Feeds

back to article UK picks Open Document Format for all government files

The UK Government has decided that Open Document Format, the OpenOffice-derived file format, is the best choice for all government documents. The Cabinet Office's Standards Hub explained its thinking on the matter and published the recommendation this week, using the following language: “When dealing with citizens, information …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Thumb Up

Important change

Whilst MS Office can write Open Document formats, some other word processing / office suite software can't write to the formats favoured by Office. As such this is an important change in allowing greater flexibility in software choice.

37
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Important change

Hmm, Westminster cafes are going to earn a lot of money in the coming days from all the Microsoft lobbyists landing there to try and "open up" that decision for the only-in-name "open" monstrosity called MSOOXML which is not only a standard that only became a standard by (IMHO) flat out abusing the ISO process, but is even today not possible to implement by Microsoft itself...

I am *very* glad that the government is returning to the days of eGIF where the idea was openness and avoidance of single vendor leverage. I don't think that will mean MS Windows will be abandoned soon, though. I don't like the browser based stuff - far too risky as its network dependent and all your work has to travel. IMHO an absolute no-no for anything over "for public knowledge" ...

Well done. Now I'll sit back and watch what Microsoft does.

28
1
Silver badge

Re: Important change

"Hmm, Westminster cafes are going to earn a lot of money in the coming days from all the Microsoft lobbyists landing there to try and "open up" that decision for the only-in-name "open" monstrosity called MSOOXML which is not only a standard that only became a standard by (IMHO) flat out abusing the ISO process, but is even today not possible to implement by Microsoft itself..."

You're out of date. The _original_ OOXML was a hurried mess, poorly documented and even including binary blobs. It was MS desperately trying to rush out something that qualified as Open back in the day when they suddenly realized they needed to. The _current_ OOXML is actually very nice. And yes, there are third parties that implement it. Best we forget all about the first attempt and focus on what we actually have today.

"I don't think that will mean MS Windows will be abandoned soon, but going browser based is a good first step in that direction too."

Openness is good because it allows free choice of vendor. You seem to want to actively lock out one (Microsoft). Office 2013 is really, really good. And there's also Office 365 which works in the browser pretty darn well. As pointed out earlier, ODF doesn't exclude Office at all. It's actually one of the best editors there is for ODF.

7
40
Silver badge

Re: Important change

The _current_ OOXML is actually very nice.

Speaking as someone who actually works on a library that tries to read and write OOXML I can tell you that OOXML still is not very nice: it is overly verbose and inconsistent.

33
0
Silver badge

Re: Important change

>>"Speaking as someone who actually works on a library that tries to read and write OOXML I can tell you that OOXML still is not very nice: it is overly verbose and inconsistent."

And compared to the original version? ;)

2
8
FAIL

Re: Important change

"You seem to want to actively lock out one (Microsoft). "

No - MS office also supports ODF, so they aren't in any way locked out. I think ODF has wider support across other applications than OOXML, so ODF does seem a more sensible choice.

18
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: Important change

Could you be a bit more specific about the 'original' one and the 'current' one?

Is the original the ECMA proposal, the first implemented by MS in 20007 or the one that first got ISO approval and has never been implemented. Is the current one the now amended ISO one (never implemented) or the current MS implementation in 2013?

10
0
Silver badge

Re: Important change

I wrote: "You seem to want to actively lock out one (Microsoft). "

You responded "No" with a big Fail icon.

Your comment which I responded to:

>>"I don't think that will mean MS Windows will be abandoned soon, but going browser based is a good first step in that direction too."

I think my comment was pretty justified. Lets have a simple answer: are you stating that you wouldn't prefer to see Microsoft Windows replaced in Government?

2
7
LDS
Silver badge

Re: Important change

"are you stating that you wouldn't prefer to see Microsoft Windows replaced in Government?"

With what? Seven different distros of Linux each with its windows manager and that may not support some hardware because "proprietary drivers" are bad - if tehy do exist? And that may nor run some software until it is rewritten for Linux (or for the web, as long as it is possible and makes sense) - if ever - because actuall nobody bothered to do it because of lack of market? And then having to buy third party directory/management solutions because Linux is still rooted deeply into the '70s when it comes to very large deployments? At least Windows means a single API for developers - with a huge backward compatibility, large hardware support, and built-in directory/management tools.

Or with Apples, because of course a single *hardware and software* supplier is better than a single software supplier? Or with Google tools, to allow it to slurp every data about you the governemtn has?

Maybe MS after all is not the worst case scenario...

5
29
Anonymous Coward

Re: Important change

You seem to want to actively lock out one (Microsoft).

Actually, I'm OK with honest competition, but that's the one thing MS has never been capable of. Ever. Their ISO actions spoke volumes, because they had no problem with ruining an institution that until then had just worked on a more academic footing.

Office 2013 is really, really good. And there's also Office 365 which works in the browser pretty darn well. As pointed out earlier, ODF doesn't exclude Office at all. It's actually one of the best editors there is for ODF.

ODF is an afterthought for MS, it's an we-have-to-do-this-because-we-are-otherwise-out-on-our-ears-as-it-is-a-EU-standard approach. Even now, people buy MS Office because Open/LibreOffice still pretty much suck at opening the "x" formats (docx, xlsx, pptx), where "x" stands for eXclude competition. If you want proper ODF compatibility, LibreOffice and OpenOffice have years of expertise that MS still has to catch up on.

Personally, I think the UK government should take a lesson from the Germans here: when they needed security they sponsored further development of GPG. If the UK would sponsor an Open Source office package it would get massive upmarks for intelligent use of funding, and the whole nation would benefit, not a few oinks in expensive buildings. I don't care if that is Libre or OpenOffice, although I personally tend to get on better with LibreOffice.

27
1
Silver badge

Re: Important change

" are you stating that you wouldn't prefer to see Microsoft Windows replaced in Government?"

Personally I don't give a damn about what government use to write their stuff. What I do care about is that I can read it without pfaffing about trying to decode it.

10
0
Silver badge

Re: Important change

"With what? Seven different distros of Linux each with its windows manager and that may not support some hardware because "proprietary drivers" are bad"

Who said anything about using Gnu/Linux? Although I do myself.

Are you aware that Libreoffice is available for MS Windows and Apple?

Just because you seem to have an aversion to Gnu/Linux doesn't mean that users of other OS's are forced to use MS Office.

22
0
Silver badge

Re: Important change

"With what? Seven different distros of Linux each with its windows manager and that may not support some hardware because "proprietary drivers" are bad"

I wouldn't chose it over Windows 7 or 8 myself, but just because there are seven(teen) different GNU/Linux distros out there, doesn't mean it's impossible to standardise on one. There are a couple of enterprise level distributions: RedHat and SuSE. I haven't used SuSE since about 6.4 but you could run RedHat alright with LibreOffice as your standard. Again, I would prefer Windows by far for enterprise management and user experience, but the nice thing about using open formats (whether that's ODF *or* OOXML) is that it facilitates choice.

I feel that you have used my admonishment of richard76's own biased post to semi-launch your own rant. Yes, I like Windows also and MS are very good at enterprise deployment and management, but choice is good and its flawed to say that just because there are many GNU/Linux distros, you can't standardise on one of the enterprise-ready ones.

5
3
Bronze badge

Re: Important change

"some other word processing / office suite software can't write to the formats favoured by Office"

Really can you name any widely used office software that can't read or write MS Office documents? I can't think of any. However I can think of mobile office suites that don't do ODF.

2
8
Bronze badge
WTF?

Re: Important change

"Office 2013 is really, really good"

Functionally possibly (I haven't probed it that hard), but to look at it most definitely is not! All flat and monotone, and bloody hard on the eyes/brain to distinguish parts of the screen and identify important data. Big text in random places likely just to make it easier to prob on a touchscreen.

Office 2010 was MUCH better to use.

6
2

Re: Important change

The whole point is that implementing good ODF support is actually a realistically achievable goal, whereas properly implementing Microsoft's "standards" is never going to be because that's the way MS wanted it. Having one highly untrustworthy foreign company calling the shots on data formats is just stupid and I'm amazed (but pleased) that the government has actually noticed and appears to be doing something about it.

13
0

Re: Important change

Except that ODF has always been vague on numerous parts of the specification, leading to the exciting prospect of "standards compliant" documents that can only be reliably opened in whatever version of whatever software originally created them.

Yay?

0
7

Re: Important change

You're obviously some kind of Microsoft apologist (and they've got a hell of a lot to apologise for).

Linux is good enough for progressive governments from Munich to Brazil, and there are now gigantic global corporate deployments that would be impossible with the brokenware that MS supply. Open document standards are perfectly workable - their specifications include all the "value added" goodness that comes with proprietary formats, and they are operable with and manipulable by both open source and proprietary software.

MS Office becomes "just another" proprietary suite of programmes - just like Windows with a web browser is just a proprietary client for the Unix and Linux-based internet - beancounters the world over will ask if the "paid for" software adds anything that the free versions don't.....

Windows and Windows software will just continue its decline into irrelevance.

5
0

Re: Important change @El_Andy

That's exactly the case now (for various values of reliably.) Nobody has said ODF is already perfect (indeed the quotes in the article show that the expectation is that later versions can be used as the spec develops) but at least it's not 100% controlled by a single US corporation with a staggeringly bad track record.

6
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Important change

Except that ODF has always been vague on numerous parts of the specification, leading to the exciting prospect of "standards compliant" documents that can only be reliably opened in whatever version of whatever software originally created them.

Hey, is it lunchtime at Westminster? Go back lobbying for MS.

3
1
LDS
Silver badge

Re: Important change

What's the difference between using Microsoft only or using RedHat only? Again, you have a single supplier - just a different lock.in. and maybe a worse one if it doesn't fit your needs.

I'm not against Linux - just "Linux" means too many things, from the free distros like Debian to the commercial ones like RedHat or SuSE. Choosing one or the other is not the same - especially when it comes to support and maintenance. Are commercial distros so different from Windows? Maybe not so much. Linux talibans would use only "free" ones, with all the associated risks.

And I'm not against open formats - because they mean I can choose different tools to work with them. But for many open formats means "push Microsoft away". It could be sensible only and only if it doesn't mean a different lock-in. Thereby formats should be standardized - not the tools.

Just yesterday the "tool to use" was OpenOffice. Now it has been forked and there are both LibreOffice and OpenOffice. Which one should be used? Purists would of course want LibreOffice, even if OpenOffice is now at Apache, because it still has the stigma of being Oracle property for a while. What if it was forked again, or if development of one - the one you chose - stalls? When you plan a large deployment for important tasks, that's something you have to account for. Better to decouple the standards from the tools using it - and "force" companies to deliver tool with good support for standards, so you can play on the safe side - that's the only thing that can save you from any type of lock-in - in whatever OS/tool you like - including a Linux distro lock-in.

0
5
LDS
Silver badge

Re: Important change

Yes, and before it was OpenOffice. maybe in a couple of years there will be ClearOffice, FreeOffice, DaiquiriOffice, CheOffice, ChavezOffice and something else, if some developers need to fell the chill of "la revoluciòn" again.

But standards are created to let people work the way they like using the tools they like. Why you say "LibreOffice" and not "OpenOffice" also? Because the new kid on the block is now the "holy tool" everybody should use to gain the "heaven of opensourceness"?

But that's exactly what you want to avoid when you have to plan a very large deployment. You need a stable path towards the foreseeable future, and not developers who leave a project just because Oracle buys Sun (which was headed to bankruptcy, don't forget it....) and they don't want to be touched by the evil of Larry. And how do you deal with the "Document Foundation" for support? I'm not sure I would like to make business with a company with a "Manifesto"? At least the Apache Foundations looks more sensible.

You know perfectly most people get Windows because of Office, when you remove Office from the equation the next step is to remove MS completely. I'm not saying it cannot be done - but what are the real benefits (especially if you have to rely on a commercial distro, as any sensible company would do), beside "feeling better"?

When you have to run a large company IT systems, you don't rely on an ideology and force it onto your users. You don't care if there is a "Free", "Libre" or whatever in the name, and assert your hate for "commercial companies" - you perform a risk/benefit analysis and choose what suits your needs better now and in the foreseeable future. Then what you do in your basement is up to you. But what you should not do is mixing the two things.

0
4
Silver badge

Re: Important change

You seem to want to actively lock out Linux.

In fact your whole demeanour suggest a mindset where 'software by decree' is how you see organisations as necessarily being run.

I don't see it that way at all. It is simply allowing departments the flexibility to choose what suits them the best, without having that choice enforced on them by a de facto proprietary standard.

Shall I tell you about the time a circular letter came out to a group containing an unreadable Word document (to most people). I managed to read it with the latest libre office version and send a PDF back to the grateful originator so that all those MICROSOFT WORD users who could not read it, now could?

When even a proprietary vendor is no guarantee of interoperability, small wonder that sane people are looking for an open standard of document distribution.

One of the reason PDFs work, is because the standard at least was published, adhered too and readers made free.

Everyone has a PDF reader.

4
0
Gold badge

Re: Important change

"Office 2013 is really, really good"

If you ignore the UI, which is awful. And the spydrive integration. And the part where Microsoft tried to make it impossible to buy a non-subscription version. And the rage-inducing defaults like "smart quotes" and "adding space at the end of a paragraph instead of letting people mange using carriage returns." Oh, and the massive history attached to the vendor of said product that includes a whole lot of "not listening to customers" and "telling end users to **** off."

Other than all of that - and a few more nits here and there - it's middling to passable, yep.

3
0
Gold badge

Re: Important change

">>"Speaking as someone who actually works on a library that tries to read and write OOXML I can tell you that OOXML still is not very nice: it is overly verbose and inconsistent."

And compared to the original version? ;)"

Twice zero is still zero.

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Important change

This doesn't in anyway disadvantage Microsoft - their Office products are by miles the best option for an ODF supporting Office suite...

0
7
Anonymous Coward

Re: Important change

"Linux is good enough for progressive governments from Munich to Brazil"

But it is more limited in functionality and application support, and for instance in Munich up to 30% of users still need to use Windows as well - and the project took ten years and it cost approximately €30 million more than upgrading the original Microsoft stack to a best practices model would have...

This is why near zero companies are heading down that path. Just a few dated beardy wierdies in low paid public sector type jobs...

0
7
Anonymous Coward

Re: Important change

"Windows and Windows software will just continue its decline into irrelevance."

erm - but Microsoft's sales and revenues are increasing...

0
4
Anonymous Coward

Re: Important change

their Office products are by miles the best option for an ODF supporting Office suite

If you need VB and are desperate to waste screen real estate, maybe. For any other use I found Libre/OpenOffice actually vastly superior. Loads quicker, renders good in any OS, functionality stays stable because it's not infested with things only done to screw people over to buy the latest version - no thanks.

1
1

Re: Important change

Office 2013 is really, really good.

What!! Death to the ribbon....

2
1
Bronze badge

Remember what happened when Massachusetts tried this. There may be more to come on this.

6
2
Silver badge

>>"Remember what happened when Massachusetts tried this. There may be more to come on this."

Perhaps. But MS Office is perfectly compatible with ODF so there's no reason why they can't continue to use Word, et al. with this. It's mandating an open format (good) rather than mandating a particular company's software (bad).

I'm puzzled by the babble about in-browser editing is preferred as if this is intrinsically connected to openness. Is this some Google infiltration trying to push Google Docs, or something?

19
1
JDX
Gold badge

OXML was at least a step towards open standards from MS - you can now actually create and edit DOCX files using standard libraries for instance - and of late they have been supporting more FOSS projects (where it suits them obviously).

I wonder if longer term MS might actually move to supporting some standard life ODF by default?

0
8
Bronze badge

"I wonder if longer term MS might actually move to supporting some standard life ODF by default?"

If by longer term you actually mean years ago then yes, Microsoft have supported ODF for a few versions and have asked the user which they wanted as default when running the suite for the first time.

8
0
Bronze badge

"I'm puzzled by the babble about in-browser editing is preferred as if this is intrinsically connected to openness. Is this some Google infiltration trying to push Google Docs, or something?"

It's clearly government speak for some dodgy deal about to happen. It might be that they are about to renew the MS SA or that Google helped them write this. Even more clear since they chose PDF as the "non editable" format after all the BS about open standards and preventing lock in despite Adobes history with PDF.

3
2
Silver badge

"BS about open standards and preventing lock in despite Adobes history with PDF." Yes but you don't need Adobe to read PDF.

12
0
Silver badge

"Yes but you don't need Adobe to read PDF."

Well no, but Adobe make all the best software for creating PDFs. You can export a document from Word to PDF and it will do it quite nicely - well enough for all my reports. But if I wanted to do something big and serious with PDFs, particularly dynamically creating reports in PDF format from templates I'd created (but other things too), I'd be using Adobe software. It's the same sort of "soft" control Google and other companies use.

Also, just to highlight how clueless the Government is, you *can* edit PDF documents. It's not always perfect but again, Office 2013 amongst others can do it. It's gone a bit screwy with PDFs made externally but when I've needed to edit a PDF generated by Word itself, it works absolutely fine. So choosing PDF as the "non-editable" format is a bit dubious. For real non-editability, you need DRM solutions. E.g. you can check the signature of a document.

4
7
Silver badge

You need Adobe for some of HMRC's PDF forms.

2
1

I think in-browser editing means use wiki or HTML CMS to host data in a form directly accessible from a browser instead of using a format that requires launching a separate app like OpenOffice or Word when a browser will do.

4
0

"I'm puzzled by the babble about in-browser editing is preferred as if this is intrinsically connected to openness."

You made the above comment in a browser, rather than as an ODF document and attaching it, no? A lot of the time you don't need a full-blown word processor.

6
1
Silver badge

"I think in-browser editing means use wiki or HTML CMS to host data in a form directly accessible from a browser instead of using a format that requires launching a separate app like OpenOffice or Word when a browser will do."

Hmmmm. I honestly find it hard to believe that anyone would be so clumsy as to say "in-browser editing is preferred" to mean "use a wiki". I mean this is the UK Government so it's possible, but it's staggeringly inept even for them. It really sounds more like groundwork being laid for a deal with a company that primarily offers browser-based products. Some company that spends even more on lobbying than Microsoft and has a highly vocal and loyal supporters in the IT community, perhaps. ;)

1
4
Silver badge

I'm puzzled by the babble about in-browser editing

Don't be - just remember that the Government Digital Service is a little outpost of Shoreditch and that Maude merely mouths whatever tech-speak they put in front of him. Web browser = good.

4
0
Bronze badge

"Yes but you don't need Adobe to read PDF."

And what happened the first time MS tried to write PDFs from Office? Adobe said no and it was pulled last minute. I think you'll find that editing PDFs is still fairly limited because of this sort of behaviour which is probably what leads to the nonsense of PDF being a read only format in the article. It's no more read only than a Word doc file, it's just that the software to modify them is rare as rocking horse poo because Adobe are ass-hats.

7
0
Anonymous Coward

"...Adobe make all the best software for creating PDFs"

Do they fuck.

6
1

Non editable

The idea of using PDF isn't for making content impossible to edit, in fact that's an impossible and therefore pointless goal, as there will always be ways to edit data.

The purpose of PDF is for data that isn't intended to be edited, and thus the format doesn't include metadata that is unnecessary for simply viewing and is only useful if you want to edit. A similar analogy would be providing the document on paper, or providing a program in precompiled form.

5
0
Bronze badge
Thumb Down

Re: "...Adobe make all the best software for creating PDFs"

I do like the incisive, logical and carefully-argued responses that some commenting-people come up with!

2
4

Yes, but they ask in the most confusing way possible. as I recall it is something along the lines of: would you like to use open document format or open office document format.

the file format used by OpenOffice is the open document format, so without research it is hard to work out which is the od? and which is the MS format

1
0
Anonymous Coward

PDF/A is an open standard

http://en.wikipedia.org/?title=PDF/A

It's not quite the same as Adobe's PDF, more of a sane subset.

6
0
Silver badge

I think they meant documents that didn't need editing - like press releases.

Not that they were relying on PDF to stop secret enemies of the state amending laws with a bit of judicious Foxit hackery

3
0
Silver badge

"I think they meant documents that didn't need editing - like press releases."

Quite possibly. Then why can't they just say something like "finalized documents" or "documents for public dissemination"? Wouldn't something that accurately described the goal, rather than the method, be the correct way to classify things?

1
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.