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Microsoft Circles the Wagons To Defeat ODF In the UK

Soulskill posted about 5 months ago | from the tell-them-ODF-is-bigger-on-the-inside dept.

Microsoft 89

Andy Updegrove writes "Three weeks ago, we heard that Francis Maude, a senior UK government minister, was predicting the conversion to open source office suites by UK government agencies. Lost in the translation in many stories was the fact that this was based not on an adopted policy, but on a proposal still open for public comment — and subject to change. It should be no surprise that Microsoft is trying to get the UK to add OOXML, its own format standard, to the UK policy. Why? According to a messaging sent to its UK partners, because it believes that a failure to include OOXML 'will cause problems for citizens and businesses who use office suites which don't support ODF, including many people who do not use a recent version of Microsoft Office or, for example, Pages on iOS and even Google Docs.' Of course, that's because Microsoft pushed OOXML as an alternative to ODF a decade ago. If you don't want the same objection to be valid a decade from now, consider making your views known at the Cabinet Office Standards Hub. The deadline is February 26."

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OOXML not included in old Office either (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46305577)

failure to include OOXML 'will cause problems for citizens and businesses who use office suites which don't support ODF, including many people who do not use a recent version of Microsoft Office'

IIRC, OOXML isn't in any version of MS Office that doesn't have ODF support.

Re:OOXML not included in old Office either (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46305611)

Its just Microsoft marketing.
Them pulling stuff out of their ass to make their product look better.

Re:OOXML not included in old Office either (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46308247)

Its just Microsoft marketing.

This isn't marketing.

It's corruptly locking people into their product with undecipherable proprietary formats. It should be illegal.

Re:OOXML not included in old Office either (2)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about 5 months ago | (#46308265)

Them pulling stuff out of their ass to make their product look better.

They're not trying to make their products look better. They're trying to make competitor's products look worse.

It's an important distinction, because it means they don't have to compete on quality or price.

Re:OOXML not included in old Office either (2)

Timothy Hartman (2905293) | about 5 months ago | (#46305649)

There are converters for the older versions, which I won't say makes it worth it, but they are there. I used them on the Mac version so we didn't have to upgrade above 2000 era Office. Mac converter [microsoft.com] is just drag and drop, doesn't allow you to save back to it, not that anyone would want to.

Re:OOXML not included in old Office either (4, Informative)

the_povinator (936048) | about 5 months ago | (#46305731)

Their statement seems to imply that Google Docs supports OOXML but not ODF, but the reverse is true: it supports ODF but not OOXML. I just tried the file->download as link on a document there, and one of the options is "Open Document Format (.odt)" but there is no OOXML option.

Re:OOXML not included in old Office either (0, Troll)

Carewolf (581105) | about 5 months ago | (#46305949)

Yes, they lying. They are called Microsoft after all. There some things you can still trust.

Re:OOXML not included in old Office either (2)

bufke (2029164) | about 5 months ago | (#46306143)

While I support ODF, your statement is not true. Google Docs/Drive supports .docx which is OOXML.

Now it is possible the OOXML implementation Microsoft uses could vary from the ISO standard. Microsoft could change it, obscure it, and add proprietary extensions to harm interchangeability with Google Docs and other competitors.

Re:OOXML not included in old Office either (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46306229)

>.docx which is OOXML.

No it isn't. this was known back when they pushed for OOXML to be a standard. they do not meet the standard for OOXML and are therefore NOT OOXML

That's pretty old... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46319879)

Office 2013 defaults to OOXML transitional, but has a setting to enable OOXML strict. So your information is a bit out of date.

Re:OOXML not included in old Office either (0)

MightyYar (622222) | about 5 months ago | (#46306193)

"DOCX" = "OOXML"

Re:OOXML not included in old Office either (4, Informative)

Immerman (2627577) | about 5 months ago | (#46306337)

Not so. docx ~= ooxml, but there's not a single piece of software on the planet that supports OOXML as approved by purchased standards bodies. And that assumes you even grant the title "standard" to the obfuscated mess that is OOXML, where many parts of the "standard" refer to binary blobs stored in "the format used by MS Office" without any further detail.

Re:OOXML not included in old Office either (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 5 months ago | (#46307489)

Well, technically I guess all of the MS Office formats are ostensibly OOXML - not just DOCX. Whether they fully comply or not I can't say - the fact is you can unzip them and get an XML structure that is very OOXML-ish. You get the same thing from Google Docs when you export to DOCX - though once again I cannot vouch for it's compliance. It does open in MS Office, though.

Re:OOXML not included in old Office either (3, Insightful)

Immerman (2627577) | about 5 months ago | (#46308155)

The file format specialists working on the MS Office i/o filters for LibreOffice, etc. *can* say though, and they say it's not. There is software available to confirm that ODF files do in fact comply with the standard, and the various programmers who work with ODF can use them to confirm that their software is at least not obviously out of compliance. IIRC similar software was begun to be created created for OOXML as part of the i/o filter project, and found that it doesn't actually accurately describe DOCX, etc. Close, but not suitable for reasonable levels of interoperability. Google, LibreOffice, etc. have a choice - they can support OOXML, and end up garbling imported documents documents and exporting documents that can't be opened correctly by MS Office, or they can do their best to interoperate with MS Office, and thus be intentionally incompatible with OOXML, the standard that nobody has ever used.

More accurately I suppose there are two standards named OOXML:
OOXML-as-Described in the internationally ratified standards (and that's a story of obvious corruption of one of the preeminent standards bodies on the planet)
and OOXML-as-Implemented by MS Office.

OOXML-as-described technically qualifies for open standard requirements, even if it is longwinded, cryptic, poorly organized, and badly underspecified.
OOXML-as-implemented does not
Microsoft then plays the game of saying OOXMLaD is a recognized international open standard, and MS Office supports OOXMLaI, so Office should be allowed to participate in open-standards-only product bids, trusting that nobody in the procurement process will catch the fact that OOXMLaD != OOXMLaI, or can be bought off if they do.

Re:OOXML not included in old Office either (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 5 months ago | (#46311463)

Right, that covers MS Office, but when exporting from Google Docs to DOCX, you are getting some kind of OOXML. I don't know how "standard" it is, but it is OOXML of some flavor and it does open in Word.

Re:OOXML not included in old Office either (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 5 months ago | (#46312527)

Google, and everyone else, support OOXML "as implemented" (or at least their best approximation of it). The only reason to support that byzantine nightmare is to interoperate with MS Office, and MS Office doesn't support OOXML as approved as an open standard by IEEE.

The problem is the confusion - the only reason OOXML could qualify for open-standard procurement is if it is in fact an open standard. Which the OOXMLaI is categorically *not*. You can't meaningfully have different "flavors" of a reliable document interchange format - either the data is in the correct format that everything can understand reliably, or it's not. There is no middle ground.

Re:OOXML not included in old Office either (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 5 months ago | (#46312971)

I'm not trying to be an OOXML apologist - I agree with your criticism of it. But I doubt that every implementation of ODF is identical, and I was just trying to point out that the DOCX option in Google Docs is in fact the OOXML option, implementation aside.

Just like not every HTML implementation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46321943)

"But I doubt that every implementation of ODF is identical"

But not every HTML implementation is identical, but there IS a compliance suite for it and they render almost identically.

Not every C++ implementation is identical. Not every FORTRAN90 implementation is identical. Not every English language is identical.

But there's a difference between "can be relied upon to do the job required" and what MSOOXML does re: open standards.

Re:Just like not every HTML implementation? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 5 months ago | (#46322159)

Again, I agree that OOXML is pure and utter shit. I was just trying to clarify that it is not absent from Google Docs.

Not true (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46319893)

Office 2013 defaults to OOXML transitional, but has a setting to enable OOXML strict. So your information is a bit out of date.

Re:Not true (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 5 months ago | (#46320159)

Interesting. Do you know if "strict mode" actually adheres to the IEEE standard? Yes, the answer should be obvious, but we *are* talking about Microsoft here.

The remaining question is, has the standard ever been updated to specify the data format of the "magical binary blobs"?. If so then I would be in the unexpected position of having to acknowledge that Microsoft was meaningfully promoting an open standard Office format. Well, as soon as they made it the default at least.

It's good to see that they're improving though, even if it is under duress.

Re:OOXML not included in old Office either (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46306353)

except that docx is not a compliment implementation of ooxml....
can't even stick to their own standards

Re:OOXML not included in old Office either (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about 5 months ago | (#46306295)

Worse, OOXML, as written, isn't supported by *any* version of MS Office. Just ask the folks working on compatibility plugins for other office suites. It's often close, but only the most trivial MS Office files actually comply with the standard.

Plus there's the fact that OOXML doesn't actually fully specify a standard, often resorting to the non-informative "and this bit gets stored as a binary blob as defined by the way it's done by MS Office". Pretty lousy for a "standard" that's what, 10x as long as the roughly-functionally-equivalent ODF standard?

Re:OOXML not included in old Office either (3, Funny)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 5 months ago | (#46306309)

Next Microsoft is going to remove .txt support from Office and try and get all plain text files banned because office can't handle it.

ODF is an open (truely open, not OOXML-like "open") file format. Nothing is stopping Office from supporting it if it doesn't already do so.

They can't play the "old versions of Office"-card either, since OOXML is no more backwards compatible than ODF.

OOXML Only Fully Supported in Office 2013 (1)

HannethCom (585323) | about 5 months ago | (#46306707)

Office 2007 only loads and saves a form of the transitional OOXML format that is incompatible with the standard.

Office 2010 can load standard OOXML files, it is unable to save them. It saves in a transitional format that is closer to the OOXML standard than 2007. The Office team released an explanation to the beta testers that they would not have time to be fully OOXML compliant for the release of Office 2010 and there were not plans to fix it after release.

Office 2013 is the first version of office to fully support loading and saving of standard OOXML files.

This is part of the problem that the OpenOffice team had trying to load .docx files was that they were implementing loading of the standard. The LibreOffice team continues to work on loading both the OOXML standard and 2007/2010 variances from the standard. Last I checked, which was a while back, LibreOffice only outputted standard OOXML files, which Office 2010/2013 should be able to load. I found using the old .doc format more reliable when switching between Microsoft Office and LibreOffice though. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O... [wikipedia.org]

Re:OOXML not included in old Office either (1)

Johnny Loves Linux (1147635) | about 5 months ago | (#46308007)

failure to include OOXML 'will cause problems for citizens and businesses who use office suites which don't support ODF, including many people who do not use a recent version of Microsoft Office'

Yes, this will cause problems for the citizens of Redmond, WA who work for Microsoft, and the business called Microsoft, Inc if OOXML is not approved.

Re:OOXML not included in old Office either (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 5 months ago | (#46308313)

IIRC, OOXML isn't in any version of MS Office that doesn't have ODF support.

Office 2003 has an add-on for OOXML support but no ODF. Yes, I still run it in an XP VM because I don't like how clunky OO Writer is.

Making Your Views Known (5, Funny)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 5 months ago | (#46305599)

If you don't want the same objection to be valid a decade from now, consider making your views known at the Cabinet Office Standards Hub. The deadline is February 26.

The documents are on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign outside the door saying "Beware of the Leopard."

Make sure you bring a torch.

Re:Making Your Views Known (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46308671)

Ah, I see Apple has a place in this process after all. Their products are used to run the security system of disused lavatory holding the government filing cabinets.

Re:Making Your Views Known (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46322329)

Make sure you bring a torch.

You say torch, but you mean flamethrower. Obviously.

'will cause problems...don't support ODF, (4, Insightful)

jkrise (535370) | about 5 months ago | (#46305607)

I call bullshit. OpenOffice or LibreOffice can be configured to store files in .doc and .xls and .ppt formats - problem solved! It annoys me there are still people and govts. buying the rubbish arguments spouted by Microsoft and their ilk...

Problems due to inflexibility (5, Interesting)

sjbe (173966) | about 5 months ago | (#46305679)

OpenOffice or LibreOffice can be configured to store files in .doc and .xls and .ppt formats - problem solved!

While true, that doesn't mean either of those products are permitted in every office. A lot of IT departments are notoriously inflexible on this sort of matter. If your organization standardizes on something, odds are they aren't going to want you using some other unapproved product. If you were to point out that this inflexibility is probably dumb, I am inclined to agree with you. Nevertheless it does occur and it is a real problem. Microsoft isn't strictly wrong here though they are being a bit disingenuous regarding some of the nuances of the situation.

I have standardized my company on LibreOffice but its ability to read and write Microsoft Office files is imperfect at best. It's particularly bad at the more recent .docx and .xlsx files. It reads and writes them well enough to be useful most of the time but don't expect perfection.

Re:Problems due to inflexibility (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46305727)

If you were to point out that this inflexibility is probably dumb

Is it?

You're posting on Slashdot. You are probably capable of figuring out why your Open Sores Libre Viva La Revolucione Socialiste Office is fucking up a document conversion. Your IT department would put entire cities to the sword if it meant only having to deal solely with you and people like you.

But they can't, and they don't. No, they're awash in a sea of, "MY CUPHOLDER IS BROKEN AND WHY IS THIS FOOTPEDAL SO HARD TO CONTROL!?" types.

Standardization exists for a reason, and the reason may indeed be dumb - the reason is dumb people. That does not make standardization dumb, however.

Re:Problems due to inflexibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46308357)

Open Sores Libre Viva La Revolucione Socialiste Office

More M$ propaganda.

Re:Problems due to inflexibility (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 5 months ago | (#46308955)

But the standard does NOT have to be Microsoft.

Re:Problems due to inflexibility (5, Insightful)

ClickOnThis (137803) | about 5 months ago | (#46305783)

I have standardized my company on LibreOffice but its ability to read and write Microsoft Office files is imperfect at best. It's particularly bad at the more recent .docx and .xlsx files. It reads and writes them well enough to be useful most of the time but don't expect perfection.

In my experience, MS Office frequently can be incompatible with itself. I can forgive LibreOffice for having trouble with MS formats, no matter which side is responsible (wink.)

Re:Problems due to inflexibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46308751)

Yes, this is a frequent troll response. I'm sure we can all trust your experience. It's wide, detailed, unbiased and cited.

Re:Problems due to inflexibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46311773)

I'm guessing you've never seen The List. It's a collection of files generated by MS Office categorized by how it's screwed up. There is a VERY large section of files that the same version of Office won't open. Ever. As far as we know it can only be opened from the same machine's instance of Office. Most of those are Office 2012, so it's not exactly a solved problem. Nice try at defending your employer though, shill :)

Re:Problems due to inflexibility (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 5 months ago | (#46308971)

This is what amazes me when people claim they love Office so much. It is so incredibly buggy and does some of the stupidest things you'd expect software to do. I mean it's trivial to remain compatible with older versions of a product, and yet Microsoft either can not do this out of stupidity or it is intentionally breaking compatibility to force ugprades. (I think it's both actually)

In the past Microsoft has listed as their official answer to compatibility issues to have the reader of your document upgrade their version of Word or Office. They honestly think that having the user install special add-ons to convert to/from older versions to be an acceptable solution.

Re:Problems due to inflexibility (1)

ClickOnThis (137803) | about 5 months ago | (#46312079)

I agree with almost everything in your post. However, I wouldn't say it's "trivial" to retain backward-compatibility in software products. It can be harder than it seems. I don't envy any company, including Microsoft, faced with that task.

Re:Problems due to inflexibility (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46305817)

If your organization standardizes on something, odds are they aren't going to want you using some other unapproved product. If you were to point out that this inflexibility is probably dumb, I am inclined to agree with you.

I presume you also pop in to defend any company that gets their data stolen because "enforcing security practices is dumb"?

One software, one series of patches to read, approve, and push out to the users; one set of vulnerabilities to prepare for. IT should be very inflexible when you as random non-IT employee come to them and say "I'm philosophically opposed to using the software that was already licensed for my use, I want to use this because it can usually do most of the same things and I use it at home."
If you want to use Libre where you are in charge, go ahead. If you are working under someone else's rules, you follow those rules or you leave.
I use Libre at home and work because in my situation, Office utilities are such a minor part of what I do and we don't have company-wide licenses or standardized baseline PC images. The inability to properly use a xml-encoded plaintext file format with detailed documentation makes me wonder whether it would be worth it to find an unclaimed MSOffice key around the office (about once every 4 months, so I tend not to act on the idea).

Re:Problems due to inflexibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46311813)

Luckily I've never had the "pleasure" of working at a place like this :) I've heard it's terrible to have incompetent IT guys who can't administer computers.

Re:Problems due to inflexibility (4, Insightful)

Eric Damron (553630) | about 5 months ago | (#46306165)

I'm old enough to have lived through the entire Microsoft history of dirty tricks, disingenuous press releases and out right illegal anti-trust violations. It seems that some things never do really change.

Part of the compatibility issues are due to the time lag caused by the need to reverse engineer Microsoft's âoeStandard.â If the past is any indication of how this company works they haven't been forthcoming on providing complete documentation to their document format. There may be a bit of the âoeWindows isn't done until Lotus won't run...â attitude left in a company that has a history of wanting not just to compete but do completely crush anything that remotely smells like competition. And if that takes lies, dirty tricks or anti-trust violations requiring decades to litigate then so be it.

For the younger folks here: Watch this company with a skeptical eye because they don't have YOUR best interest at heart and they will do practically anything to win.

   

Re:Problems due to inflexibility (4, Interesting)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about 5 months ago | (#46306475)

Excellent irony by using the MS Word lsquot and rsquot characters :-)

Re:Problems due to inflexibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46311741)

In ten years, I have never worked at an organization that frowned upon using alternative Office suites. Most of the places actually preferred that we use don't use MS Office, because they then don't have to use a license for you. Not to mention that the only machines that have ever been infected by viruses were infected THROUGH MS Office.

Re:'will cause problems...don't support ODF, (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46305691)

I call bullshit. OpenOffice or LibreOffice can be configured to store files in .doc and .xls and .ppt formats - problem solved! It annoys me there are still people and govts. buying the rubbish arguments spouted by Microsoft and their ilk...

People who say OpenOffice read and writes MS Office files fine can not have used this themselves on an ongoing basis for more than the simplest of files. It regularly messes up the documents, and macros. Not saying OpenOffice is at fault for this, it is just a fact, that shouldn't be falsely presented to potential users.

Re:'will cause problems...don't support ODF, (3, Funny)

sexconker (1179573) | about 5 months ago | (#46305761)

I call bullshit. OpenOffice or LibreOffice can be configured to store files in .doc and .xls and .ppt formats - problem solved! It annoys me there are still people and govts. buying the rubbish arguments spouted by Microsoft and their ilk...

People who say OpenOffice read and writes MS Office files fine can not have used this themselves on an ongoing basis for more than the simplest of files. It regularly messes up the documents, and macros. Not saying OpenOffice is at fault for this, it is just a fact, that shouldn't be falsely presented to potential users.

Just today I had to tell someone to save to PDF before uploading because Open Office's automatic conversion (which we call on the back end) fucks shit up half the time.
We could update to a later version of Open Office, but it'll just fuck things up differently (it'll replace all the bullets in a list with a clock icon, regardless of what font we use).

Re:'will cause problems...don't support ODF, (3, Informative)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 5 months ago | (#46305845)

(it'll replace all the bullets in a list with a clock icon, regardless of what font we use).

Irony. I think most of the clocks I've seen were in genuine 100% Microsoft Word.

However, I think I recognize your problem and it has to do (IIRC) with the fact that the font used for the bullet is not controlled by the font specification for the bulleted content itself, and I'm pretty sure that there is actually a difference between Word's handling of this nuance and Open/Libre Office handling of it.

If that was the worst problem I had, I think a fairly simple solution could be achieved, but my definition of "fairly simple" can run up to and including unzipping the ODF and doing a "sed" replace, so your definition may vary.

Re:'will cause problems...don't support ODF, (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about 5 months ago | (#46306695)

(it'll replace all the bullets in a list with a clock icon, regardless of what font we use).

Irony. I think most of the clocks I've seen were in genuine 100% Microsoft Word.

However, I think I recognize your problem and it has to do (IIRC) with the fact that the font used for the bullet is not controlled by the font specification for the bulleted content itself, and I'm pretty sure that there is actually a difference between Word's handling of this nuance and Open/Libre Office handling of it.

If that was the worst problem I had, I think a fairly simple solution could be achieved, but my definition of "fairly simple" can run up to and including unzipping the ODF and doing a "sed" replace, so your definition may vary.

You're right that Word 2010 uses a different font for the list symbols than it does for the content, but changing the font for the symbols doesn't reliably fix the problem. I've defined new default list styles and injected normal bullets that OO is usually happy to deal with, and sometimes it works, sometimes it barfs. It's bizarre, and if it were the only issue I had with OO I might try to work around it by procedurally futzing with the doc before it's fed to OO (like the way you suggested), but it's really just the top of the iceberg.

Re:'will cause problems...don't support ODF, (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 5 months ago | (#46308989)

Never mind that Word fucks stuff up to. PDF just works (especially if you use an older version without all the newer crap), and for things like resumes and the like that's what I want to get in email rather than a .docx file.

Re: 'will cause problems...don't support ODF, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46308925)

My experiences with Open Office and Libre Office have been better than most, I guess. Best story: a corrupted Excel file that crashed every version of Office we used to open it. Opened it with Open Office and the workbook loaded with all its data intact; found a corrupt formula, fixed it and saved it, and it opened immediately in Excel.

Re:'will cause problems...don't support ODF, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46305703)

Tried this lately? You used to be able to roundtrip documents and nobody knew. LibreOffice is promising that roundtripping is coming back. We've had to buy copies of MS Office, however, to satisfy customer requirements. We're really not happy campers.

Re:'will cause problems...don't support ODF, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46305777)

I read that as "It annoys me there are still people and govts." Full stop. To that, I have to agree. People and governments are the source of all our problems not related to jaguar attacks.

Re:'will cause problems...don't support ODF, (1)

Tough Love (215404) | about 5 months ago | (#46306117)

It annoys me there are still people and govts. buying the rubbish arguments spouted by Microsoft and their ilk...

"Buying" is the operative word, but it's Microsoft doing the buying in this case.

Re:'will cause problems...don't support ODF, (1)

JohnnyMindcrime (2487092) | about 5 months ago | (#46310609)

It's actually more the case that Microsoft, deliberately or not, does not publish good enough documentation that explains the .doc, .xls, .ppt, etc. formats well enough to allow developers of other office packages to build in support for those formats with 100% compatibility.

An open standard becomes one because a number of working parties, that can happily include Microsoft, agree on that standard as being best for what needs to be achieved and can also be built into any software packages as necessary.

OOXML is 10 years old? (1)

Neruocomp (513658) | about 5 months ago | (#46305665)

2004 doesn't feel like that long ago. But hearing it phrased like that makes me feel old. -_-

have pity on me! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46305733)

Microsoft: "Have pity on me, I'm an orphan. (I killed my parents.)"

Open government = open standards (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46305747)

All software utilized by the government ought to be open source as a natural consequence of the source of the funds used to support it. Everyone should benefit from the government's use of technology, not just Microsoft.

Re: Open government = open standards (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46305927)

Would you in a similar vein say that if a government office has sandwiches brought in for a lunchtime meeting, that the catering service should be Nationalized?

Re: Open government = open standards (4, Insightful)

rkhalloran (136467) | about 5 months ago | (#46306113)

A citizen wanting to interact with their government should not be compelled to purchase a particular company's product to do so. If I choose to mail in my tax forms, it should not require purchasing Official Government Printing Stock to do it. If I file electronically, it should not be locked in to, say, Turbotax. An open format (ODF, PDF) should be acceptable. This also frankly makes sense financially: if MS is the only company supporting OOXML (arguable, since at last check they don't even meet their own standard), then there's no possibility of price competition. If you're on an *open* format where many vendors can compete, the govt can go for best price and properly spend the money they screw us out of annually.

Re: Open government = open standards (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 5 months ago | (#46309009)

If the government requires a certain piece of software be used, then they can pay for that software for me.

What I think would be funny (since I'm not in the UK) is if they standardized on OOXML but rejected all documents that were not 100% compliant with OOXML, thus excluding Microsoft Office entirely.

Re: Open government = open standards (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46311047)

Ugh, don't you pay taxes Skippy?

OOXML (2)

JavaBear (9872) | about 5 months ago | (#46305907)

OOXML MUST DIE!

I've have my share of fun decoding that crap. It is not a good format for anyone but Microsoft.

I have no doubt whatsoever ... (1)

the bluebrain (443451) | about 5 months ago | (#46305963)

... that they will find the right palms to grease in a sclerotocracy, considering they succeeded in essentially purchasing ISO back in the day. If you want a definition of an afer-me-the-flood attitude, here you have it.

Re:I have no doubt whatsoever ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46306685)

what do you mean by 'sclerotocracy'? literally, 'sclero-' means 'hard', so i'm just wondering what the metaphor is here. thanks.

Re:I have no doubt whatsoever ... (1)

Forbo (3035827) | about 5 months ago | (#46306751)

What in the world is a sclerotocracy? I had never heard of it before, so I tried looking up the term on DuckDuckGo, Google and Bing and I'm coming up with nothing.

Re:Sclerotacracy (1)

SirSpammenot (1075889) | about 5 months ago | (#46307537)

sclero: A prefix added to the start of a word. Indicates that "hard" modifies the word. Created to expand meanings. Can be used with many words to form new words. http://myword.info/definition.... [myword.info]

So it would be a bureaucracy, that thickened into a congealocracy, then hardened into a schlerocracy. i.e.: Functional as originally built, but inflexible now. Like my liver.

Re:Sclerotacracy (1)

WolfTheWerewolf (84066) | about 5 months ago | (#46310707)

AKA the Ministry of Information.

Re:Sclerotacracy (1)

Forbo (3035827) | about 5 months ago | (#46321095)

Excellent break down, thank you for the clarification! ^_^

GO MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46305979)

I don't know if it is the format or the software, but MS Word let's me treat headers/footers as "documents within the document". They can have their own separate sections, like iframes, rather than being part of or contained by the current section/chapter. I haven't figured out how to do that in the free office suites. If I insert a section into the the header, I have to insert a paragraph as well, it's ridiculous that I'm the only person frustrated by that. (Or maybe I"m the only person trying to do desktop publishing in OpenOffice writer...)

Re:GO MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46309815)

Don't use writer (or MS office) for desktop publishing - simple.

Use an desktop publishing package that is designed for that.
May I suggest the completely free Scribus?
Link here: http://www.scribus.net/canvas/Scribus

Keep the rich happy and the rest frightened (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 5 months ago | (#46306017)

That maxim is being varied by Microsoft yesterday, today and tomorrow.

It's the maxim of powerful institutions, whether or not government or
private enterprise behemoths. On second thought, is there a difference?

On third thought: with this bit of knowledge you can decisively know when
you're being fucked.
And on epilogie: THINK CRITICAL & DARE TO REJECT!

MS does not want to improve compatibility with ODF (2)

white_owl (134394) | about 5 months ago | (#46306043)

People want to stay with MS Office because the compatibility of other software with the complex OOXML format is not all that good. That locks people into MS Office. The ODF format is less complex and easier to implement, so presumably Microsoft can control how well Office reads and writes ODF files.

If ODF was the standard, then the question would be reversed from "how compatible is the alternative software with OOXML" to "how compatible is MS Office with ODF".

Microsoft understandably does not want to have to answer the second question.

Well, the answer is simple... (1)

LaughingVulcan (3511853) | about 5 months ago | (#46306669)

a failure to include OOXML 'will cause problems for citizens and businesses who use office suites which don't support ODF, including many people who do not use a recent version of Microsoft Office or, for example, Pages on iOS and even Google Docs.'

So, Microsoft is then admitting that their products cannot save into free standard formats, then. Me, I'm all for stepping back a decade and a half: Make the document standard RTF only. That should support any old or new word processor (and any new word processor that won't do RTF should not deserve the name...) And it would let the UK government kiss off having to use Microsoft products, too. I'm sure there is a reason why that's impractical, and maybe even a good one which doesn't involve Microsoft poisoning the IT world. But what would it be?

Re:Well, the answer is simple... (2)

vux984 (928602) | about 5 months ago | (#46306937)

I'm sure there is a reason why [using RTF] that's impractical, and maybe even a good one which doesn't involve Microsoft poisoning the IT world. But what would it be?

From wikipedia:

The Rich Text Format (often abbreviated RTF) is a proprietary document file format with published specification developed by Microsoft Corporation since 1987 for Microsoft products and for cross-platform document interchange.

Most word processors are able to read and write some versions of RTF. There are several different revisions of RTF specification and portability of files will depend on what version of RTF is being used. RTF specifications are changed and published with major Microsoft Word and Office versions.

So its better than OOXML how?

Re:Well, the answer is simple... (1)

RoLi (141856) | about 5 months ago | (#46310249)

It is better because it has not changed a lot in the last 20 years. It may be true that there were some incompatible revisions somewhen in the 90s, but for all practical purposes that is history with no practical importance today.

Also, simply because of its age, you can be sure that RTF does not infringe any patents, because *all* relevant patents have expired. So you can legally create a RTF-reader/writer, even when you use the Microsoft-RTF-specification (their specification is copyrighted of course, but you don't copy the specification, you just use it.)

With OOXML all that is not so clear.

Re:Well, the answer is simple... (1)

vux984 (928602) | about 5 months ago | (#46310713)

It is better because it has not changed a lot in the last 20 years.

Which will change the moment it becomes 'important' again. And seeing as its under Microsofts proprietary control, if it were adopted as standard, the next version of Office would start throwing all kinds of new crap into it.

Also, simply because of its age, you can be sure that RTF does not infringe any patents...

I predict most of the new crap they jam in it will be directly from OOXML and we're back at square one here too.

They don't support ODF because of MS' monopoly (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | about 5 months ago | (#46306995)

The UK gov only supporting ODF would quickly fix that.

Negotiating tactic (2)

RDW (41497) | about 5 months ago | (#46307167)

A cynic might suggest that the UK Government doesn't care about file formats any more than MS does, and the whole whole "we're seriously considering alternatives" thing is just a ploy to get a better deal on Office...

Re:Negotiating tactic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46308737)

That tactic should be considered an example of bad governance as they would behave deceptively towards the citizens and corporations. The government would be a bad actor in the market and cause bad counter behaviors which ultimately damages everybody.

All that effort must not be in vain... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46307241)

A lot of effort was put into inflating ISO members to the point people wouldn't fit into meeting rooms.

Aproving a standard with nearly 6 thousand pages (against ODF's less-than-9-hundred one) was very hard and ISO had to be almost handcuffed and blinded so that process could come to the desired goal -- a Frankenstein figure of a standard made exactly to claim one day (i.e. now) the absurd that more standards are better. I'm sorry M$, but it didn't work. We still understand that having one single standard is essential for things to work.

2 PDFs? Why?

2 txt's? What for?

2 jpg's? I don't think so.

Everybody rest assured M$ will be the last company to support ODF (and by support I mean the way Libre/Openoffice does it).

Interoperability? BG is gonna throw a fit in front of that new Indian guy.

Oil companies will start worrying about CO2 way before M$ wants any kind of talk about interoperability, all that well after Hell has frozen.

Not that impacts me, but... (1)

ndykman (659315) | about 5 months ago | (#46307255)

But, OOXML is (for better or worse) a ECMA and ISO standard, just like ODF. Each has it's own set of tradeoffs, advantages and disadvantages.

So, not why not a list of accepted common formats? ODF, OOXML, PDF is a fine list. Why "one format to rule them all?" Let people use the tools that work best for them, and base the decisions on a real cost-benefit analysis. Or just say we don't want to pay for Microsoft Office and deal with the fallout from that.

Don't wrap it up by picking a favorite format and making it a mandate by law. It doesn't work out well. There's people making a ton of money making software to parse X12 messages for US health care institutions because the HIPPA law demanded that specific format. And, guess what? Technology moved on and it's a total mess. Lots of great things in the HIPPA law, but that was not one of them. You can regulate without making specific technology decisions.

Re:Not that impacts me, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46310657)

Because some formats don't actually exist as defined by the standard ...OOXML being the obvious one

But not MSOOXML (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46321957)

OOXML may be an ECMA standard, but it doesn't mean that it's an open one, nor does it mean that MS Office supports it.

There is no reason, however, for MSOffice not to support ODF.

Easy to get (1)

HalAtWork (926717) | about 5 months ago | (#46309433)

will cause problems for citizens and businesses who use office suites which don't support ODF

It's pretty simple to get one... For businesses, wouldn't MS want people to update Office to a version that supports ODF? Means more money for MS when businesses do that.

OOXML? What is that? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46309475)

OOXML? What is that ? Show me a version working according to the published standard. Microsoft has never made a version that follows their own specs. Oh, and lets try and get rid of those proprietary containers (with undocumented encryption) surrounding that xml. Mickeysoft bought the standards body for tens of millions of dollars, and rammed OOXML through the standards body. The documents describing OOXML run 5000 pages. It was created by mickeysoft alone --different from ODF, which was collaboratively created by Adobe, IBM, Boeing, the US Navy, the Vatican Library, the US Medical Library, and the American Law Library. ODF was reviewed by users, vetted, analyzed, revised based on user feedback, vetted, re-analyzed, re-tested and re-revised until everyone thought it was ideal for their needs. OOXML was dreamed up by microsoft in 3 weeks. Some of the standard simply states "based on " where is some current version of microsoft software (but that was a few years ago, so now obsolete). Like other pieces of microsoft software, there is no backward *and* forward compatibility with OOXML. It was a key requirement for ODF by the lawyers, doctors and Vatican: they deal with documents over thousands of years, and "incompatible" is unacceptable. Certainly not knowing if you had certain medications as a kid (needed by your heart surgeon) because of 'incompatible: file unreadable' is not a solution, likewise "bill of sale" for your house because no one can tell if you paid it off because of 'file unreadable' isn't good either. Again, mickeysoft pulled every dirty trick to get OOXML declared a 'standard' by paying 3rd world countries who have never given a care about standards to vote for it in return for cash.

Build A Test (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46309895)

UK citizens should expect certain things from their government, when it comes to the use of electronic documents:-

1. That the government must not force a citizen to use a certain product or technology, but should use only truly open standards.
2. Whilst it may be acceptable to argue that a "small" cost to the citizen to engage with their government is acceptable, it must be minimal. Submission of paper records requires a pen, an envelope and a postage stamp. Choices for electronic documents must not confer unreasonably greater costs upon citizens.
3. The government must ensure that electronically stored files can continue to be accessed for *at least as long as paper records*. Given that the UK has paper records dating back hundreds of years, it's therefore implicit that electronic file formats must survive that long. The only way to do so is to ensure that electronic file formats are *TRULY* open.

If you think about web browsers, for example, there are tests like ACID3 which do a pretty good job of assessing the ability to render to a known standard. The standard is open for all to see, and the results can be verified easily.

There is no good reason why the world's standard-setting bodies [i.e. those which ratified OOXML] cannot mandate that, as part of the approval process, any proposed standard has to be demonstrably interoperable before approval is granted, and/or that approval is not permanent and can be withdrawn if it is later shown that the standard as published actually has flaws.

UK citizens, as part of this dialogue with the government that exists to serve them, should require a transparent interoperability test. The test should require that documents be exchanged between any two proposed compliant/acceptable solutions, in a way that includes editing of the file by both parties, exchange of the file, and a test of the ultimate result. The test should include embedded objects, multimedia, multiple languages, embedded graphics, complex formatting, indices and tables of contents, page and section headings, etc, etc, etc.

There may be instances where one product or technology fails to read or process a file properly. At that point it is likely that a dispute will arise as to which product is unable to comply with the standard. For this reason, the test must also make it clear which part of the standard is being tested, so that, if necessary, a more forensic analysis of the resultant files can be performed, alongside the written specification of the standard.

This requirement should hopefully make it possible to identify, without ambiguity, if there are portions of a standard that are not written with sufficient clarity for multiple providers to implement it. For example, the issues raised about a standard which says, "Just implement this MS Office BLOB Format x123" will not be easily implemented by a competitor product and will fail the test. A check of the standard will reveal that it is the *standard* that is deficient, not the product.

part of my solution below (exim4) (1)

marienf (140573) | about 5 months ago | (#46310897)

deny demime = xlsx:docx:pptx
    log_message = Message contains OOXML Attachment.
    message = We Do Not Accept OOXML (docx,xlsx,pptx) Attachments See http://noooxml.wikidot.com/ [wikidot.com]

deny demime = dat
    log_message = Proprietary Attachment format
    message = Non-Standard Attachment Practice (winmail.dat). Please Fix Your Email System.

Umm Google does odf.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46331691)

And since its really is an open standard there's just no excuse not supporting it. But really when I send a document to someone, I don't want them to screw with it anyhow. So its pdf all the way, by definition its an image of a document. Different ball game.

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