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Belgium Chooses OpenDocument

timothy posted more than 7 years ago | from the land-of-the-free-format dept.

77

Freggy writes "The Belgian government decided today that all public services should use open standard file formats for the exchange of office documents ( press release in Dutch, French). The reason is that they don't want to force people to have to buy a proprietary program to be able to read official documents. All federal public services should be able to read ODF files by September 2007. If no problems arise after a study, the use of the file format will be obligatory from September 2008."

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77 comments

Since the article is in French (2, Funny)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 7 years ago | (#15591424)

bon métier belgium

automatic web translator (1)

alexandreracine (859693) | more than 7 years ago | (#15591966)

I bet you used some automatic web translator since you actually wrote "Good trade belgium" or "Good profession belgium" The correct way would be : "Bon travail Belgique"

Re:automatic web translator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15595357)

In this particular case, you would also need the article: "Bon travail, la Belgique".
Nonetheless, nice try, and compliment deserved.

Re:Since the article is in French (1)

avdp (22065) | more than 7 years ago | (#15592221)

Babelfish is not your friend... "work" can have several translations, and you (it) picked the wrong one :)

Re:Since the article is in French (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15592267)

it's still pretty funny though then :-P

Re:Since the article is in French (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15605715)

Or how the most important part of Belgium would say it: "Goed gedaan, België".

Can't Help It... (3, Funny)

soloport (312487) | more than 7 years ago | (#15591431)

Hope they don't waffle on this like MA (USA)

Dah dumph!

ROFLMAO!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15591473)

Belgium?! wtf? It's spelt Belljum and now these speltards are using OpenOfiice?! Go figyour! ROFLMAO!!

Re:Can't Help It... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15591522)

That is good news. At least for belgian people.

So bad there are not so many.

agree (4, Interesting)

joe 155 (937621) | more than 7 years ago | (#15591441)

I agree completely, no one should be barred from having access to their governments documents because they can't afford some software... although I wonder what closed standard they were using that couldn't be opened by free aplications. ".doc" opens fine in Oo, .pdf's open fine in Xpdf... Still, it is a good move from the side of being able to access the data in years to come (and it's good for open source as a whole)

Re:agree (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15591604)

http://partners.adobe.com/public/developer/pdf/ind ex_reference.html [adobe.com]

Please repeat:

PDF is not a closed format.
PDF is not a closed format.
PDF is not a closed format.
PDF is not a closed format.
PDF is not a closed format.
PDF is not a closed format.

Re:agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15591866)

Adobe recently stopped Microsoft [slashdot.org] from including a "save as pdf" feature in MS Word. This wouldn't be able to happen with an open format.

Re:agree (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#15595135)

My understanding is that Adobe's complaint was based in antitrust law, not with the format being proprietary.

Netscape complained about Microsoft's integrated browser. That doesn't mean HTML is proprietary.

Re:agree (3, Informative)

javilon (99157) | more than 7 years ago | (#15591640)

I guess they want to solve the problem where microsoft changes its format overnight and everybodys application stops reading the documents created with the new version until they either pay for a new version of office, or wait until openoffice catches up.

Re:agree (1)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 7 years ago | (#15591908)

.doc doesn't always open fine in Open Office. Too often the formating is all messed up, and sometimes it's completely illegible. Also, if you have an old computer you may be limited to Abiword or something else that isn't a resource hog like OO, and Abi's support for .doc sucks. The reason Xpdf (and Evince, ect) work so well with PDFs is because Adobe opened the specs for their format. Microsoft hasn't and never will with .doc, so any other word processor trying to use it will never fully work like it would with a native format.

Re:agree (3, Informative)

Matt Perry (793115) | more than 7 years ago | (#15592471)

".doc" opens fine in Oo
At the moment it does, and only because of extensive effort to reverse engineer the format. What if the format changes in a future version? If governments use some newer version of Office to create a document, and OpenOffice can't open that then should citizens just wait for OpenOffice to reverse engineer the new format? How long could that take?

Deja view, all over again (2, Interesting)

leonbrooks (8043) | more than 7 years ago | (#15598737)

We/You have several hysterical^Whistorical examples of MS-Office components being changed to do exactly that.

When you realise that Bill appears to do everything either for more money or more control, this stops being surprising. This observation also makes the future plain: MS-Office document formats will almost certainly be broken several more times during the suite's death^Wlife-span, whereas more suites (possibly including MSO) will come to do OpenDocument I/O as well.

Belgium has (once more) planned to avoid the social tragedies which regularly afflict so many other Euro countries. Sometimes they miss the mark, but they're always a very educational country to pay attention to.

Re:agree (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#15592888)

although I wonder what closed standard they were using that couldn't be opened by free aplications. ".doc" opens fine in Oo, .pdf's open fine in Xpdf...

...and .xls files (including ones with VB Script) open fine in OO.o Calc, and .ppt files open fine in OO.o's presentation app (or whatever it's called), and...

...oh wait.

Re:agree (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15593307)

As Microsoft has historically offered freely downloadable 'Reader' programs for its various Office file formats, the argument for open standards needs to be much more than 'you can read it without paying for software'.

Re:agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15595250)

I'm living and working in Slovak republic. Two years ago the government introduced new e-forms for registering a company in the Commercial Register. However, the format they use is .doc, heavily using pull-down menus, fields and formatting only known to M$ Office. Our company is using Ooo2.0 and I couldn't edit that form with an acceptable outcome. That means I need the MS Word to work with the government-issued form (unless I print it and fill out manually, which would make the whole e-thing totally nonsense). The sad thing is Microsoft is the proud sponsor of most front and backoffice apps Slovakian Department of Justice is using. Coincidence?

Re:agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15596746)

I think the main reason behind this move is internal normalization. What is the standard format of a departemental document and how is it archived. If one department is sticking to office 95, all the other departments should comply to avoid any incompatibilities in information transfer.

Re:agree (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 7 years ago | (#15605046)

no one should be barred from having access to their governments documents because they can't afford some software

I agree, but likewise no-one should be barred because they can't afford a computer.

Re:agree (1)

joe 155 (937621) | more than 7 years ago | (#15608127)

true, but there are always public librarys that people can use, as well as that people can still get hard coppies

That's just super (said with gay inflection) (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15591445)

Seriously, who cares about Belgium. I was there once and I didn't meet a single Belganeseman who didn't wish they lived in Denmark.

"Ah, Denmark", they'd sigh, "Thats where the Belsh were meant to live."

It was kind of weird.

go without saying (5, Insightful)

jandar (304267) | more than 7 years ago | (#15591459)

"The reason is that they don't want to force people to have to buy a proprietary program to be able to read official documents"

Incedible this isn't self-evident for any government.

Re:go without saying (4, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#15591871)

Well it's self-evident to most governments that aren't receiving a substantial amount of tax revenue from a particular company marketing the software, or where the individuals in that government haven't been given large campaign contributions by said company.

It's sort of a litmus test, in fact. It's like sending out a survey ("Question: Do you think that forcing all of your citizens to send between $80-300 USD each to Redmond, Washington, USA is a good idea?") but without having to do all the paperwork. You just watch the results roll in.

Re:go without saying (1)

trewornan (608722) | more than 7 years ago | (#15594200)

receiving a substantial amount of tax revenue

I assure you tax revenue has nothing to do with it - brown envelopes stuffed with cash, "campaign donations", month long "fact finding trips" to tropical islands, etc - that's what motivates governments.

Re:go without saying (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#15595140)

It's like sending out a survey ("Question: Do you think that forcing all of your citizens to send between $80-300 USD each to Redmond, Washington, USA is a good idea?") but without having to do all the paperwork.

What format would this survey be distributed in?

Re:go without saying (1)

mkw87 (860289) | more than 7 years ago | (#15595981)

Text format of course! Its all slashdot needs, I don't see why anyone needs something fancier!


I can do all I need in text, just look, a bunny


        (\ /)
      (O.o)
      (> --)

tax or no tax (1)

SgtChaireBourne (457691) | more than 7 years ago | (#15595752)

Well it's self-evident to most governments that aren't receiving a substantial amount of tax revenue from a particular company marketing the software ...
Well, that would be most of them seeing as MS basically pays no tax [theregister.co.uk] . Even so, that company must be running on fumes by now since even MSFT shares [yahoo.com] have been tanking in stages and its stock used to provide more income that its cash cow Windows.

Bad Reason Then (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15591485)

The reason is that they don't want to force people to have to buy a proprietary program to be able to read official documents.

Huh? There are free downloadable viewers for Microsoft Office documents as well as pdf files. You don't have to force anybody to buy anything when they are already free.

More FUD from the OSS crowd once again. Its not just the big bad evil corps that seem to be engaging in it.

Re:Bad Reason Then (2, Informative)

PunkOfLinux (870955) | more than 7 years ago | (#15591507)

Just so you realize, those viewers ONLY run in windows.

Re:Bad Reason Then (0, Troll)

Shut the fuck up! (572058) | more than 7 years ago | (#15591668)

What the fuck are you talking about? You are a fucking moron. Have you ever used linux? Obviously not. PunkOfLinux indeed. You are like a prison bitch, you are not gay but you take it up the ass anyway. Except in your case you don't use linux but you blow it out your ass like you do. I think your mommy is calling. Something about your cookies and milk being ready.

Re:Bad Reason Then (1)

trewornan (608722) | more than 7 years ago | (#15594240)

In fact even Antiword [demon.nl] can't read *all" word documents - and that's about as comprehensive as you can get. Having said that, in practice I've never come across a .doc that OO couldn't open myself (even if the formatting can be a bit off sometimes).

MODERATION ABUSE!!! NOT A TROLL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15591563)

The parent comment is a factual statement rebutting a point in the summary of the story. Why it is modded -1 Troll is peculiar. Perhaps some zealous moderator doesn't like an inconvenient truth that gets in the way of their worldview.

Instead of abusing your mod points, how about responding with a real comment.

Re:MODERATION ABUSE!!! NOT A TROLL (1, Offtopic)

Mini-Geek (915324) | more than 7 years ago | (#15591671)

The parent comment is a factual statement rebutting a point in the summary of the story. Why it is modded -1 Troll is peculiar. Perhaps some zealous moderator doesn't like an inconvenient truth that gets in the way of their worldview.
Something he said doesn't have to be false for him to be a troll. It is not the fact that he presented the facts that made him a troll, it is how he presented the facts that made him a troll.

Re:MODERATION ABUSE!!! NOT A TROLL (2, Insightful)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 7 years ago | (#15591924)

The parent comment is a factual statement rebutting a point in the summary of the story. Why it is modded -1 Troll is peculiar.

Probably because it blatantly ignores common knowledge, and at the same time speaks in a derogatory manner. I think the moderator is probably correct that it is willfully ignoring in the hopes of trolling, rather than actually being poorly informed and mistaken.

The MS free readers are Windows only. They are also illegal under antitrust law and the subject of current litigation. If the post was no modded down half the space in this article would have been wasted as hundreds of people needlessly pointed this out.

Re:MODERATION ABUSE!!! NOT A TROLL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15593086)

"The parent comment is a factual statement"

No, it isn't. It's a parttaking assertion.

"rebutting a point in the summary of the story"

Rebutt, my ass.

"Why it is modded -1 Troll is peculiar"

It is peculiar just to you.

"Perhaps some zealous moderator doesn't like an inconvenient truth that gets in the way of their worldview."

Perhaps a troll it trying to metatroll by focusing on the (proper) moderation.

"Instead of abusing your mod points, how about responding with a real comment."

Surely you tried to build an interrogation. Anyway, here comes you required answer:

1/ Microsoft's free viewers are only functional on... Microsoft Operative Systems. No free doc viewer for Linux, FreeBSD, BeOS, HP-Ux, NetBSD, Amiga... on SPARC, MIPS, Motorola... not even the chance to produce one if I happen to have the time, the motivation and the expertise to do so.
2/ Since they are *MICROSOFT*'s free viewers, it is Microsoft, not the Belgium government the one in total control to decide how, when and why the viewer is free and/or functional, for which Office versions and on which platforms.

You already knew all this, of course, since you were just trolling over troll, but some things must to be said, even if it's for deaf ears.

whoohoo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15591518)

...and in other news, The UAE chooses Toro as it's official brand of snow-blower.

Re:whoohoo (1)

Mini-Geek (915324) | more than 7 years ago | (#15591781)

...and in other news, The UAE chooses Toro as it's official brand of snow-blower.
Well, if this was SnowBlowerDot and not Slashdot, that probably would be on the front page right now...

Nice... not like here in MA (3, Interesting)

ThinkingInBinary (899485) | more than 7 years ago | (#15591534)

This is really great to see progress on the open format front, even if it isn't in the US. The Massachusetts thing is such a farce... first they say they'll do it, then vendors make them question it, then who knows... I saw an article [boston.com] in the Boston Globe about Microsoft donating $30M "worth" of "advanced software-writing and Web-building technology" software to Massachusetts public high schools and colleges. While it's nice to get free stuff, we can easily see that Microsoft is doing that to keep schools from adopting open solutions. Why try GNU/Linux + the GNU dev tools for development, or Nvu for web site creation, when Microsoft gave us Visual Studio and (gulp) Frontpage for free? It's a good argument, too! I don't know who can do it, but someone needs to sit down and realize that accepting $30M of donated software is really allowing M$ to bypass a real evaluation of the best software for the school's needs, and gaining them favor in future business dealings. If the whole school has Visual Studio for free, of course they'll buy upgrades, especially if M$ throws in another discount! And for M$,it's just pure cash.

Re:Nice... not like here in MA (1)

Sweetshark (696449) | more than 7 years ago | (#15592044)

How about the EFF(USA) donating 50 Mio. USD in OSS to MA - calculated based on Microsofts packet prizes for equivalent software. Ideally they should donate the Software on a physical medium (aka CDs) - the production cost of 1USD per CD cost could probably easily collected via PayPal donations. The CD could be some http://theopencd.org/ [theopencd.org] for clients and a server software CD with Apache/PHP/MySQL and PostgreSQL, Python, Zope and for example some good webapps like eGroupware etc.

This is very important (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15591837)

Belgium is still the core of the EU: it's one of the three founding members and informally the capital state of EU, with Brussels as the administrative nerve center of the EU.

Belgium has a prioneering role in lots of initiatives, it's possible that other EU countries will take opening up their documents more seriously.

Hooray for Belgium!

Re:This is very important (1)

Baki (72515) | more than 7 years ago | (#15592430)

There were 9 founding members. I can't remember many initiatives from belgium actually. However I do hope that this sets a precedent for other EU states.

Re:This is very important (1)

Rytis (907427) | more than 7 years ago | (#15592528)

There were neither three, nor nine. There were six countries who founded the EU: Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Luxembourg, Italy and Germany.

Though three might be also true, but only to some extent if you think that the founding of Benelux should be considered as the start of the future EU.

Re:This is very important (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15593134)

"Though three might be also true"

Benelux (Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg)
France
German
Italy

Yes, just three.

Re:This is very important (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15596384)

One might say there's only two:

BLUE (Belgium-Luxemburg Economic Union - we had one currency for 60 years!) predates Benelux and was (and is!) comprised of Belgium and Luxemburg.
Then those 2 founded Benelux with Netherlands.

Do not be mistaking: Belgium has always been the country that went first. Hell, we have ratified the constitution, and our former prime minister JL Dehaene was vice-president of the committee (would have been president, had not the French wanted that position).

Re:This is very important (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15595351)

However I do hope that this sets a precedent for other EU states.

The UK gov't has a (paper?) policy of using open standards for its IT systems called 'eGif', however they include MS .doc .

this is stupid (1, Interesting)

stubear (130454) | more than 7 years ago | (#15591938)

Why is the government sending out documents which can be easily edited? Word and its ilk (word processing documents) are the absolute worst file types to distribute things like this in. PDF and Microsoft's new XPS are perfect for this sort of thing and it's what they were designed for. Not only would PDF be great for reading, you can extend its functionality with forms. Governments could do away with paper forms cutting down on processing time and errors.

Re:this is stupid (1)

jimcooncat (605197) | more than 7 years ago | (#15592424)

Why do you say PDF's aren't easily editable? Oh, you're using the free Adobe Reader. If you look around, there are other cheap or free software that can import or mark up PDF's. Just because it's not easy for you, doesn't mean someone else can't do it easily. It's easy when you know how!

Digital Signature (1)

sd.fhasldff (833645) | more than 7 years ago | (#15593206)

Unless a document is digitally signed, ANY format (proprietary or open) is editable.

Like the GP, I would much prefer documents that weren't meant to be edited to be distributed in PDF format*. Although they certainly can be edited, PDF's aren't generally meant to be edited and the format reflects this - and it is actually these "reflections" that make PDF preferable, not the issue of editability (if that's even a word) itself. Examples includes not reflowing pages and the availability of a light-weight reader on every platform I can think of (although PalmOS support is rather poor).

Not reflowing content is a biggie. Image forms done in Word (oh, wait, you don't have to imagine - in many places, it's the norm!). Printing on non-standard page size (A4 vs Letter, for example) completely breaks most of these forms. Scaling is a huge hassle.

*I'd gladly support an open format, but I'm unaware of any that has even a reasonable market penetration and has as much cross-platform support as PDF.

Re:Digital Signature (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#15595149)

Unless a document is digitally signed, ANY format (proprietary or open) is editable.

If you want to be pedantic, those formats are editable too. Perhaps the signature probably won't validate (unless you don't mind waiting a little while), though.

that is a poor reason... (1)

fractalrock (662410) | more than 7 years ago | (#15592088)

If not wanting to force people to pay to be able to view documents is their reason for switching to open formats, then they are missing the point.
Besides, Word Viewer [microsoft.com] is, and always has been, free.
The point should be that the *format* is non-proprietary, not the program.
My two cents, anyway.

Re:that is a poor reason... (2, Insightful)

c_fel (927677) | more than 7 years ago | (#15592208)

Yes but does it run on linux ?

Re:that is a poor reason... (1)

tddoog (900095) | more than 7 years ago | (#15592264)

From the website:

With Word Viewer 2003, you can view, print, and copy document contents to another program. However, you cannot edit an open document, save a document, or create a new document. This download is a replacement for Word 97 Viewer and all previous Word Viewer versions.

No Linux/Mac support and limited functionality. But you are right. The point is that the format should not be proprietary.

Free? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#15592423)

Word Viewer is, and always has been, free.

If it's free, where's the source code? Or even the binary for FreeBSD?

Re:Free? (0, Offtopic)

fractalrock (662410) | more than 7 years ago | (#15592501)

Oh, for crying out loud. If I give you a free hotdog at my shop do I need to give you the ingredient list and recipe too?

Re:Free? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#15593154)

No, I was pointing out that gratis != libre, and that the software is tied to a paid Microsoft product (the Windows operating system).

Re:Free? (1)

Trogre (513942) | more than 7 years ago | (#15593265)

No.

Hot dogs, like a lot of proprietary software, are something you probably don't want to know what's inside.

get a dictionary, already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15593256)

Why is it that you FSF trolls always confuse free and Free?

Neither Free nor free (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#15594094)

If I use Linux or FreeBSD, then the Word viewer isn't even gratis. I would have to buy a copy of Microsoft Windows.

Re:that is a poor reason... (2, Insightful)

gutnor (872759) | more than 7 years ago | (#15595692)

"Besides, Word Viewer is, and always has been, free. "

It is not once you factor Windows price.

Re:that is a poor reason... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15596654)

I tried, but the viewer does not work on my older Windows system. I will try with my Mac later on.

Rough translation (3, Informative)

riflemann (190895) | more than 7 years ago | (#15592610)


Use of open standards for office document exchange.

The ministerial department has decided upon the open standard format to be used for the exchange of office documents.

Minister Vanvelthoven: 'The format of office documents such as text documents and spreadsheets is currently based primarily on popular office suites such as Microsoft Office and Corel Wordperfect Office. Documents produced by these products can usually only be read by those products. When you need to exchange documents with someone else, you're also forcing them to use the same software that the document was made with.'

To reduce the dependencies on these proprietary formats, we need to make use of open standard formats. XML is a standard for the exchange of information between diverse computer systems; an XML based document is thus guaranteed to have long term accessibility to the information within.
The OpenDocument Format (ODF) is an XML based document format that is approved by the ISO (International Standards Organisation). Hence we propose to to settle on the use of ODF as the standard format for the exchange of office documents such as from word processors, spreadsheets, presentations, as soon as it's approved by the ISO.

All federal government departments must be able to read ODF documents by September 2007. This doesn't exclude the use of other formats. The responsibility of guaranteeing readability is up to the relevent departments.

Depending on the result of a [federal ICT dept] managed impact analysis, from September 2008 the official format for the exchange of office documents will be ODF.

How does this make it easier for users? (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | more than 7 years ago | (#15595660)

Last time I tried, I couldn't open my odt file in MS word. I had to save it as a .doc file and you can imagine what that done to the formatting.

Admittedly, this is solely Microsofts fault. But I can imagine alot of people having the same problem.

Part of the Belgian Interoperability Framework (1)

John Seifarth (30034) | more than 7 years ago | (#15601229)

At the bottom of the press release is a link http://www.belgif.be/ [belgif.be] to a Wiki (available in English, French, and Dutch) discussing something called the "Belgian Interoperability Framework".

To quote from the site:

Like many other countries, Belgium has decided to have its own interoperability framework. It is a result of the collaboration between several belgian institutionnal levels and is compatible with the European Interoperability Framework (EIF). Defining interoperability means to define how technical systems, people and organisations work together.

Looks like there's a concerted, high-level effort to solve interoperability issues.

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