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UK Cabinet Office Adopts ODF As Exclusive Standard For Sharable Documents

Soulskill posted about 2 months ago | from the won-the-battle,-working-on-the-war dept.

Software 164

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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Why ODF? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513129)

Why do we have to use something so complicated and unreadable without certain software? Something like markdown or even LaTeX if you have smart users would be better.

That way you don't ever really have to worry about a document becoming unreadable with software changes or corruption.

Re:Why ODF? (4, Insightful)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | about 2 months ago | (#47513143)

The vast majority of their users aren't especially smart when it comes to technology. They're essentially office workers - they don't give a stuff about the underlying format, they only care about being able to do their job.

Re:Why ODF? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513175)

The vast majority of their users aren't especially smart when it comes to technology. They're essentially office workers - they don't give a stuff about the underlying format, they only care about being able to do their job.

Not sure if you are saying that ODF is a good thing or a bad thing... I think the GP makes a great point. ODF as I understand it is an FOSS attempt to be like Microsoft Word, when as the GP suggests, we should transition to something human readable.

Re:Why ODF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513189)

And fortunately enough for Microsoft, Office supports ODF natively

Re:Why ODF? (3, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 months ago | (#47513201)

For certain limited definitions of "support".

Re:Why ODF? (-1, Troll)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 2 months ago | (#47513315)

At work I use the Closed Document Format, as in, I'm not going to open your doc because it is probably shit and I'm not gonna waste my time. DENIED!

Re:Why ODF? (3, Insightful)

Tough Love (215404) | about 2 months ago | (#47513545)

And for an even more limited definition of "natively".

Re:Why ODF? (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about 2 months ago | (#47513737)

The last time I tried it, Excel ruined ODS documents with any kind of complexity... like... formulas. Almost like it was on purpose.

Re:Why ODF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47514027)

Almost?

Re:Why ODF? (1)

philip.paradis (2580427) | about 2 months ago | (#47514063)

Whoosh.

Re:Why ODF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513209)

ODF was simply that, an open document format. MS tried to 'embrace extend extinguish' as they always do.

I don't know why you would want a human readable format for WYSIWYG editing. The librarian at your local library doesn't need to be hacking Latex or worse some kind of bloated XML format when they're just supposed to be writing a letter.

Re:Why ODF? (4, Informative)

Tough Love (215404) | about 2 months ago | (#47513561)

For what it's worth, ODF is XML, which nominally human readable. So is Microsoft's OOXML, a perversion that demonstrates clearly that "human readable" doesn't always mean what it says. The main difference between ODF and OOXML is that ODF actually is a credible attempt to be open and portable whereas OOXML is designed to achieve the opposite.

Re:Why ODF? (2)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about 2 months ago | (#47513765)

OOXML wasn't designed as an exchange format at all ; every indication is that it's just an XML serialization of the internal data structures of Office. (The "Strict" version that nothing can write was produced after removing some of the more egregious kludges that have accumulated over time in Office).

The only thing it was designed to achieve was to provide some reasonable doubt that it might be an "open format", at a time when open formats were starting to become all the rage.

Because it gave that reasonable doubt, people were able to shy away from the difficult problem of how to migrate to a different office suite. Because Office allegedly "supports" ODF, that reasonable doubt is sadly still there.

Re:Why ODF? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513829)

Because Office allegedly "supports" ODF, that reasonable doubt is sadly still there.

Not so much any more.

The real version of MS Office doesn't run on most of the computing platforms people want to use. Instead there's real competition, with dozens of variably capable Office tools available. On Android, you can get QuickOffice, Polaris Office, Kingsoft Office OfficeSuite and even the almost full version of Open Office. On iOS there's the Apple collection as well as Office HD and a some of the same Android apps. Even the web suites like Drive and Office Online work well enough.

Even better, when a genuinely open document format is available, automated document builders like Python's POD (http://appyframework.org/pod.html) will be able to merge machine data (like engine readouts, noise levels and thousands of other data sources) with human-readable charts and text to automatically generate presentation documents.

MS Office is an obsolete dinosaur already. Light it's pyre and send it on its way.

The efficiency improvements alone will make the investment in change worthwhile. Bring it on!

Re:Why ODF? (5, Informative)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about 2 months ago | (#47513801)

The main reason you might want a human readable format is for collaboration ;

So many of my customers have collaborative content editing requirements as follows

* All changes to be auditable
* Changes to be peer reviewed before going into the released content

Which basically screams out to be put in a version control system ; the problem is that merging sucks for binary blob formats.

You can close the gap either by creating better merge tools that understand your blobs, or moving the document structure to line-based text that merges well ; for a document of any complexity, you're going to need the improved merge tools, but line-based text makes sense for those who can read it without the GUI tools.

As programmers we fill the role of that improved merge tool for the content that we manage ; we forget that for most people, parsing and grokking even something as simple as nicely prettified HTML is akin to reading Sanskrit blindfolded from stone tablets wearing gloves.

I agree though, I want to move most of my technical authors to Markdown so that I can have an easy platform for converting their content to multiple formats for consumption.

Re:Why ODF? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513211)

Why ODF? Because its the best format. It was designed very carefully by a very large team of stakeholders (including engineers, lawyers, document companies, the Vatican Library, Medical professionals, architects, electrical engineers, etc). It was reviewed and revised by large groups to ensure it would fit their needs. Its unencumbered by patents. NONE of this happened with microsoft's OOXML (as it is, there is no software that can read that standard, including no software from microsoft). Microsoft cannot support their own standard. Oh, and ODF is human readable.

Re:Why ODF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513281)

Why ODF? Because its the best format

Disagree, at least from the points you make. The "best" format is the one that is the most useful to you, technical reasons be damned. If I use ODF but no-one else does because MS Office doesn't properly support it, I'm crippling my ability to share documents around purely for ideological reasons. I do know that Office 2013 properly supports ODF 1.2, the version used by current versions of LibreOffice so that's nice, but in general you will find it much easier in terms of compatibility if you're using MS Office documents, given the extremely large user-base.

Re:Why ODF? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513293)

purely for ideological reasons.

That's a great reason. People should get some principles.

Re:Why ODF? (0)

Lotana (842533) | about 2 months ago | (#47513679)

Principles are rarely helpful. Mostly it results in stubbornness to accept change.

Re:Why ODF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47514037)

Principles are rarely helpful.

Hey! You didn't declare you work for Microsoft!

Re:Why ODF? (3, Interesting)

hawkinspeter (831501) | about 2 months ago | (#47514217)

That doesn't make much sense as this particular change would be welcomed by people who think that principles are important. In fact, a lot of changes are brought about by people who stick to their principles (e.g. abolition of slavery).

Re:Why ODF? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513311)

MS office is dying. how many people still have a non infected windows platforn that wasn't sitting behind a firewall set to block everything external? microsoft had a huge American base. they have failed so badly they had to cut 18k jobs with minimum 6 months of not having access before they can be rehired. microsoft isn't the only game in town, and the iphone and android platforms showed that people were ready for new tech, just not from microsoft. because they knew microsoft was screwing them over.

Re:Why ODF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513347)

And what is the replacement? Microsoft has tripped over itself so many times in past few years (Vista and 8 are just 2 examples) that if something else was viable it should have been adopted to some significant degree but nothing has. Linux has been unbelievably easy to install and with decent hardware support for at least the last 10 years so thats no excuse.

Re:Why ODF? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513441)

Exactly. The Office file formats are still extremely ubiquitous in the business world, and if you use something like LibreOffice to modify them, the formatting of the documents is almost guaranteed to go crazy, without you possibly not even knowing it, and ultimately losing customers. I'm sorry, but it has just been incredibly practical decision to just install the fucking Microsoft Office. Of course this UK Cabinet's decision is another step towards open standards, so I guess that's good.

Re:Why ODF? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513655)

if you use something like LibreOffice to modify them, the formatting of the documents is almost guaranteed to go crazy, without you possibly not even knowing it, and ultimately losing customers.

That is why you don't save in closed formats. If you open it in LibreOffice you save it in a format that is properly documented.
My customers get a PDF. If they ask specifically for a proprietary format they get the proprietary format AND a PDF file. Not that I even use LibreOffice, I just have this feeling that Microsofts backwards compatibility is an ugly cludge that can break in corner cases between Office versions.
As long as the customer gets the PDF they can see what the document is supposed to look like.

Re:Why ODF? (2)

Kalium70 (3437049) | about 2 months ago | (#47513705)

Many people work in situations where they must exchange documents with other people (inside or outside the company). When a document looks vastly different in LibreOffice compared to MS Office, that is a problem. At a previous job, I had to use Word on Windows -- Word on Mac was not enough -- when dealing with files containing MathType equations.

Re:Why ODF? (5, Insightful)

Barsteward (969998) | about 2 months ago | (#47513721)

you get the same problem with people using different versions of Office, we've had countless problems with users who have the older versions of Word etc not being able to read the newer formats of DOCs, not only that but different versions of Word can format the same document differently

Re:Why ODF? (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about 2 months ago | (#47513807)

Yeah, this is because Office reuses so much of Windows, not just limited to basic API calls to get files and use control widgets and such, but rendering of fonts, etc.

LibreOffice has a much better chance of consistent document rendering on multiple platforms.

The Cabinet Office announcement does make a distinction between documents for collaboration and those for viewing ; PDF/A and HTML should at least have a reasonably consistent rendering (depending on how fancy you get with stylesheets in the case of HTML - IE, is of course, still a total arsebasket in terms of compatibility).

Re:Why ODF? (1)

boondaburrah (1748490) | about 2 months ago | (#47513361)

I've actually been using ODF exclusively at the office (which uses entirely msft software) for every file I work on and email out, and nobody's noticed or complained yet. The standard install here is MessOffice 2010. Rather than try and change anyone else, I just took a look a the man in the mirror. It's gone well.

Re:Why ODF? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513653)

I do the same, though mostly as a small business. Very occasionally I find someone for whom the document doesn't work right. In those cases I simply say something like "oh; it must be a bug in MS Office; you might try LibreOffice; its available for free from https://www.libreoffice.org/ [libreoffice.org] " everybody I have done this for has downloaded that and been happy.

Re:Why ODF? (4, Insightful)

moderators_are_w*nke (571920) | about 2 months ago | (#47513447)

Not really, if everyone used Word with ODF then everyone has the same level of compatibility. Or they can save some licensing cash and replace it Open/Libre Office.

Unless they're an Excel junkie the average civil servant probably won't even notice. And the UK government shouldn't be allowed to use Excel [accountingweb.co.uk]

Re: Why ODF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47514111)

I see nothing in that link that singles out Excel causing issues.

Re:Why ODF? (5, Informative)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about 2 months ago | (#47513487)

I use ODF but no-one else does because MS Office doesn't properly support it, I'm crippling my ability to share documents around purely for ideological reasons.

Microsoft OSs are down to 14% market share.

It simply makes no sense to continue using their outdated lockin-inspired formats. The world needs to transition to document editing formats that're portable across whatever computing devices users want to buy.

ODF was designed by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) consortium to be that set of formats in 2005, and was only derailed by an intense and deeply corrupt effort by Microsoft. It's incredibly sad that we've had to wait for almost a decade for governments to finally start the transition.

Re:Why ODF? (2)

jareth-0205 (525594) | about 2 months ago | (#47513977)

Why ODF? Because its the best format

Disagree, at least from the points you make. The "best" format is the one that is the most useful to you, technical reasons be damned. If I use ODF but no-one else does because MS Office doesn't properly support it, I'm crippling my ability to share documents around purely for ideological reasons.

Well since the entire cabinet is now using it, they all use it, so it will be appropriate for sharing.

Re:Why ODF? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513433)

You're clearly misinformed. ODF was the first document format ever to become an industry standard (ISO/IEC 26300 [iso.org] ).

Microsoft then suddenly decided it also wanted to be kind of open and standardized and drafted ISO/IEC 29500 [iso.org]

There have been lots of discussions about ISO/IEC 29500 also on slashdot, because of the lack of necessity of another ISO document standard and how MS got it approved, the lack of a reference implementation (Office 2007 wasn't OOXML compliant), the reference to software patents within the standard and the way ISO 29500 got approved.

The way MS acted when getting OOXML ISO approved is just one of the reasons why I always have "Fat Tony's" voice in my head when reading their public statements.

So in a nutshell, OOXML was MS way to be a little like FOSS.

Re:Why ODF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513489)

ODF is a file format, not an application like MS word. ODF is used by many office applications.

Re:Why ODF? (1)

John.Banister (1291556) | about 2 months ago | (#47513511)

What does "human readable" mean for you? I know that if I stare at a flash drive, I can't read the files. I know if I click on the (GUI representation of the) file to open it, some software program has to load in order for me to read the file. If the software loads quickly, why should I care whether it's a terminal program, a notepad, or Writer?

Re:Why ODF? (2)

Tough Love (215404) | about 2 months ago | (#47513569)

What does "human readable" mean for you?

This is normally understood to mean lines of printable characters.

Re:Why ODF? (1)

John.Banister (1291556) | about 2 months ago | (#47513599)

So, 128 character ascii?

Re:Why ODF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513699)

Isn't printable on all platforms. Not everyone uses ASCII.

Re:Why ODF? (1)

philip.paradis (2580427) | about 2 months ago | (#47514101)

Quoting http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A... [wikipedia.org]

ASCII was incorporated into the Unicode character set as the first 128 symbols, so the 7-bit ASCII characters have the same numeric codes in both sets. This allows UTF-8 to be backward compatible with 7-bit ASCII, as a UTF-8 file containing only ASCII characters is identical to an ASCII file containing the same sequence of characters. Even more importantly, forward compatibility is ensured as software that recognizes only 7-bit ASCII characters as special and does not alter bytes with the highest bit set (as is often done to support 8-bit ASCII extensions such as ISO-8859-1) will preserve UTF-8 data unchanged.

Please describe all the platforms you presently use which do not support ASCII, and please provide statistics on the market presence for such platforms.

Re:Why ODF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47514267)

Please describe all the platforms you presently use which do not support ASCII, and please provide statistics on the market presence for such platforms.

Official documents need to be a bit more permanent than what is presently used. Look at what charsets were used 30 years ago. Do you have any tools that can open and read PETSCII?
Given that UTF-8 is a quite ugly patch to get access to needed characters it is not unreasonable to assume that future platforms might want to move away from that. You can't assume that ASCII will be more readable than any other binary format.
"Human readable" formats doesn't really exist without proper documentation on the format. The only reason people even think of it as human readable is because with current platforms the tools for displaying them are really simple. You still need the tools.

Re:Why ODF? (1)

DrXym (126579) | about 2 months ago | (#47514049)

ODT contains printable characters. Unzip an .odt file - all the content is XML. Of course there may also be pictures and diagrams in there too but that's why its a zip file in the first place. But perhaps you mean human only characters. Well throw the content through pandoc or any other converter.

Re:Why ODF? (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 2 months ago | (#47513661)

If the software loads quickly, why should I care whether it's a terminal program, a notepad, or Writer?

If loading quickly is important, than Open/LibreOffice Writer doesnt fit the bill. Even on a very fast SSD that thing takes several seconds to load. My guess is Microsoft Word plays on the same bloated field.

Re:Why ODF? (2)

GNious (953874) | about 2 months ago | (#47513709)

Just tested...
* OpenOffice loads in 4 seconds
* 2nd load, 3 seconds (After closing the app)
* 3rd time opening it (without closing the app completely), 1 second

Am thinking if part of it is preloaded at boot-time, it would load a lot quicker; I'm told that this happens on Windows with MS Office for the same reason, which could explain why the work-laptop I was using earlier would load MS Office fairly quickly, yet take half a minute to boot :)

(from memory, opening MS Office 2008 on OSX took several seconds too; don't have it installed currently)

Re:Why ODF? (1)

John.Banister (1291556) | about 2 months ago | (#47513751)

I'm probably too old for your definition of quickly. I find that taking a flash drive out of my pocket and plugging it into a USB port takes several seconds. I also find that bringing up a file browser and locating the file I want to look at takes several seconds. If the amount of time it takes to show me the file contents is on par with the amount of time I take from when I decide I want to see a particular file until the time I actually click on its icon, I'm sufficiently happy with that.

Re:Why ODF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47514347)

Translation: Highly inefficient people don't mind more inefficiency.

Re:Why ODF? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 months ago | (#47513745)

Future-proofing. It means that if the digital archaeologists of the year 3000 dig up the old british archives from underneath the remains of old London, they have a decent chance of figuring out how to read it. ODF uses a zip container, but within that the actual text is in a format that can be figured our from scratch even if the spec is lost.

Re:Why ODF? (1)

John.Banister (1291556) | about 2 months ago | (#47513803)

but within that the actual text is in a format that can be figured our from scratch even if the spec is lost.

So I'm guessing that if I compose my document using 128 character ascii, then the entire unzipped ODF file would be my document + XML, all using 128 character ascii - whereas if I compose my document using a different Unicode font (for example, if I want it to display Korean characters), then the unzipped ODF file would consist of my document in Unicode + XML in 128 character ascii. Does that sound correct to you?

Re:Why ODF? (1)

amorsen (7485) | about 2 months ago | (#47513865)

ASCII is a subset of UTF-8-encoded Unicode. If you do not use anything beyond ASCII in your document, the unzipped file will only contain ASCII. If you put Korean characters into your document (and you do not have to change font to do so, if you are using a decent font), the unzipped file will contain non-ASCII characters. In both cases, the file will be a valid UTF-8-encoded Unicode XML document.

Re:Why ODF? (1)

John.Banister (1291556) | about 2 months ago | (#47513889)

So, when someone says "human readable," I should correctly understand that "a valid UTF-8-encoded Unicode XML document" is something that fits that description. Yes?

Re:Why ODF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47514377)

That's the intention. XML in UTF-8 leaves a lot of room for being practically impossible to read for a human, but ODF XML really does look readable to me. Well, as long as I'm using something that renders the unicode characters correctly.

Re:Why ODF? (1)

DrXym (126579) | about 2 months ago | (#47514125)

Saying a file contains Korean is a meaningless statement say unless the doc unambiguously tells you the encoding. Otherwise you're just guessing. If the XML file says it is encoded as US-ASCII but contains shift bits or extended chars then your XML parser would be fully within its rights to throw your non-compliant file out on its ass. If you're lucky it would allow the chars through but it would still be up to your app to heuristically figure out what they meant. So no you can't just shove some Korean in there without dropping a clue of some kind (which isn't the font either).

That is of course why software tends to use Unicode is used these days. A file can unambiguously include the chars it uses and the codepages they come from. How they are stored is where an encoding comes in. UTF-8 tends to be a popular encoding of Unicode because legacy tools tend to cope with it better and the files can be a bit smaller than UTF-16 depending on the contents (amount of markup vs text).

Re:Why ODF? (1)

amorsen (7485) | about 2 months ago | (#47514199)

We are talking about ODF here. The encoding will be UTF-8.

Re:Why ODF? (4, Insightful)

Tough Love (215404) | about 2 months ago | (#47513537)

The vast majority of their users aren't especially smart when it comes to technology. They're essentially office workers - they don't give a stuff about the underlying format, they only care about being able to do their job.

So true. And therefore we should be thankful that some knowledgeable people who do care about such important matters are willing to step forward to do the right thing.

So that's why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513687)

So that's why Microsoft is laying off 18000 people!

Re:Why ODF? (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 months ago | (#47513173)

We're talking about a Government.

I'm pretty sure a government would have the resources to develop a renderer for an open document format, whether that be ODF, HTML or PDF/A.

The specifications for those are all freely available and ISO standards.

Re:Why ODF? (4, Insightful)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about 2 months ago | (#47513401)

I'm pretty sure a government would have the resources to develop a renderer for an open document format,

Or they could just link to the web page: http://webodf.org/ [webodf.org]

Re:Why ODF? (1)

Sad Loser (625938) | about 2 months ago | (#47513805)

you need someone like Francis Maude who is a politician who just wants to get things done and doesn't want the limelight.

while the coalition government has been treading water for the last 4 years he has been getting on, quietly dismantling the vast organisational structures that had built up over the previous 10 years.

On the face of it a small triumph, but it will pull the rug from under a company that has gone from being an innovator to using its market position to stifle innovation and protect its cash cow

There are some very smart people in the Cabinet Office digital strategy group and this is good work that is clearly in the UK's interests.
I am sure that Tesla would be pleased to have Francis Maude review the automotive dealerships

Re:Why ODF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513193)

In what way is OOXML and DOC/XLS (the "de-facto" standards) not "complicated and unreadable without certain software" ? In fact isn't that exactly what the problem is in the first place?

Your basic "user" only needs to open acrobat to "view government documents" under this plan. The ODF requirement is for people "editing government documents" which is hardly an onerous requirement when you consider existing documents require licensed software from a monopoly software vendor to edit.

Re:Why ODF? (1)

boondaburrah (1748490) | about 2 months ago | (#47513233)

I thought the whole point of ODF is that it was readable without certain software. All you need is to unzip it and you can look at the underlying XML files, which is a hell of a alot better than doc was, and the XML in ODF is more readable/user modifiable than OOXML (in my opinion (I've opened it and modified it myself on a few occasions)).

At least how I heard it, back when Massachusetts was going to use it that was a big part of the reason (documents still readable even if the software is long gone).

Re:Why ODF? (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about 2 months ago | (#47513839)

More like ODF is readable without having to buy software. Software that will read ODF is available for free - and without installation either, since you can upload files to a web renderer now.

The theory being that requiring people to purchase software from a particular vendor disenfranchises those that cannot afford it and those that choose not to do business with that vendor.

Re:Why ODF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513333)

Why do we have to use something so complicated and unreadable without certain software? Something like markdown or even LaTeX if you have smart users would be better.

That way you don't ever really have to worry about a document becoming unreadable with software changes or corruption.

Actually if the software and format changes any tags in the LaTeX document will become unreadable. If you can't parse them correctly you are in the same situation you are in with a binary format.
That is why they require the document format to be ISO certified. The format can't be bound to a software version, there has to be a standards document to follow if you have to implement a new document reader from scratch.
That is also one of the reasons why other programming languages can't really compete with C and C++. A proper standardization document is hard to beat when you want a functionality that is well defined and not unintentionally undefined. (Heck, it even explicitly states when something is truly undefined or when it is implementation specific.)

Compliance With Standards (1)

Kalium70 (3437049) | about 2 months ago | (#47513729)

Yes, we need a C++ ISO standard to make sure that all the compilers comply with C++11. Oh wait, Microsoft still can't figure out how to support C++11 fully. The MSDN blog cites "resource constraints" as the problem. How that fits in with laying off 18,000 employees, I'm not sure.

Re:Compliance With Standards (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47514203)

The constrained resource is "desire"

Re:Why ODF? (1)

DrXym (126579) | about 2 months ago | (#47514019)

Why do we have to use something so complicated and unreadable without certain software? Something like markdown or even LaTeX if you have smart users would be better.

A bit condescending there. "Smart users" might prefer their time to be spent more productively with a WYSIWYG word processor than learning some stupid markup language just because the file format is potentially a bit simpler.

Besides, I'm sure someone could produce an ODT to Markdown / Latex tool if they wished. Both sides are fairly well documented and open standards after all.

Sharable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513155)

Clearly they're not using the spell checker.

Re:Sharable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513247)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shar

When is the US going to get on board? (5, Insightful)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about 2 months ago | (#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.

If the UK was 3rd world, this is grounds for coup (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513471)

The amount of money lost to MS on this is grounds for overthrow of the UK government. The USA has done it for less money to 3rd world nations in the past. The UK is likely to back down from this due to pressure... with wikileaks and snowden they have a rare opportunity to pull this off due to the political climate. I'm still skeptical and frankly surprised this government would do such a thing-- the Minister should be resigning this week! How can the PM be so ignorant on this situation? Can he really mean to create jobs and make a dent in their disastrous trade deficit?

Re:When is the US going to get on board? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513481)

The government is supposed to serve society? It's funny, but reality looks like it's the other way around.

Re:When is the US going to get on board? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513571)

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

Re:When is the US going to get on board? (2)

Lotana (842533) | about 2 months ago | (#47513647)

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? You will waste their time as well trying to read it. Worse, you are creating barriers to the communication.

Now you may have a point about information loss: Proprietary formats go obsolete and the old documents may be un-openable. However, I will argue that if you are ready to pay, there will always be someone that will take the job to reverse-engineer any format and write a converter to a more modern version.

Re:When is the US going to get on board? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#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.

MS Office will still reign supreme (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513225)

Office 2013 has support for ODF version 1.2 I believe, which makes it work on par with LibreOffice's support for ODF without it complaining like Office 2010 does with ODF documents (Office 2010 only supports 1.0).

In other words, the UK Cabinet will be able to justify sticking with Microsoft Office for the discernible future and has no real motivation to move to LibreOffice. After all it's not as if all those existing .doc and .xls files will stop having a need to be read now does it? I say this in case some people jump to conclusions and believe it's now an opening for LibreOffice to replace MS Office wholesale in the Cabinet.

Heck, I just loaded up LibreOffice 4.3.0 RC3 today to see how its compatibility with MS Office is these days. It did well for some documents, but fucked up a publisher doc that my wife created because LibreOffice doesn't properly support WordArt. Again another edge case that means LibreOffice (and Linux) will never succeed.

Re:MS Office will still reign supreme (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513421)

Fuckwit.

Re:MS Office will still reign supreme (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about 2 months ago | (#47513903)

He is a fuckwit that raises the point ; what if this is just a dastardly plan to get public orgs to pay for an upgrade to Office 2013? It could be regarded as the low-risk option - and lower versions do not support ODF 1.2.

"very extensive public input" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513257)

> very extensive public input

> over 500 comments

LOLWUT

Re:"very extensive public input" (1)

Chatterton (228704) | about 2 months ago | (#47513727)

When the european commission does a public consultation, it get aound 300 comments (even when the policy could have worldwide implications). Most of them are from companies trying to keep some kinf of status quo, then from NGO saying it doesn't do enough and very few people answer under their own name (eg: DG CLIMA consultations [europa.eu] . In this case, 500 comments is a very good return rate...

Where is Apple? (5, Interesting)

ScooterComputer (10306) | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:Where is Apple? (2)

Tough Love (215404) | about 2 months ago | (#47513577)

It's not too late for Apple to see the light and switch iWork to ODF. Except that Tim Cook is kind of dim witted.

Re: Where is Apple? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513933)

While all that is true, Pages is much better for layout than MS word or LibreOffice's Word processor. Sometimes people like good tools

Re: Where is Apple? (3, Funny)

gmhowell (26755) | about 2 months ago | (#47514161)

While all that is true, Pages is much better for layout than MS word or LibreOffice's Word processor. Sometimes people like good tools

Looking for tools? Slashdot is the right place.

Why so late (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#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.

About time something is happening (5, Interesting)

Thraxy (1782662) | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:About time something is happening (1)

kitty80 (962804) | about 2 months ago | (#47513681)

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 interviews!

Re:About time something is happening (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47514329)

Are you sure you want to work there, if they can't even accept PDFs?

Re:About time something is happening (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513847)

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.

Re:About time something is happening (2)

jaseuk (217780) | about 2 months ago | (#47514029)

What do you mean?

Word =

File -> Save & Send -> Send as PDF

It couldn't be much easier.

Jason

About time something is happening (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513883)

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.

Re:About time something is happening (2)

rastos1 (601318) | about 2 months ago | (#47514095)

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.

Is Word ODF real ODF? (1)

pr100 (653298) | about 2 months ago | (#47513597)

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.

Re:Is Word ODF real ODF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47513943)

Just checked - Microsoft Office 2013 may handle "strict" OOXML and ODF 1.1 - but it's a one way transfer because 2007/2010 don't then read the versions 2013 puts out

Libreoffice FTW, then :).

Re:Is Word ODF real ODF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47514135)

Office 2007 as of SP2 can read strict OOXML files and read/write ODF 1.1. Office 2010 could read both at time of release.

Re:Is Word ODF real ODF? (1)

pr100 (653298) | about 2 months ago | (#47514353)

I suppose that doesn't quite answer the question of whether any of those pieces of software actually produce documents that comply with the standard, which is what the actual requirement is.

But in any case the practical difficulty will be that people will say they have complied with the requirement by saving as ODF from Word, whether or not that actually enables interoperability with non-Word software.

Extensive public input? (1)

WinstonWolfIT (1550079) | about 2 months ago | (#47513863)

"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.

This a wheeze to get Office 2013/ 365 cheaper (2)

Tomsk70 (984457) | about 2 months ago | (#47514035)

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, it's MS or bust. The conversion issue won't go away, and local Councils *certainly* don't have the money to implement this sort of thing (it took Munich ten years, and supposedly didn't cost much. Have you ever heard of a council project that took that long but didn't cost anything? Me neither). Then there's third-party apps - again, most of these aren't going to export in the format needed.

TL, DR: Councils don't have the money, the Government doesn't really have the money, and the benefits don't amount to much outside of getting a warm cosy feeling because you're using an open format, meaning questions will then be asked as to why this was given priority/ money when the rest of the world is still using the app/ format you've abandoned.

Souce; I've worked UK government IT for twenty years.

Re:This a wheeze to get Office 2013/ 365 cheaper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47514289)

I guess that's why an increasing number of PCs across British universities, provided by the universities, are now using W7 and Ubuntu (rather than W7 only)...

Re:This a wheeze to get Office 2013/ 365 cheaper (3, Insightful)

hawkinspeter (831501) | about 2 months ago | (#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.
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