Microsoft is taking more steps to make it easier for enterprise and independent developers to create software that runs on top of its Outlook e-mail file format, releasing a pair of associated tools as open source.
The move follows on Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) recent public release of the data formats used for its Outlook e-mail client personal folders.
Now, the software giant is moving to provide tools to augment the task developing software that uses the Outlook file format, known as PST. The two new tools it released Monday are the File Format Software Development Kit (SDK) and the PST Data Structure View Tool.
Combined with the PST documentation, the new tools can be used in building programs including applications for extracting photos from e-mail folders, searching archives, and uploading data to the cloud, the company said. P>"Customers are telling us they need greater interoperability, and we believe that welcoming competition and choice will create more opportunities for customers, partners and developers," William Kennedy, corporate vice president for Office Communications and Forms, said in a statement.
The PST Data Structure View Tool provides a graphical tool that lets developers browse a PST file's internal data structures, while the PST File Format SDK provides a cross platform C++ library for reading PST files for use in products run on PST, according to a post on the Interoperability @ Microsoft blog.
Microsoft officials also emphasized that the release of both the documentation and the tools is consistent with the company's declared "Interoperability Principles," an initiative announced in 2008 that promised to make key elements of its chief software offerings available for free to developers, in the name of fostering greater openness and choice for customers and developers.
Despite Microsoft's numerous moves to soften its image with open source developers over recent years, the company's initiatives along those lines have suffered occasional missteps.
Still, Microsoft is betting that by opening more of its code to developers using common open source approaches, it's likely to benefit while also helping encourage developers to build off its technology.
"The code [for the two tool sets] is available on Codeplex.com under the Apache 2.0 license, allowing developers to freely download and use the code in accordance with the terms of that license", Kennedy said in a separate post to Microsoft's On the Issues blog Monday.