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The Problem

Did you ever receive a document you could not open? Chances are the sender used a different programme or version than yours to create it. OpenDocument format avoids users being locked in to particular products or technologies.

What is it?

The OpenDocument format (ODF), is an open document file format for saving and exchanging editable office documents such as text documents, spreadsheets, databases, charts, and presentations. The OpenDocument format offers an open alternative to the formats used by all the existing Microsoft Office application versions the file extensions with which people are most familiar are Microsoft's .doc, .xls and .ppt extensions; these reflect the formats most in use today. OpenDocument's main file extensions are .odt (for a text document), .ods (for spreadsheets) and .odp (for presentations). These are analogous to the Microsoft extensions and will be more commonly recognized as people and organizations adopt OpenDocument-ready software.

Executive Summary

The OpenDocument format guarantees long-term access to data without legal or technical barriers. Governments have become increasingly aware of open formats as a public policy issue. This appears to a be a good issue for ORG to champion as it is easy for MPs to understand the need.

Organizations and individuals that store their data in an open format such as OpenDocument avoid being locked in to a single software vendor, leaving them free to switch software if their current vendor goes out of business, raises its prices, changes its software, or changes its licensing terms to something less favourable.

OpenDocument on Wikipedia

Open Document on Groklaw. Groklaw detailed records of almost every thing to do with OpenDocument

Which governments are supporting OpenDocument?

Supported by international standards bodies.

In the process of going to OpenDocument

What does this mean for me?

More competition. More innovation. More choice. Less cost. Less lock-in.

Why do I care?

As technologies mature, shared facilities always become standardized. This has been true of common units of measure, construction materials (screws, pipes, fasteners, wood and metal subcomponents like the two-by-four among others) as well as Internet protocols (TCP/IP). There is every reason to expect that document format standardisation around an open specification (exemplified by OpenDocument) should drive competition into document tools markets and drive innovation toward all the things we can do with documents and the data within.

Information or data created by users and organisations and stored in office documents belongs to the creators of that data. Yet, when the most common document formats are proprietary (or not open), users lose control of their data through dependency upon the software company or entity which controls the data format. When the controlling entity makes changes to its format this forces software re-acquisition upon users, which can be expensive as well as unnecessary. OpenDocument, by being openly developed and having no impediments to its usage or access, provides an excellent solution to this problem of control by offering an open standard data format for use in all kinds of software -- free as well as commercial.

Is it Anti-Microsoft?

No. There is a MS Office plugin that allows MS Office to open and save files in the OpenDocument format.

Why use the plugin? Well, it ends any problems you will have with incompatibilities between different versions of MS Office. The plugin ends version madness because it provides a single, unified file format in which all modern versions of MS Office can work -- file conversions going both ways -- as well as handles repeated round tripping smoothly. Introduces a durably open file format for documents without a disruptive change of software.

What Does the Plugin Accomplish for Organizations?

Not Open Source, nor is it Free, Software

...but it is open and free. OpenDocument is a specification; an OpenDocument file does not become software or take form in a file until some software application creates or changes it. OpenDocument, being an open standard, can be implemented in all types of software Open Source & Free Software applications (both commercial and non-commercial) and proprietary software (freeware or commercial).

It suffices to say that there is a mature Open Source office suite that is available by free download that offers the OpenDocument format as its native default ( 2.0); and there also exists a mature commercial application that offers OpenDocument, too (StarOffice 8). Accordingly, software licences or software development models do not impact or limit access to organizations seeking to use the OpenDocument format.




2007-10-26 - Ars Technica - UK government: Schools shouldn't sign licensing agreements with Microsoft
Author: Eric Bangeman
Summary: In the case of Office 2007, Becta would like to see stronger support for the ODF format used by and better interoperability with Microsoft Works.
2007-10-26 - ZDNet - South African government adopts ODF
Author: Tom Espiner
Summary: The South African government said on Tuesday that it is to adopt Open Document Format as its preferred standard for software interoperability.
2007-05-13 - Standards Blog - Norwegian Standards Council Recommends Mandatory use of ODF and PDF
Summary: Norway is the latest European country to move closer to mandatory government use of ODF (and PDF). According to a press release provided in translation to me by an authoritative source, Norway now joins Belgium, Finland, and France (among other nations) in moving towards a final decision to require such use.
2007-02-06 - InfoWorld - Texas, Minnesota eye move to ODF
Author: Elizabeth Montalbano
Summary: Texas and Minnesota may become the second and third U.S. states to adopt ODF (Open Document Format for XML) as the standard file format for government documents instead of the file format that Microsoft uses in its Office 2007 software suite.
2007-02-02 - ars technica - Free ODF converter for Word now available
Author: Jeremy Reimer
Summary: Microsoft today released the final version of an open-source document translator for Microsoft Word that allows the user to save files in the OpenDocument (ODF) format. The conversion utility, hosted on SourceForge, has been in development for several months in a partnership between Microsoft and open-source developers.
2007-01-12 - ZDNet - Government demands Office competition in schools
Author: Richard Thurston
Summary: There are now six credible alternatives to Microsoft Office in schools, according to the government's advisor on IT in education. Open Office, Corel WordPerfect Office, Star Office, Lotus SmartSuite, Sun's One SE and EasyOffice all offer the functionality that schoolchildren and teachers need, said Becta, the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, in a report issued this month.
2006-01-03 - An Antic Disposition - How to hire Guillaume Portes
Author: Rob Weir
Summary: Excellent and easily understood analogy explaining why Microsoft's private ECMA document standard is anything but open.
2006-11-23 - Slashdot - French National Assembly Embraces Open Source
Summary: The French National Assembly is in the news as they have recently switched to Linux, & open source software at the request of several deputy members. Bernard Carayon wrote it it into the proposal entitled 'On Equal Terms' [French PDF]. From the article, 'IT staff at the National Assembly have almost six months to prepare the switch to open source.' The same document urged France to adopt ODF as a standard.
2006-11-01 - The Register - Open standards group to beat Microsoft at its own game
Author: Kieren McCarthy
Summary: The first "dynamic coalition" resulting from the Internet Governance Forum has vowed to get governments interested in adopting open standards for both hardware and software.
2006-08-13 - The Register - The ODF debate: A real world view
Author: David Perry
Summary: Comparing Microsoft Office Open XML with OpenDocument Format.
2006-07-03 - IT World Canada - Belgium adopts OpenDocument
Author: Matthew Broersma
Summary: Belgium may become the first national government to mandate the use of the Open Document Format (ODF), with a full-scale trial to begin next year.
2006-06-23 - ZDNet - Open to the public
Summary: We paid for it. We want it. Keeping public data open is the only acceptable standard for government IT. The Belgian government's decision to use only open formats for exchanging documents is pure common sense. The whole reason for having standards bodies and the standards they produce is to guarantee compatibility and stability above individual companies' commercial concerns. Millions of Euros of taxpayers' money is spent funding bodies like ISO, so it would be foolish to then ignore the work they do.
2006-06-08 - Standards Blog - On the Art (?) of Disinformation: telling the Big Lie
Author: Andrew Updegrove
Summary: All of these statements share a common characteristic: each is a blatant misstatement of fact, and it is that which I find to be so offensive. True, there isn't a vendor alive that isn't guilty of spin, and spin has a heritage that goes back to time immemorial. But we generally recognize spin for what it is when we read it, and can discount the exaggerations accordingly. The Big Lie (which is what each of these statement is) has a more shameful genealogy, however, and a more insidious and cynical intent.
2006-05-27 - Fortune - The geek who took on Microsoft
Author: Jia Lynn Yang
Summary: In the early morning hours of May 3, a dramatic piece of news out of Geneva began caroming through the online world: At long last, Microsoft's lock on the $9 billion office-application business was facing a challenge.The development? An esoteric international standards body had approved a new file standard--called OpenDocument format, or ODF - for saving office documents.
2006-05-16 - InfoWorld - The evolution of office document standards
Author: Ephraim Schwartz
Summary: OpenDocument may be the Homo sapien to Microsoft Office's native-format Neanderthals. ODF appears to be a rather innocuous standard file format based on XML. One conversation with Gary Edwards, president of the OpenDocument Foundation, however, will change your mind.
2006-05-15 - CRN - Next Notes to get ODF support
Author: Barbara Darrow
Summary: IBM Software's next Notes client will include OpenDocument editors.
2006-05-12 - Gartner - ISO approval of OASIS OpenDocument is a blow to Microsoft
Author: Rita E. Knox and Michael A. Silver
Summary: It is now unlikely that ISO will adopt Microsoft's Open XML format.
2006-05-09 - Computerworld AU - Debunking computer monoculture
Author: Roger A. Grimes
Summary: With OpenDocument, no matter what platform you make your document on, it can be read by any other platform that supports it -- and OpenDocument is royalty-free.
2006-05-08 - ZDNet UK - Europe can't wait for Microsoft to play ODF catch up
Summary: The European Commission is back-pedalling on the Open Document Format because of Microsoft's promises on OpenXML. Now is no time to let up on the move to proper open standards.
2006-05-08 - Business Wire - International Standard Delivers True Data Interoperability for Office Applications
Summary: ISO /IEC approval of OpenDocument as an International Standard is a major step forward in advancing the adoption of a format that gives all of us the flexibility to select the office application--commercial or open source--that best meets our needs.
2006-05-08 - Ars Technica - ODF has successful week
Author: Matt Mondok
Summary: Last week, the OpenDocument Format had two major successes. First and foremost, it was approved by ISO to become an international standard. Second, OpenDocument Foundation, Inc. has finished its creation of an ODF plug-in.