Thursday, February 27, 2014

UK government commits to using the Open Document Format

While reading up on the latest Linux and Open Source software news, I came across this article:

"The United Kingdom government is taking the first steps to switch from Microsoft Office proprietary formats to ODF format, in an effort to steer the entire governmental apparatus towards a more open source world.

The proposal to switch to Open Document Format has been posted on the Cabinet Office website, which is a department of the government that supports the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister and ensures the effective running of government. You can't get any more bureaucratic than this.

The document posted on the Cabinet Office website is called “Challenge: Sharing or collaborating with government documents” and explains the goal of this very controversial switch, which is sure to ruffle some feathers at Microsoft's headquarters.

“Users in this challenge include citizens, businesses and delivery partners who need to share information with government using editable documents. Users are also officials within government departments who need to share and work on documents together,” reads the UK proposal.

The note also mentions the expected benefits of such a daring move. The most important is that users (whoever they may be) won't have to buy software in order to submit documents to government officials or services due to the document format requested.

The documents that must be compliant with the Open Document Format are: Word processed texts, Spreadsheets, and Presentations. If you look closely, this is exactly Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

There are a number of available free office suites available for download already, LibreOffice and OpenOffice being the most famous, that can save documents in this format. A number of city administrations from all over the world, including Munich, have already decided to go open source all the way.

The British government is the largest organization that has expressed its interest towards open source, although for now it is content about tackling only the problem of Open Document Formats.

It's safe to say that already a number of open source organizations have expressed their support for this decision, including The Document Foundation.

“The Document Foundation enthusiastically supports the UK Government proposal supporting the adoption of ODF 1.1 and ODF 1.2, alongside with HTML 4.01 and HTML5, CSV and TXT, for sharing or collaborating with government documents,” reads a comment submitted to the UK challenge.

Microsoft hasn't sat idle all this time. Only a week ago, the company posted a message in which it said that the adoption of ODF will increase costs, cause dissatisfaction amongst citizens and businesses, and a few other grievances.

Microsoft also proposed that both formats remain in effect, but the decision of the British government seems to be part of larger plan that has yet to be revealed." -Softpedia Linux News

While some people would have cheered over the bite this will take out of Microsoft's wallet, I am happy to see this because the use of the Open Document Format, or ODF for short, means that a switch from one software vendor to the other will be an easy implementation.

And that means that we as the consumer will have more freedom of choice.

Hopefully as more and more institutions do this, Microsoft will have to change their software writing policies to a more open solution.

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