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UK Cabinet Office Adopts ODF As Exclusive Standard For Sharable Documents 164

Posted by Soulskill
from the won-the-battle,-working-on-the-war dept.
Andy Updegrove writes: "The U.K. Cabinet Office accomplished today what the Commonwealth of Massachusetts set out (unsuccessfully) to achieve ten years ago: it formally required compliance with the Open Document Format (ODF) by software to be purchased in the future across all government bodies. Compliance with any of the existing versions of OOXML, the competing document format championed by Microsoft, is neither required nor relevant. The announcement was made today by The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude. Henceforth, ODF compliance will be required for documents intended to be shared or subject to collaboration. PDF/A or HTML compliance will be required for viewable government documents. The decision follows a long process that invited, and received, very extensive public input – over 500 comments in all."
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UK Cabinet Office Adopts ODF As Exclusive Standard For Sharable Documents

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  • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @12:55AM (#47513217)

    Government should only be allowed to use open standards. This proprietary vendor lock-in is a crime against society -- the very people the government is supposed to serve.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Be patient, the USA always does the right thing - after exhausting all other possibilities.

    • by Lotana (842533)

      This proprietary vendor lock-in is a crime against society

      Could you please explain how propriety vendor lock in is a crime?

      At the end of the day, you need to get stuff done. If the propriety vendor got a monopoly on the easiest/fastest/most convenient ways of doing things, then it would be wasteful to spend time/money on ways to resist it. This is a case for Microsoft Office before the triumph of various other office packages that came along. When majority of your correspondents use Office, why would you spend the extra time making your documents in something else

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @03:53AM (#47513693)

        "If you are ready to pay". There you go. I *already* paid: Any document which is produced by a government official was paid for *by me*, in the form of my tax money. I would expect to be able to read these documents without additional charge. If a *company* decides to go for vendor lock-in, that's their business - they should be able to do the "easiest/fastest/most convenient" calculation themselves. If it turns out they can't read their old design documents anymore, they have the right to pay a team of engineers a lot of money to reverse-engineer their old stuff. They will factor in these costs in their next product, and I have the choice to buy it, or shop elsewhere. However, this is not the case for the government. I cannot simply "shop elsewhere", so I expect the government not to cut corners and factor in what's easiest/cheapest/most convenient for their citizens.

  • Where is Apple? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ScooterComputer (10306) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @02:21AM (#47513439)

    When iWork first shipped, I asked folks in the know (at Apple) why they chose to design/engineer a completely new suite of file formats rather than adopting/utilizing ODF. I was told it was because ODF wasn't mature enough for their needs, and that it was felt that the ODF working group would be too slow for the iWork development roadmap.

    So far, ODF has chugged along, consistently; while iWork has seen a divergence in format compatibility (between Mac and iOS versions) and a complete, from-scratch rewrite (in the most recent version) that torpedoed backwards compatibility.

    Enough is enough. If Apple would have embraced ODF, they'd have rocketed the world's move away from Microsoft's Office document stranglehold. Instead, they have squandered both an opportunity to further stomp a odious competitor as well as an opportunity to position their desktop and mobile products as the best commercial competitor for the future where ODF clearly will reign supreme, all in one stupid "Not Invented Here" design decision.

  • Why so late (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @02:57AM (#47513543)

    Good decition from UK. But one has to ask why not ten years ago. And why not in all countries. Instead MS has been allowed to nominate it's own closed format as open standard! And continue ruling and taxing the globe. And making competition impossible.
    And yes, ODF is not perfect. Nothing is. And ODF will continue to evolve like any format. The key is that it is open and allows (opens) competition.

  • by Thraxy (1782662) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @02:58AM (#47513549)

    I really hope this catches on with businesses as well. I'm writing a lot of job applications at the moment, and being financially challenged I'm doing the work from LIbre Office. If I convert my application and CV to .doc or .docx the formatting will be all wrong when a potential employer reads it. Therefor I've been converting everything to PDF before sending. I'm starting to see job ads now that actually require people to deliver in PDF, most likely for the same exact reason, but I'm not entirely sure everyone can figure out how to convert a doc/docx/odf to PDF.

    There are a lot of people out there with very limited computer skills, so I think a well supported open document standard will be good for everyone in the long run.

    • by kitty80 (962804)

      I'm with you there.

      Where I live (in the Netherlands), there is even a university that requires job applications to be submitted in either .doc or .docx. So, my nicely formatted .pdf (pdfLaTeX) goes into ImageMagick where it is converted to a sersies of .png. That is imported into LibroOffice and stored as .doc/x. Swallow that. Now, the files I submit are "only" 7.5 times bigger then necessary. Text cannot be selected anymore (by them), but that's their problem. And it didn't hurt: I was selected for intervi

    • by Anonymous Coward

      When I told my mother how to produce a PDF from (at the time) OpenOffice.org she said that it was "like falling off a log". (i.e. very easy.)

      This is compared to e.g. using PDFCreator for converting Word docs to PDF.

      • by jaseuk (217780)

        What do you mean?

        Word =

        File -> Save & Send -> Send as PDF

        It couldn't be much easier.

        Jason

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I always submit CVs in PDF regardless of how well supported the editor's native format is. Being able to submit a tamper proof CV is great.

    • by rastos1 (601318)

      If I convert my application and CV to .doc or .docx the formatting will be all wrong ...

      Did you actually try that? On windows you can use free .doc viewer [microsoft.com] to verify how will word render your document. I believe that the mess will be comparable to mess created just by using a different version of MS office. I.e. not significant.

      • I believe that the mess will be comparable to mess created just by using a different version of MS office. I.e. not significant.

        It really depends. If your resume/cv is a basic, barely formatted text document, sure. Nothing bad will happen. But I've been going back and forth between Word and OpenOffice/LibreOffice for over a decade now at various times, and any document with complex formatting and precise spacing (as is often true with resumes/cvs) is bound to be a disaster when viewed in Word. All the formatting will basically convert "correctly," but the spacing and rendering are often way off, making the document look like you

        • (By the way -- just to be clear, I'm NOT trying to argue in favor of Word or doc/x. I personally prefer LaTeX and pdf... but I've experienced lots of conversion woes.)
        • All the formatting will basically convert "correctly," but the spacing and rendering are often way off, making the document look like you didn't pay enough attention to detail (exactly the OPPOSITE of what you want in a job application).

          Sometimes that is a typeface issue. The fix is to make sure both machines have the exact same ones available.

    • by Gothmolly (148874)

      If your job requires you to send a resume electronically, you should have the skills to create a PDF; they kind of go hand in hand. It's actually a clever sort device on the part of HR. (Not that I'm accusing HR of ever being clever).

  • Assuming there's compliance with this edict at some point in the foreseeable future (which is questionable); what's going to happen is that people will save as ODF from Word. The question is then whether you can truly use other software to work on those documents. MS has a long history of failing to properly implement standards; or even their own specifications.

  • "The decision follows a long process that invited, and received, very extensive public input – over 500 comments in all"

    Hell, Slashdot has 500 comments on any given topic, and 95% of them aren't fit to bubble above the filters.

  • We (the UK) are about to embark on another round of austerity, regardless of who wins the next election. I'd like to see what the public thinks about mass conversions of Word/ Excel/ PP docs - because it's not going to be quick or free, and once we reach the stage of 'well, what benefit will this give us right now?', there isn't one - in fact, it's the opposite.

    If the cabinet office wanted to do this with purely internal documents, they might have a chance - but if any docs come in or go out of the office,

    • by hawkinspeter (831501) on Wednesday July 23, 2014 @07:31AM (#47514299)
      As a UK tax payer, I welcome the move. Finally, someone in government is looking further ahead than just the next election.

      I would imagine that someone at GCHQ could easily convert the documents for a tiny fraction of the budget that they've got. In fact, they've probably already got conversions of everyone's private/secret documents already.

      Plenty of money for spying on UK subjects, but no money for protecting their interests in not being tied to a predatory US company.
    • by Bert64 (520050)

      Short term it may cost more, long term it should save a lot... As someone who fully expects to still be paying taxes in 10 years time, i welcome long term savings.

      As for interoperability, they are the government... You either want their business (eg suppliers), or you have no choice (eg taxpayers)... If they require that you submit documents in ODF then that's what you do, or they will find other suppliers who will.

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