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UK Government May Switch from MS Office to Open Source 273

Posted by Soulskill
from the busting-the-lock-in dept.
New submitter Karashur sends this report from The Guardian: "Ministers are looking at saving tens of millions of pounds a year by abandoning expensive software produced by firms such as Microsoft. Some £200m has been spent by the public sector on the computer giant's Office suite alone since 2010. The Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude believes a significant proportion of that outlay could be cut by switching to free 'open-source' software, such as OpenOffice, or Google Docs. 'I want to see a greater range of software used, so civil servants have access to the information they need and can get their work done without having to buy a particular brand of software. In the first instance, this will help departments to do something as simple as share documents with each other more easily. But it will also make it easier for the public to use and share government information.'"
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UK Government May Switch from MS Office to Open Source

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  • Privacy Issues (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Surely privacy issues prevent the use of GoogleDocs? Libreoffice on the other hand could save them a lot of money.

    • No, firewalls and application layer filters would be needed to prevent the use of GoogleDocs, privacy issues won't even get a look-in at the level they're considering especialy as the user'll do what ever works easiest for them regardless. I've seen how UK Local Government works up close.
      • Re:Privacy Issues (Score:5, Insightful)

        by davester666 (731373) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @02:23AM (#46107581) Journal

        This is just a way for the UK gov't to get some additional "concessions" from Microsoft...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I don't want to discredit the hard work and dedication of the LibreOffice developers, but I don't think it's a suitable solution to save money. It's great for one who uses open-source software as a matter of philosophy or principle but it has too many usability issues and bugs to be a reliable solution for getting actual work done.

      • Re:Privacy Issues (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @07:48PM (#46105349)

        Well, you're in luck because this is most like a negotiation ploy to bring down licensing costs.

        • Plausible.

          If so, is Microsoft now calculating the loss of revenue in the UK versus having to discount more and more nations if they cave to the Brits?

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Plausible.

            Not really. PP is a FUD-spreader.

            Besides, have you used MS Office recently? It's horrible, and most workers who have to use it are confused and annoyed at the way it (semi)works. Libre Office is like a breath of fresh air in comparison.

            Even in the MS-dominated company I'm consulting to, a significant proportion of workers now keep a copy of Portable Libre Office on a memory stick or external drive to get real work done. The change away from MS is gathering momentum, Munich is a good example for organis

          • Re:Privacy Issues (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Nerdfest (867930) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @11:29PM (#46106949)

            For cost savings and flexibility, getting rid of office for a more open alternative is the first step towards being able to use non-Microsoft platforms for desktops as well. Once you're not tied to them you can start looking at Linux, OSX, Android, etc. The lock-in is gone. If Microsoft is paying attention, this should scare the crap out of them.

      • Re:Privacy Issues (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Immerman (2627577) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @08:12PM (#46105559)

        Really? I find it at least as stable and easy to use as MS Office. The only issues it ever seems to throw in my face are the occasional formatting hullabaloo on trying to open one of MS Office's engineered-incompatible files. And that's not really relevant to a government that can simply say "you want to do business with us, you use the industry-standard odf format".

        • I'll second this, the new office is buggy and I find it a pain to use.
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Very much agree with this. Not because of productivity concerns but mostly because the price of office software is just such a small amount of money. They probably pay at maximum $500 per license. And they probably upgrade at maximum once every 2 years. So that's $250 per year, per employee. Switching to OpenOffice would probably cost them more in training then they would save in 20 years of licensing fees. Assuming 1 week off to learn the new software, just the lost time alone would probably be worth a cou
        • Re:Privacy Issues (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Nutria (679911) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @09:00PM (#46105979)

          Switching to OpenOffice would probably cost them more in training then they would save in 20 years of licensing fees.

          As opposed to the relearning time wasted when I was forced to upgrade from MSO 2007 to 2010?

          Thus, I say that "oh, the retraining costs" is a red herring.

          • Re:Privacy Issues (Score:5, Interesting)

            by icebike (68054) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @09:35PM (#46106291)

            Switching to OpenOffice would probably cost them more in training then they would save in 20 years of licensing fees.

            As opposed to the relearning time wasted when I was forced to upgrade from MSO 2007 to 2010?

            Thus, I say that "oh, the retraining costs" is a red herring.

            Agreed. The retraining nonsense is pure MS hype.
            Switching to either is pretty simple, something that most people do with very little retraining. (Often none). You open the document from Word, or Excel and it just works the VAST majority of the time. The typical government office has little that is that complex. True you can find some horribly complex stuff occasionally, but most is simple letters and reports.

    • AFAIK Google Apps for Enterprises allows you to run Docs on your own server. Of course it costs money. That's the tradeoff of course.
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      I find it odd that "GoogleDocs" was described as open source as well. And it's usability is very rudimentary and I wouldn't classify it as out of the experimental stage yet, whereas LibreOffice is stable and usable (or at least no worse than MS Office on a Mac).

  • Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by J-1000 (869558) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @07:23PM (#46105131)
    For actually doing office work, Microsoft stuff is hard to beat. Maybe it'll turn out great though, who knows.
    • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

      by coolsnowmen (695297) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @07:24PM (#46105149)

      Doesn't that kind of depend on your work?

      • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @07:36PM (#46105257)

        Not really. MS Office has no competition as a jack-of-all-trades. Sure, if you're doing a lot of report writing you may want Latex or a lot of data analysis you may want specialist software and so on. But for general purpose usage MS Office is the best available software by a country mile. Using Open Office (or whatever they're calling it these days) is like using MS Office from at least a decade ago.

        • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @07:59PM (#46105441) Homepage

          If there are features that open/libre office lack that would cause some parts of the UK government a problem then the obvious solution is for the government to pay someone to implement those features. If some requirements are really hard it might cost a few £million - but then the features are free forever. They have spent £200 million on MS Office in the last 3 years -- that sort of money would pay for a big heap of new features!

        • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @08:03PM (#46105487)

          "Not really. MS Office has no competition as a jack-of-all-trades. Sure, if you're doing a lot of report writing you may want Latex or a lot of data analysis you may want specialist software and so on. But for general purpose usage MS Office is the best available software by a country mile. Using Open Office (or whatever they're calling it these days) is like using MS Office from at least a decade ago."

          This is simply not true. For one thing, Open Office uses proven icons and menus, as opposed to the almost-universally-despised Ribbon Bar. Secondly, something like 90% of feature requests for Microsoft Office over the last 10 years have been for features it already has.

          The point of that last bit is: the vast majority of users don't use anywhere near all the features that the Microsoft programs do, and for people who just need the 80% of most common features, other software works just fine.

          I have been using Open Office for 12 years or so now, and I have absolutely zero reason to go back. Negative reason, actually: I like Open Office (or Libre Office) far better than Microsoft Office.

          Further, it's cross-platform to an extent that Microsoft can only dream about.

          • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

            by rts008 (812749) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @08:39PM (#46105819) Journal

            I have been using Open Office for 12 years or so now, and I have absolutely zero reason to go back.

            Same here, but for 16 years.

            Another added bonus you did not mention:
            There is usually better backwards compatibility opening older MS.doc files with Open Office and Libre Office, than there is with newer versions of MS Office.

            I can't count the number of times(and people) that have come to me with .doc files they recieved that they could not open with their version of MS Office, I successfully opened with Open Office. I would then save as '.doc' in OO, they could then open that file with their version of MS Office. They sometimes (on VERY rare occasions) would have to fix some small format issues, but they could easily fix those when they could not even open them before.

            IMHO, this kind of stuff is unacceptable for a gov't., and I would love to see a global mandate that required all official doc's to be in an open format. I won't hold my breath waiting, but I can hope and wish! :-)

            • Back around 2000 or so, I sent quite a few emails to various departments of my city and county, telling them to STOP publishing public data online in Word docs. Even though *I* could read them just fine, I tried to tell them how unfair and discriminatory that was... a full version of Word cost $200! Many people did not have access to a computer with Word on it.

              For a long time my comments seemed to fall on deaf ears. Finally, they started putting documents out in .pdf format... which was still proprietary
              • by Darinbob (1142669)

                It's even worse at times. A document written in one version of Office may not be readable in an earlier version of Office! Whereas I can read new PDF files in old version of Reader, minus a few inconsequential features.

          • If you've been using OOo for 12 years now, how do you really know how it lines up to Microsoft Office?

            I had an experience where I switched to OOo somewhere around 2001, and for years I was quite happy with it. Then I got a job where I had Microsoft Office installed on my work computer, and started using many of the more advanced features (especially in Excel).

            I went back to my home computer and tried to do the same things in the most recent version of OOo, and failed miserably. At which point I gave up an

            • by Bert64 (520050)

              And how about documenting what those features are, so that people can go ahead and start implementing them?

              As for compatibility, this story is about government - its not their job to be compatible with business, if you want to do business with the government then you have to be compatible with them.

          • by mendax (114116)

            I second this opinion. I've been using Open Office in order to avoid paying the Microsoft tax on my Macs. It works very well for what I use it for. It has little quirks which I've been able to figure out but MS Office is no different in that regard; they're just different quirks. And that damned ribbon menu is nowhere to be seen. That is a blessing.

        • by Immerman (2627577)

          > Using Open Office (or whatever they're calling it these days) is like using MS Office from at least a decade ago.

          You mean from back when MS Office was a relatively straightforward office suite that focused on doing the 95% of things most people wanted without making them jump through hoops? I agree.

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          But MS Office from a decade ago was a nicer version than MS Office you get today.

    • Open Office is great for the basic 70-80% of what you want to do. But, past that I'd much prefer Office.

      • I wax always really pro open source I used Linux since the days of Debian potato, libera/open office was the software that convinced me to give up on open source and buy a mac. It's just bloody awful if you have to do anything remotely technical, mail merges suck worse than anything I have ever known. Even with the latest libra office you still have to use a database rather than a spreadsheet, and don't get me started on the running that is base. It makes access 95 seem good

    • Your words ring hollow as I try to figure out why just one of the people in my office is getting a password prompt when using Outlook 2010 to access our Exchange 2010 server. Is it Outlook? Is it Windows 7 cert store on the staff member's workstation? Is it Active Directory? Is it Exchange 2010? Is it God?

      Microsoft, making simple things complicated since 1988. Christ, I know people who still insist Wordpad is all they need in a word processor.

    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

      by akozakie (633875) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @07:51PM (#46105365)

      Depends on what you're doing. Powerpoint beats Impress hands down, sure, even though you can make nice presentations with both. Excel... well, for 90% of spreadsheets Calc is just as good (and don't get me started on the productivity killer called "ribbons"), but for some functions it's no match - Excel is truly the powerhorse of MS Office with no real competition. But Word? It's a PoS buggy half-baked text editor. MS was unable to fix that for the past 10 years. Writer is simply better. It does have its weaknesses, but the strengths are quite convincing. I find it more stable and the decent handling of styles makes me cringe every time I have to use Word.

      In 2007 I honestly thought that the only reason MS introduced ribbons was their failure to make Word any better (along with OpenXML, introduced for the same reason). They wanted to retrain their users with something OpenOffice was unllikely to follow (because it's stupid) before Writer got so much better than Word that even average users would want to switch. After a year or two with ribbons Word users would feel sufficiently unfamiliar with Writer to make the retraining not worth the time. Add to that OpenXML quirks and Writer would be stuck in a niche. Seems to have worked. Even though my job requires Linux and I feel much more at home in that environment, I have to keep a Win7 VM with Office 2010 installed just to work with some multi-author DOCXes where small formatting details matter. I can't force others to use ODT and DOC simply does not handle some formatting that ODT and DOCX both do.

      So... Presentation: MS. Document: Open. Spreadsheet: depends on your needs. The rest is niche.

      • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @08:01PM (#46105463)

        Excel... well, for 90% of spreadsheets Calc is just as good

        Unfortunately, if you need interoperability with Excel and your spreadsheets use non-trivial formulae, using Calc remains a non-starter.

        I've seen all the usual Slashdot comments about how modern OpenOffice/LibreOffice versions have near-flawless interoperability with MS Office, and how even Microsoft changes its file formats and breaks compatibility occasionally. IME, the reality is quite different, and you can easily spend more in wasted time just converting one spreadsheet from Calc to Excel than it would have cost to buy Excel in the first place.

        • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

          by rbrander (73222) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @08:09PM (#46105533) Homepage

          Sounds like you and the post you're replying to might have the answer to a question I've wanted to ask a real spreadsheet power user for some time. I'm a MS detractor in general but have fallen deeply for Excel in the last decade as I learned VBA, creating whole small applications with same, pivot tables, database access via ODBC and OLE - sometimes Excel is my whole work environment, hitting on huge databases, downloading chunks into pivot tables, using spreadsheet calcs to create masses of UPDATE statements that then change the same database.

          Does ANY of that work in OOo ? I know it has some kind of database connection, but it seemed pretty lame by comparison; I know it has a macro language of its own, but unlike VBA there aren't six thick books on it and mega-lines of code to steal from the Net - so I'd anticipate a huge drop in capability if I switched.

          • I've never tried integrating Calc with a serious database, so unfortunately I can't give you the answer you're looking for. Sorry.

            However, I can tell you that when you try to save a Calc spreadsheet in an Excel file format, you quickly run into problems with converting the formulae from one spreadsheet's model and built-in functions to the other. I wouldn't hold out much hope that more complicated tasks like the ones you described will be any easier to port, and I would expect a lot of manual tweaking to ge

          • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

            by femtobyte (710429) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @11:22PM (#46106903)

            If you're doing fancy database work, then you should just learn a useful full-fledged programming language (like Python). Spreadsheets are simultaneously complex to use and error prone --- if you're doing much more than adding up a couple dozen numbers, you're using the wrong tool. Once you get over the initial learning curve, a few lines in Python can get what you need done far more flexibly and reliably than the baroque constructions necessary to apply spreadsheets for tasks they are poorly suited for.

          • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Funny)

            by jd2112 (1535857) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @11:40PM (#46107015)

            sometimes Excel is my whole work environment, hitting on huge databases, downloading chunks into pivot tables, using spreadsheet calcs to create masses of UPDATE statements that then change the same database.

            All you need to do now is have Excel read email and you would have emacs as if it had been developed by Microsoft!

      • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

        by chipschap (1444407) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @08:11PM (#46105555)

        I respect everyone's choices and if you say you need MS Office then go ahead and use it. You use what you find best, I'll use what I find best.

        However here's my question. First let's compare current MS Office and a version from, say, 10 years ago. What is getting done better that matters with the newest version? Has productivity increased? Are presentations and documents slicker? Does that mean they communicate their information better? Are spreadsheet models a lot better (maybe they are, I don't know)? Or are they just more complex and maybe buggier?

        Now do the same comparison between the latest MS Office and the latest LibreOffice.

        There was this guy I used to work with who was considered the organization's PowerPoint guru. He did all sorts of amazing tricks, effects, and whatnot. I will be the first to say there is no way those tricks, effects, and whatnot could have been done with Impress. His presentations wowed his viewers just about 100% of the time.

        So, was he getting his message across better?

        What actually happened is that the viewers were so busy watching all the pyrotechnics that his message often got lost.

        So think about the true value of all the "extras" in MS Office. Certainly there are edge cases where they present value, but is that true for 90% of users 90% percent of the time?

        • Generally the benefits come with improved ease of use and "helper" features, features that you don't think about but appreciate once they appear. For example, in PowerPoint I discovered that thin alignment lines appear when moving around shapes and images, which help when you want make two images perfectly parallel but spaced apart on the slice. Impress (last time I checked) doesn't have this feature, but it's something you miss if you make presentations a lot. You don't NEED it, but it's one of many, many

      • After a year or two with ribbons Word users would feel sufficiently unfamiliar with Writer to make the retraining not worth the time.

        If you have an office full of people who used MS Word before ribbons were introduced, they should already know how OO Writer works. Retraining shouldn't take more than telling them, "You know how Word used to work? Well, that's how Writer works; just go back to doing things the way you used to." Your trainers won't like it, because that takes money away from them, but r
      • by westlake (615356)

        In 2007 I honestly thought that the only reason MS introduced ribbons was their failure to make Word any better.

        MS Office is focused on the productivity of the 9 to 5 clerical worker. Full time staff, Office Temp, Senior Volunteer. You can have hundreds and maybe thousands of these guys and gals on your payroll for every one who needs a precision tool like LaTex.

        Microsoft markets Office as a component of an integrated office system that scales to an enterprise of any size. Think Outlook. The FOSS alternatives continue to be framed as the stand-alone office suite of the nineties.

        • by akozakie (633875)

          Agreed, except for Excel. Having to work with spreadsheets prepared by our analysts (who can wrangle a spreadsheet I worked on for hours into something I can hardly recognize that is WAY better within minutes - read "real powerusers"), seeing how easy to use these spreadsheets are and time and again finding out that the features they use just aren't there in Calc... I'd say Excel is actually aimed at the poweruser. For a 9-5 clerk Calc is just as good.

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      Why did he get modded down? MS Office hasn't sold a ton of copies because folks LIKE giving piles of money to MSFT, its because its one of those tools that works damned good for most small to large businesses.

      As someone who sells computers to SMBs I keep trying LibreOffice, each time hoping it gets there so I can save my customers money and each time....sigh. For home users? It is fricking GREAT, does everything your home users would ever think to do, just perfect, but for business? Maybe it'll change wit

    • Microsoft stuff is hard to beat, but the Free Software solutions these days are damn close. And a little more adoption will refine the polish even better.

      I've complained before that Open Office Calc (Excel equivalent) cannot print zoom ("Fit to page", etc.) at least on Windows.

      The *REAL* problem is that Microsoft has paid sales people to influence and whisper in ears. Open Source? Nope, no paid minders to spread the word and take decision makers to lunch.

      Advanced countries *REALLY* should have governm
  • by maroberts (15852) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @07:23PM (#46105137) Homepage Journal
    ...and normally appears to be the Government trying to force Microsoft to discount its licensed to the UK Government or invest in the latest boondoggle.
    • by Immerman (2627577)

      Agreed. And yet it seems like every year there's a few more government offices in the world that are actually making the switch. Insufficient kickbacks? Actual cost savings? Does it really matter? Ever so slowly MS is losing it's stranglehold on the desktop, and that will be better for everyone. Even MS will be freed from having to constantly "innovate" incompatibilities with everything else in the world and can focus on their core competency of buying innovative products and driving them into the grou

    • by sunderland56 (621843) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @01:24AM (#46107373)

      How many copies does the government buy per year? And how many do they really need?

      £200 million over 4 years, at the single-unit MSRP of £199, is about 250,000 new copies per year. If we factor in a reasonable discount, say 50%, that is 500,000 copies. According to the government [ons.gov.uk], total headcount is about 450,000. Does every single government employee need a brand new copy of Office every single year??

    • That's exactly what it'll be this time too.

      There is little chance that UK govt would get rid of all the grey IT VB/Office hacks they have running business critical services. The larger, better funded organisations have been trying to centralise and standardise their IT for years and those guys have barely even started scraping the surface. It'd take decades and cost far more than £200mil.

  • about time (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mpb (41407)

    Its taken them years to understand they actually have a choice and can save UK taxpayers a huge amount of money and have a better safer system. Let's hope they don't mess it up.

    Take the very successful example of Munich:
    http://www.techrepublic.com/article/how-munich-rejected-steve-ballmer-and-kicked-microsoft-out-of-the-city/

  • by c4320n (2551122) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @07:25PM (#46105163)
    The original article doesn't even make this mistake: it just says that Docs can handle ODF. Nice summarizing, Karashur.
  • by rsborg (111459) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @07:26PM (#46105165) Homepage

    Sounds like your plain old customer "renegotiation" where they ask the vendor to lower prices. Have no fear - I would bet solid money that Office stays preinstalled on any UK Govt builds.

    Only question is how much money they can save by threatening to leave. The UK government of cronies (doing their best to improve on US-style cronyism) would not benefit from any vendor graft if the vendor doesn't ever get paid, would they?

    No danger of anything happening here as long as UK government is still for sale (Vote of no confidence? That's not remotely possible anymore given the Tory/Lib alliance charter).

  • by Karellen (104380) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @07:35PM (#46105245) Homepage

    I want to see a greater range of software used, so civil servants have access to the information they need and can get their work done without having to buy a particular brand of software.

    In that case, you want to first switch your mandated file format from MS's doc(x)/xls(x) to ODF's odt/ods. Then you can use MS Office, or switch to a new (possibly open-source, possibly even Free Software) office suite as you prefer.

    • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @08:17PM (#46105629)

      It's too bad my mod points just ran out, or you'd have had one for being insightful.

      The important thing is the data. Open formats matter, and if there aren't suitable open formats available yet for the data you need to work with, creating additional open formats matters. The specific tools you use to access data that is stored in open formats are much less important.

      • Not completely true.

        The reason office has a stranglehold on the market is that they've implemented every feature you could possibly want in your word processor / spreadsheet.

        That's why I currently run Office. Every time I try an alternative (OpenOffice, Pages, Numbers, etc.) there's something missing that the developers didn't consider "necessary."

        That sort of thing makes it hard to use other programs for
        a. school work (but professor, OO/Pages won't let me do a landscape section break and OO/Numbers doesn'

    • by Karellen (104380) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @08:19PM (#46105661) Homepage

      Actually, now I've read the article, that's what the Minister is saying. Move to open formats first.

      That will make it possible to switch software later, if they choose to. But even if the government doesn't, it will allow the people they work with to use their own choice of software, and prevents lock-in. Using MS Office becomes a choice, and can be selected (or dropped) on its merits, rather than being suffered out of necessity.

      It's the BBC article and the /. summary which try to make it look like this is purely about switching software.

  • The owner of the company I work for hates Microsoft with a passion, around 1/2 our office computers are now Mac's.
    we have tried openoffice, officelibra etc. However the problem is they aren't 100% compatible, there is always formatting issues, colour issues, and in some instances data just went missing.
    in the End, the owner gave in, and purchased office for MAC for all the machines, and also all the pc's. Unless something has massively changed in the last several months i can see this been a great was
    • by erroneus (253617)

      Actually, a government can standardize on an ISO format like ODF. That will cause a ripple effect which will result in lots of people exchanging documents in that format instead of MS Office formats.

      Microsoft will not take this lightly, of course. They will have to give it away for free pr less to prevent the ripple effect.

      But the UK's intent behind this may not be entirely based on cost -- there's that NSA partnership that might be of concern to many.

      • by tomtomtom (580791) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @08:16PM (#46105627)
        You are assuming that MS Office's handling of ODF is the same as LibreOffice's. It isn't.
        • by erroneus (253617)

          I'm not presuming anything. When Microsoft is required to make their ODF support compatible, they will.

          Things are chaning. Technologies from US companies are under scrutiny and are less trusted. The economy is causing everyone from individuals to business to government to rethink their spending priorities.

          The notion of Microsoft lock-in isn't quite as compelling under these circumstances. Cisco's feeling it. Microsoft is feeling it too.

          • by tomtomtom (580791)

            MS can't even make their own products backwards/forwards-compatible without subtle formatting or processing bugs creeping in - so even with the best will in the world I'm just not sure this is an easily solvable problem.

            The other big problem is that LibreOffice Calc in particular is still a long way behind Excel in terms of functionality. Even ignoring VBA, the basic formula support just isn't there. I don't know if this is lack of work, copyright/patent issues or something else but it means I simply can't

    • by hcs_$reboot (1536101) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @08:09PM (#46105539)
      This is why when an official entity, like the UK gov, goes for OpenOffice, ie something open, that will push companies to do the same. Little by little, world will tend towards something more standard and open, and the remaining hard MS officers, will have no other choice than migrate to the new standards if they want their docs readable. This is what happened with Internet Explorer, as more and more people went away IE 6-7, pushing MS to do something more compatible. The difference lies into the fact that MS Office is not free, and, more importantly, MS office is for many companies the only blocking reason they can't migrate to something else, Mac or Linux. I'm not saying they would migrate but at least - after MS Office is gone - most of them can.
    • by Immerman (2627577)

      The government doesn't have to worry about 100% compatibility - they're in a position to simply mandate "all files must be in ODF format", and anyone who wants to do business with them can damn well download a copy of any of dozens of free programs that support it properly, or buy expensive I/O filters for MS office that are at least mostly compatible.

      • by mjwalshe (1680392)
        And when there is a queue of constituents complaining to their mp that they cant send a document from their pc into government plus the CBI and IOD complaining about having to use a nonstandard format to work with government - which will be spun as more red tape :-)
        • by Immerman (2627577)

          Sure, it will be spun however vested interests like. But when you get down to it LibreOffice natively supports the only widely-supported document formats approved by an international standards body (several in fact, IIRC). And anyone who wishes to use it has their pick of software to support it.

          MS Office on the other hand only supports MS Office files, as defined by the output of MS Office. They don't even support the format that they themselves bought passage through an international standards body for.

    • by guruevi (827432)

      Meh, the same happens between Office for Mac and Office for Windows though. Especially now with Office being online, the rendering online will be different again.

  • > could be cut by switching to free 'open-source' software, such as OpenOffice, or Google Docs.

    Where is the source for Google Docs?

  • The city of Freiburg in Germany embarked on a migration to OpenOffice.org and failed terribly [infoworld.com] while another German city -- Munich -- announced that the success of its open source migration had netted savings around $13 million. Partial migration / mixed environments seem to be a very bad idea.
  • I call Bullcrap. (Score:3, Informative)

    by deviated_prevert (1146403) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @07:58PM (#46105435) Journal
    Every time a government anywhere in the world decides to threaten a drop of Microsoft software you can bet that their seat license agreements are coming up for renewal. And the threats to migrate are only a ploy to cut a better deal. You can bet the Microsoft rep has already been authorized to sweeten the coffers of some politicians pet riding fund raising or do what ever is necessary to very quickly ensure that the by the time a real decision is taken that MS office and MS server products are the ones the government chooses. Same thing here in Canada, but with our government the decision to go all MS is a forgone conclusion there is no such thing as "looking for alternatives to save money", we just contract out every service possible and kill off labour unions like the CUPE instead and spec that contractors use nothing but MS office and server software compatible with existing government servers. We, unlike Great Britain have public money to burn now that Harper has gutted government services and pushed just about everything out to contract.
    • ^^^ Winner. And no I don't like the argument, these governments *should* be using Free Software. But in reality, probably a negotiating tactic.
  • Star Office, sorry Open Office, sorry OoO, sorry LibreOffice, sorry whatever they're gonna call it by the time I realise there's another name, is shit. It has to have bug-for-bug compatibility with MS Office, for a start. Nothing that attempts to mimic, including retaining the functional flaws, can be considered superior to the original.

    (Don't get me wrong, the last 10 versions of MS Office have been shit too. The last office package from MS I had any respect for was MS Word 2.0.)

    Maybe people should start l
    • Maybe people should start learning how to communicate again, rather than getting wizards to create bullshit for them.

      .......

      These people, whose jobs are to propagate information, would probably produce a better result if they used vi.

      That was one of the main points in my posting earlier in this discussion. Slicker is not better unless it communicates more effectively, and often it does the exact opposite. Back in the day, some people used WordStar and were happy enough with it. Slick? Hardly. Could you communicate with it? Yup. (Not that I recommend it today, but that isn't my point.)

      Another poster made the point that LibreOffice and predecessors don't break the paradigm, and instead try to more or less mimic MS Office (sans ribbon).

  • why? because it is better that the money be paid to a corporation who at least employees people, pays dividends to shareholders and in general boosts the economy.

    what will happen if the govt "saves" the money by going to open office or some other free software? Well I can say with certainty that they will not return the money to the taxpayers. Instead it will fund more bureacracy and more government programs.

    off topic: is there any way at all to prevent slashdot from sending me to the beta site? It refuses

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @08:51PM (#46105907)
    The switch to Linux is not about open office. The simple reality is that most people create very basic documents and don't need much more than a basic text editor with fonts and spell check. Most enterprise software is now web based and thus all the average government machine needs is a web browser. So paying for a Windows license an a word license for a zillion machines that don't need either is just throwing money into the toilet. Plus once you dip your machine into the OSS world people often find that all kinds of commercial software needs can be replaced. Email systems, scheduling systems, VPNs, etc.

    While there will be a handful of machines that need to remain windows I suspect that it would be significantly less than 1% and even then they will be in clusters such as an accounting office.

    But some of the greatest advantages of OSS is that you no longer have an onerous license audit problem. Basically you point to your dozen accountants hold up a dozen 5 year old MS licenses and tell the auditors to go to hell as you don't even plan on upgrading office for another 5-10 years.

    As one government official said directly to Bill Gates, OSS gave them freedom from Gates himself.

    What I can't wait to laugh at are all the MS white papers that claim that this will somehow cost the UK more money than they presently spend on MS software. Quite simply these white papers are driven by the hysterical realization that the MS business model of taxing governments and businesses worldwide is nearing an end. People now have realistic options.

    But the tears will be even more real as many governments and enterprises the world round will be dumping MS not out of a desire to save money but a desire to keep their computers from being spied upon by US entities.
  • In the first instance, this will help departments to do something as simple as share documents with each other more easily.

    If they are currently running MS Office, how would switching to OpenOffice help share documents with each other? The same 'difficulties' of moving a file from one computer to another still exist.

  • by Jameson Burt (33679) on Wednesday January 29, 2014 @09:36PM (#46106301)

    If you want a feature in Open Office, fund it. Better yet, considering the cost of Microsoft Office, put the funding of Open Office in the annual budget. Rather than giving $100 million a year to Microsoft, give $10 million a year to Open Office. With a programming / total-expenditures ratio of 1, open source funding is efficient.

  • by julian67 (1022593) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @12:14AM (#46107161)

    To me the amazing thing is that within the Conservative Party (the dominant partner in the UK's coalition government, and usually presented by the press as anti-liberal, antediluvian, small minded and exclusively self-interested or overly class conscious) there are people who do sincerely believe in small government and the duty to spend tax income prudently. Some of these people have achieved minsterial office and are trying to put into practise what they believe and propound. I find it reassuring and entirely positive that they arrive at the point of advocating Free(dom) Software and decline to simply concur with the payment of hundreds of millions of our money to (mostly foreign) businesses for no public benefit or advantage.

    It's a shame and a scandal that the "left-wing" and "liberal" representatives and parties have failed to realise that being bonded to unethical, solely profit driven (and mostly foreign) corporations does nothing for the public purse or the public good.

    We had 13 years of supposedly liberal left wing government and the result was that we approached being bankrupt, handed over billions of tax pounds to greedy banks and foreign corporations for no result, fought wars that only benefited foreign powers and a handful of greedy politicians, and gave up rights bought in blood such as habeus corpus, jury trial and control of our own borders. The idea that the Conservative Party could be the UK's leading proponent of sound financial sense and a pragmatic and ethical approach to government IT purchasing and practise is almost enough to make me wonder if I took a lot of acid in the 60s or alkalines in the 70s but there it is, they are actually doing it, and for entirely rational reasons.

    Hail Spode!
    Hail Stallman!

  • by NonFerrousBueller (1175131) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @05:25AM (#46108149)
    My wife is a corporate accountant for a large city in New Zealand. I've asked her about this as she uses Excel every day and has used OO/LO at home on occasion (a while back). She says they use so many third-party reporting plugins that work with Excel that a switch to a FS option would be nearly impossible. Word may be crap but Excel will rule the bean-counter world for the time being.

    The main bit of software councils need to wean themselves off of is SAP. My jaw nearly hit the floor when I found out the seat license cost for that (I've forgotten the exact amount and am not waking her to find out), and any individual of a company that runs it who enters their own timesheets must hold a seat license, even if that's the only thing they use a computer for in the firm. We're talking thousands of dollars per seat here, not dozens.

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