converts Word documents into more "open" formats.
Specifically, it lets users save Word documents in the ODF format favoured by the free Open Office application.
More translation add-ons for other applications in Microsoft's Office package of programs will follow.
Rivalries in the technology world mean that companies develop their own proprietary file formats which do not work together.
This means that moving documents between programs on different machines can be frustrating.
Although it is possible to save files in neutral configurations so they can be moved around easily, these do not preserve all the nuances of style and layout available in proprietary formats.
The translation tool should ease some of the frustration as it lets users open, alter and save files in Word that have been previously saved in the Open Document format (ODF).
Amongst others, ODF is used by the free Open Office program that is becoming a rival to Microsoft's Office suite of applications.
The release of the translation tool fulfils part of a pledge made by Microsoft in late 2006 to produce the add-ons. Still to come is a translation tool that lets users of Open Office open, alter and save files in the open format Microsoft prefers, known as Open XML.
The add-on program for Word can already be downloaded from the SourceForge project page and will soon be available via Microsoft's website. The add-on works with Word 2003 and 2007.
Microsoft and its partners are also working on other translators for the Excel spreadsheet and PowerPoint presentation applications. These are expected to be ready by the end of 2007.