Microsoft Releases Open-source Content Management App

Microsoft has released an early version of an open-source content management platform that developers can use to build sophisticated blogs or large Web sites.

Called Oxite, its creators describe it as a standards-compliant and highly extensible content management platform. They built it not because there is a need for another blog engine, but because they were building the MIX Online site for Web designers and wanted to offer an example of a use for ASP.NET MVC, according to the Oxite Web site.

ASP.NET MVC lets developers use ASP.NET to build Web applications using an architecture called model-view-controller. Microsoft released a preview of the ASP.NET MVC framework, designed to make it easier for developers to test applications, late last year.

Oxite includes a number of important blog functions that can be complex to implement, according to Microsoft. The framework offers many features common in blogs, including pingbacks, trackbacks, anonymous or authenticated comments with the option to moderate comments, RSS feeds for any page and a Web administration panel.

It’s also designed for users to easily add new Web pages and sub-pages.

At first glance Oxite appears to compete with established blogging products including those from Six Apart. However, Microsoft says that Oxite is designed for developers, rather than less-technical Web users wanting to set up a blog.

“Oxite is targeted at developers who want to learn ASP.NET MVC,” according to a brief FAQ on the Oxite site. “If the community decides to build this to work well for consumers down the road we won’t stop it.”

The Oxite Web site calls this a sample, or alpha release. The code was posted on Friday and had been downloaded by 300 people late Monday afternoon. The MIX Online site is the only one listed so far among sites using the Oxite code base.

Microsoft Launches New Open XML-interop Tools

A group of vendors led by Microsoft and aimed at fostering interoperability between different document formats has unveiled several tools to help people translate among documents created in Open XML and documents that use other file formats.

During a meeting of the Document Interoperability Initiative (DII) in Brussels this week, Microsoft and other industry leaders unveiled three tools to translate documents in Open XML, an industry standard approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for document formats that Microsoft originally created for its Office productivity suite.

Open XML Document Viewer translates Open XML documents to an HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) Web page, allowing readability of those documents on Web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox. A Community Technology Preview (CTP) of the tool is available on Microsoft’s Codeplex site.

Another new tool unveiled at the meeting is the Open XML/ODF (Open Document Format) Translators Version 2.5, which improves translations between Open XML and ODF through templates and is available now on SourceForge as an add-in for Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 and XP.

Microsoft also has posted video demonstrations of these tools on YouTube. The Open XML Document Viewer video is available here, and the Open XML/ODF Translators demo is available here.

ODF is a document format that was approved by the ISO as a global technology standard before Open XML was. In fact, Microsoft’s decision to create Open XML and then submit it as a standard rather than support ODF was a controversial one, which led the company to create the DII in March as well as undertake other interoperability efforts around the format. The ISO eventually made Open XML an international standard in April after a long, controversial approval process.

DII brings global industry leaders and vendors together to identify, test and develop tools to overcome document-interoperability barriers, according to Microsoft.

Another interoperability tool the DII discussed in Brussels that is available now is the Apache POI Java SDK for Open XML, which allows people to read and write Microsoft Office Excel files using Java, according to information about the tool on the Apache Web site.

Even as Microsoft aims to promote more interoperability between Open XML and other file formats, another country has adopted ODF as a standard file format for its documents. On Wednesday Germany said its government agencies will be able to receive, read, send and edit ODF documents beginning no later than 2010, according to a press statement from the ODF Alliance, a group aimed at promoting the standard’s use.