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Norway Moves Towards Mandatory Use of ODF and PDF

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the good-ideas-also-mandatory-soon dept.

Software 202

Andy Updegrove writes "Norway has become the latest European country to move closer to mandatory government use of ODF (and PDF). According to a press release provided in translation to me by an authoritative source, Norway now joins Belgium, Finland, and France (among other nations) in moving towards a final decision to require such use. The Norwegian recommendation was revealed by Minister of Renewal Heidi Grande Roys, on behalf of the Cabinet-appointed Norwegian Standards Council. If adopted, it would require all government agencies and services to use these two formats, and would permit other formats (such as OOXML) to be used only in a redundant capacity.Reflecting a pragmatic approach to the continuing consideration of OOXML by ISO/IEC JTC 1, the recommendation calls for Norway to 'promote the convergence of the ODF and OOXML, in order to avoid having two standards covering the same usage.' According to the press release, the recommendation will be the subject of open hearings, with opinions to be rendered to the Cabinet before August 20 this summer.The Cabinet would then make its own (and in this case binding) recommendation to the Norwegian government."

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FPC (-1, Troll)

node159 (636992) | more than 7 years ago | (#19116501)

First Post Club

When will the US join? (4, Insightful)

lixee (863589) | more than 7 years ago | (#19116573)

This is excellent news. I'm expecting the US to be one of the last to adopt it because of the influence MS has on politics. Any thoughts?

Re:When will the US join? (2, Informative)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#19116673)

I don't know if they will be last, but I can say that this can only be good news. Open standards for documents. The mere fact that MS is fighting this with a 'standard' of their own should be indication enough to anyone that MS means to keep them locked into MS products.

Sure, they (MS) think the MS OpenXML thingy is better, that's their job to think that way. The simple truth is that an open standard would comoditize MS products.

I'm going to bet that the Internet community in general will simple work its way around to ODF without MS and MS formats will slowly die off. Enough people and governments are asking for it, it will eventually happen. Many businesses really don't care as long as all their users can use the new and the old documents without training.

Re:When will the US join? (2, Insightful)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#19116873)

The mere fact that MS is fighting this with a 'standard' of their own should be indication enough to anyone that MS means to keep them locked into MS products.
Well, duh. That's what you do when you make your money from software licenses. The only thing that "obligates" them to make emigration possible is their status as a convicted monopoly.

If Flash hadn't come along, and Sun had locked down Java (and made a deal with the top two or three OS vendors to distribute their product), people would be saying the same thing about Sun.

Re:When will the US join? (2, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 7 years ago | (#19118811)

Sure, they (MS) think the MS OpenXML thingy is better, that's their job to think that way. The simple truth is that an open standard would comoditize MS products.

Not necessarily-- well, maybe I don't know quite what you mean by "commoditize". But really, insofar as Microsoft is competing fairly in the Office-suite market, what file formats people use should be relatively unimportant. The only additional cost to them is to include read/write support for ODF into their applications, which I'm guessing would be a pretty minimal cost. Beyond that, there's no good reason why Microsoft should care if my documents are stored in PDF, DOC, DOCX, ODF, HTML, or anything else. So long as they're trying to sell MS Office on the merits of the programs themselves, Microsoft's concern shouldn't be for what file format users choose, but whether MS Office is the best editor for those file formats. They should be eager to support ODF even better than OOo.

However, they aren't doing that, which demonstrates something about the culture at Microsoft. They don't want open competition (no surprise here). They don't want to be in a position where they have to make the best software, but instead are more concerned with maintaining vendor lock-in.

Re:When will the US join? (5, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117977)

The US is the last to adopt any kind of standard. They still haven't even picked up on the metric system yet. How do you expect then to standardize of document formats?

Re:When will the US join? (0)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 7 years ago | (#19118295)

They still haven't even picked up on the metric system yet.

You can have my yardstick when you pry it from my cold, dead hands! :p

Actually, let's be totally fair here. Yes, having everyone in the world use the same measurement system would make a lot of things easier. Having everyone in the world speak the same language would make things even easier -- indeed the benefits of a common language are far greater than the benefits of a common measuring system.

So, we'll make a bi-lateral treaty -- we'll accept the metric system as our official measuring standard as soon as France accepts English as its official language.

Until then, we'll just have to get by translating text and measurements between languages/systems. Thankfully, the US is being more reasonable than France in this regard -- it's a lot easier to translate units of measurement than languages.

Re:When will the US join? (5, Insightful)

Matt Perry (793115) | more than 7 years ago | (#19119123)

Actually, let's be totally fair here. Yes, having everyone in the world use the same measurement system would make a lot of things easier.
Yes, let's do be fair. Every country in the world except for Burma, the US, and Liberia [cia.gov] currently use the metric system as their primary method of measurement.

Having everyone in the world speak the same language would make things even easier -- indeed the benefits of a common language are far greater than the benefits of a common measuring system.
Especially if 94 percent of the world already spoke the same language it would make sense for the other 6 percent to learn it too. 6% being the 350 million people in USA, Burma, and Liberia.

Re:When will the US join? (1)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | more than 7 years ago | (#19118431)

I expect they'll do it by 2454432 JDN [wikipedia.org]

I hate PDF (3, Informative)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 7 years ago | (#19116609)

First, let me say that I like the concept of a single file format that can be read by any computer and displays in a consistent manner. From that aspect, I applaud PDF.

However, the current implementation requires that I have a bloated reader that typically includes Additional Crap (tm) in the installation which installs by default (if even given the option). The reader insists in "improving performance" by running a program in my system tray for which I must remove the configuration myself (no option).

This is also the same reason that I hate Quick Time, so it isn't limited to a single file type.

Layne

KPDF? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19116701)

Err, ..., kpdf?

Re:I hate PDF (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19116723)

I agree. Fortunately since it's a published standard, there are other PDF readers other than the one from the vendor you describe...

Re:I hate PDF (1)

john83 (923470) | more than 7 years ago | (#19116735)

First, let me say that I like the concept of a single file format that can be read by any computer and displays in a consistent manner. From that aspect, I applaud PDF.
I agree wholeheartedly.

However, the current implementation requires that I have a bloated reader that typically includes Additional Crap (tm) in the installation which installs by default (if even given the option). The reader insists in "improving performance" by running a program in my system tray for which I must remove the configuration myself (no option).
I return my nerd badge unconditionally. How do I do this?

This is also the same reason that I hate Quick Time, so it isn't limited to a single file type.
Everyone hates Quick Time.

Re:I hate PDF (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19117261)

Remove the acrotray entry from all the registry {HKLM,HKCU}\...\Run keys [microsoft.com] that list it

Or did you mean "how do I return my nerd badge?"? /grin

Re:I hate PDF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19116737)

How about trying kpdf?

Re:I hate PDF (5, Informative)

Englabenny (625607) | more than 7 years ago | (#19116785)

There is no such requirement. Many operating systems (Ubuntu, OS X, and probably everyone except .. ) bundle other lighter and nicer PDF viewers because they are nicer to the users.

Is it a question of time before a lightweight, free software pdf reader captures the windows userbase as well?

Re:I hate PDF (3, Informative)

SCHecklerX (229973) | more than 7 years ago | (#19118097)

Is it a question of time before a lightweight, free software pdf reader captures the windows userbase as well?

foxit reader [foxitsoftware.com]

Re:I hate PDF (5, Informative)

tajmorton (806296) | more than 7 years ago | (#19116807)

However, the current implementation requires that I have a bloated reader that typically includes Additional Crap (tm) in the installation which installs by default (if even given the option).

Try another PDF viewer. KPDF and XPDF are both great for Linux/X users. For a barebones Windows viewer, try SumatraPDF [kowalczyk.info] .

If you're stuck with Adobe Acrobat for some reason, then you might try these instructions [petefreitag.com] to make Acrobat run a lot faster.

Just thoughts...

What about Okular? (4, Informative)

orzetto (545509) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117075)

I like KPDF as well and that's my default viewer, but look at what is coming: Okular [kde.org] promises to be, if not an Acroread killer, at least a very serious contender. Note that this is KDE4 stuff (ergo Qt4, ergo it may easily be on Windows machines by year's end!).

Re:What about Okular? (1)

Coryoth (254751) | more than 7 years ago | (#19119275)

I see it has annotations -- that's definitely a plus. Evince was in theory going to get annotations from the Summer of Code, but we'll have to see if that eventuates. PDF annotations are one of those horribly underused things because so few tools actually decently support them (Preview on MacOS X does, but I can't think of any other simple readily available readers that do).

Re:I hate PDF (1)

Thaelon (250687) | more than 7 years ago | (#19118085)

Another alternative is Foxit Reader [foxitsoftware.com]

As always, not affiliated, just like it.

Re:I hate PDF (2, Informative)

Constantine XVI (880691) | more than 7 years ago | (#19116821)

err, Foxit Reader (win), KPDF (kde), Evince (GNOME), whatever OSX's built-in reader is, XPDF?
I don't remember the last time I used Acrobat

Re:I hate PDF (5, Informative)

Oswald (235719) | more than 7 years ago | (#19116881)

It's amazing how slowly word is getting around, but you do not have to put up with Adobe's bullshit. This company [foxitsoftware.com] makes a no-cost reader that absolutely blows Acrobat Reader away. It's lightweight, fast, stable and when you close the window, the process actually stops instead of just sitting in the background, screwing up your system.

Re:I hate PDF (1)

l0b0 (803611) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117511)

Wish I had mod points - Been using Foxit Reader for a couple years now, and it beats Adobe Reader hands down. Only free as in beer, tho.

Re:I hate PDF (1)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117055)

However, the current implementation requires that I have a bloated reader that typically includes Additional Crap (tm) in the installation which installs by default (if even given the option). The reader insists in "improving performance" by running a program in my system tray for which I must remove the configuration myself (no option).

There are a number of methods for streamlining Adobe's reader. Eg. Adobe Reader SpeedUp [tnk-bootblock.co.uk] . But give Adobe credit where it's due, they opened the PDF format long ago, so there are several alternative PFD readers (and writers) available if you don't like Adobe's, and this can only increase if it becomes more widely used. It's basically wired into OSX already.

Re:I hate PDF (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117285)

Actually, I found that there are several readers, particularly Foxit in windows, and KPDF in most other operating systems, which handle PDFs quickly and efficiently.

That being said, even sticking to just adobe's reader/generator, and printers, I have found PDFs to print differently on multiple printers, and while usually reproduced fairly accurately, it's rarely a 100% thing.

A good PDF viewer I recently found (2, Informative)

malsdavis (542216) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117491)

Sumatra PDF is a good lightweight (under 1mb) freeware PDF viewer for Windows.

It opens PDF files extremely quickly (usually in less than a second on my rather average computer, compared to an average of almost 10 secs with Adobe Reader) and doesn't try to takeover you computer and run your life etc. I've also yet to find a PDF which doesn't display correctly with it.

Website: http://blog.kowalczyk.info/software/sumatrapdf/ [kowalczyk.info]

Re:A good PDF viewer I recently found (1)

malsdavis (542216) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117547)

Oh yeah, forgot the most important part: Unlike almost all other Windows PDF viewers It's open source.

Re:I hate PDF (-1, Troll)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117689)

System Tray, wtf is that ?

try a proper Operating System, not some bloated corpse.

Re:I hate PDF (2, Informative)

egamma (572162) | more than 7 years ago | (#19118325)

"System Tray" is the end of the toolbar in Windows opposite the Start button, and typically contains the clock and various running programs. Your "bloated Operating system", unless you are running a text-only OS, has an area of the screen that contains something similar--system clock at least.

You shouldn't criticize something just because you don't know what it is. Simply admit your ignorance, and we'll be happy to enlighten you.

Re:I hate PDF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19119281)

It's actually called the "notification area", while you're banging on about ignorance.

PDF, which version. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19118007)

Mandatory use of PDF as in "PDF 1.4" or mandatory use of PDF as in "click 'Download Acrobat Update' to view this document".

Because Adobe is ab-using the mainstreamness of Acrobat to move far ahead of the competition. I mean, PDF is supposed to be a portable document format that can be rendered in a variety of output devices, like printers etc. So WTF do hyperlinks have to do in there?

Probably PDF 1.7 will require the Apollo runtime or something.

Re:I hate PDF (1)

SCHecklerX (229973) | more than 7 years ago | (#19118053)

However, the current implementation requires that I have a bloated reader that typically includes Additional Crap (tm) in the installation which installs by default (if even given the option). The reader insists in "improving performance" by running a program in my system tray for which I must remove the configuration myself (no option).


Huh?

Even if you are using Adobe's reader, you can easily kill all of the plugins. Then there are alternatives, like foxit reader on windows (love this one on my USB drive, and it's what I use on any windoze box I have to use), or you can use xpdf on *nix.

Re:I hate PDF (3, Informative)

julesh (229690) | more than 7 years ago | (#19118089)

I'm still using acrobat 5. It opens in less than half a second, uses only 12 megabytes of disk space, doesn't have a notification area icon, and just seems to me to work better than more recent versions. I've yet to find a PDF file I wanted to read that doesn't work (although it has now reached the point that almost all pop up a message saying they might not work properly, yet they always do).

Or, as other posters suggest, use an entirely different program.

Re:I hate PDF (1)

porkThreeWays (895269) | more than 7 years ago | (#19118341)

Let me be the first to call bullshit. Adobe reader sucks, but old versions still run fine on XP, and Foxit reader reads pdf's super fast and is lightweight http://www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf/rd_intro.php [foxitsoftware.com]

Besides that, I can think of at least 3 open source pdf readers off the top of my head. Same thing with quicktime. There are a lot of other players that can play quicktime files. A standard isn't an implementation, and when multiple good implementations exist, you can't put down the standard because one of them suck.

Re:I hate PDF (1)

switch007 (1095791) | more than 7 years ago | (#19118391)

Foxit Reader for Windows. Not bloated at all :)

Re:I hate PDF (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#19119273)

Preview works fine in OS X without downloading anything made by Adobe. Heck... I can make PDFs with OS X without even installing anything Adobe.

That is insane. (1, Informative)

McDutchie (151611) | more than 7 years ago | (#19116625)

Government should not be in the business of making specific technical decisions that are inevitably subject to obsolescence. They should mandate general principles. Mandating the use of open, patent-free formats = good. Mandating the use of an open but specific format (not to mention a contrived mess such as ODF) = bad.

Re:That is insane. (4, Insightful)

niiler (716140) | more than 7 years ago | (#19116759)

I agree that patent-free formats is good. However, one must specify something or run the risk of having numerous open formats chosen by anyone who might have a say. While this may be good for "freedom", it is not so good when you actually have to get something done. As ODF is now an ISO/IEC 26300:2006 standard it seems to meet the requirements better than most options.

Will it become obsolete? Surely. But it will have better staying power than just about anything else I've seen to this date.

Re:That is insane. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19117665)

"But it will have better staying power than just about anything else I've seen to this date."

Unlike that .doc file format which has been around and still works in all versions of Word and in all competing word processors for almost 20 years. Can you manipulate v1 Open Office file formats in 95% of the word processing market?

People like you just make me laugh. The honest people who admit this is really about promoting FOSS through legislation I applaud. If you won't admit it, then so be it. If you can't internalize it and at least accept it then you are a moron.

Re:That is insane. (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117907)

I'm not sure file formats necessarily become "obsolete". I would guess that ODF will be updated and refined, perhaps in a similar way to HTML. Is HTML 3 obsolete? You can still use it, and everyone will be able to read it, so I'm just not sure "obsolete" is the right word. However things turn out, there's no reason why ODF shouldn't remain readable and useful.

To me, "obsolete" means more than just that it's fallen out of mainstream usage. If I call something "obsolete", I usually mean that it actually cannot be used in practical situations anymore because its technology is too old to be used with modern methods. Therefore, open formats should never become obsolete unless computing changes so drastically that those file formats are unusable. Closed formats, on the other hand, can become obsolete when there aren't usable readers/writers anymore.

Think railway guages (3, Informative)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 7 years ago | (#19116887)

Exactly the same argument could have been made for railway guages, and yes, here in the UK we curse the decision to use 4'8.5" (I think, I'm sure someone will correct me) instead of Brunell's 6' but at least rolling stock can run on most tracks in the country.

Re:That is insane. (1)

grencez (1101653) | more than 7 years ago | (#19116953)

They're only making decisions about the format used within government exchanges to make communication easier.

Re:That is insane. (1)

blowdart (31458) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117229)

Well look at the recommendation; "promote the convergence of the ODF and OOXML, in order to avoid having two standards covering the same usage", yet they mandate two different file formats (and PDF does cover the same area mostly, except it's write once and never edit again without having to pay Adobe through the nose). Incredibly confused and stupid decision.

Re:That is insane. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19118855)

and PDF does cover the same area mostly
Um, no. PDF satisfies a totally different set of requirements.

Not really (1)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117393)

The government, like any large organization, has a good reason to standardize on two things:

1) The format(s) used for exchanging documents between various government department, and
2) The format(s) used for exchanging documents with external users.

The first reason is important for the smooth function of the government (or for any other large, multi-branch organization), and the second reason makes it much simpler for citizens and other entities, so they won't have to have a zillion different pieces of software for communicating with the government.

You can argue that it could leave it up to the individual department what formats to use internally, but for practical reasons the internal and external formats will tend to be the same.

Re:That is insane. (1)

SigveK (545403) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117449)

While they are mandating the use of an open, but specific format, the specified formats are not required to be used to the exclusion of any other format

FTFA:
"The information can be published in other formats in addition, as long as they are also published in one of the mandatory formats."

The original press release can be found at the Norwegian Government's website [regjeringen.no] (Norwegian). Following the translated text above, it goes on to say "...one of the mandatory formats, e.g. MicroSoft's DOC format, provided the document is also available as ODF or PDF"

Re:That is insane. (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117723)

First, governments have always been in the position of regulating standards in business in various ways-- fair business practices, weights and measures, etc.

Second, this is the government setting a policy for how the government will keep documentation. Certainly, the government must run their own IT-- or don't you agree?

Re:That is insane. (1)

aztektum (170569) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117787)

Even the blurb states it's only for government agencies. They aren't forcing it on Norwegian businesses. It's no different than some company saying "For internal communication, we only use Word, Outlook, Excel." Except in this case, the people don't need to spend a few hundred bucks to read government files that should be publicly available in the first place.

Re:That is insane. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19118009)

I agree. Look at this stupid thing in Ohio's Revised Code: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/gp1.44 [ohio.gov]

I hate it when the government goes wading around in telling people what to think.

What do you expect? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19116679)

They're socialists.

Seems obvious (5, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#19116687)

If adopted, it would require all government agencies and services to use these two formats, and would permit other formats (such as OOXML) to be used only in a redundant capacity.Reflecting a pragmatic approach to the continuing consideration of OOXML by ISO/IEC JTC 1, the recommendation calls for Norway to 'promote the convergence of the ODF and OOXML, in order to avoid having two standards covering the same usage.'

The results of this investigation seem obvious to me. They'll find that there are no significant features of the OOXML format that aren't already replicated by ODF. They will also find that OOXML is needlessly complicated by support for odd bugs and backward compatibility issues with previous Microsoft Office releases. Finally, they will find that a dozen or so major software providers are actively supporting ODF while only Microsoft is actively promoting OOXML.

After the report is released, Microsoft money will step in and suppress it. The guys who wrote the report will be fired, and a new report will be written recommending OOXML as an "industry standard" with "longstanding vendor support". ODF supporters will be recast as small companies that could go belly up at any time. The whole standardization effort will collapse in the backlash, and nothing will get done.

On the bright side, they're keeping up the good fight. Without this pressure, nothing will ever change.

And during the next elections... (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117097)

The opposition parties will release evidence that an outside company BOUGHT those politicians and that their decision was made purely because of Microsoft's money.

They'll then run on a platform of hiring their programmers to work on their software for their country.

Eventually, Open Standards will win. If for no other reason than it is CHEAPER in the long run and the money goes back into their economy instead of to Redmond, WA, USA.

Re:And during the next elections... (2, Interesting)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117719)

Yeah... You have no idea how envious Norwegians get of people who make more than themselves, especially if it is not deserved. Not long ago there was a huge uproar over one of the politicians getting a personal trainer covered by her party. And socialism here isn't a fringe group, they pretty much _are_ the government. It's only the shade that differs.

Also note that we have a history of implementing pretty radical IT related legislature, like the data protection laws [jus.uio.no] which puts great restrictions on what companies can keep of (especially unrelated) information, privacy, requirements on how studies are performed, notification when data is accessed, etc.

Re:And during the next elections... (1)

Dionysus (12737) | more than 7 years ago | (#19118467)

Yeah... You have no idea how envious Norwegians get of people who make more than themselves, especially if it is not deserved.

Eh, they would be envious even if it was deserved. Law of Jante [bearcy.com] , anyone?

Re:And during the next elections... (1)

quacking duck (607555) | more than 7 years ago | (#19118003)

The opposition parties will release evidence that an outside company BOUGHT those politicians and that their decision was made purely because of Microsoft's money.


Fat chance. Microsoft learned from the mistakes of their US antitrust trial.

They'll try and buy ALL the major political parties at the same time, not just the ones currently in power.

Re:Seems obvious (2, Insightful)

hyfe (641811) | more than 7 years ago | (#19118019)

After the report is released, Microsoft money will step in and suppress it. The guys who wrote the report will be fired, and a new report will be written recommending OOXML as an "industry standard" with "longstanding vendor support".
That's called corruption. You know, it doesn't have to be built into the system. Although It obviously can be, as the US is bloody rich.
.

Either way, I'm kinda curious how the money gets to be part of this. The elected represantatives are, well, elected, and obviously aren't allowed to take bribes. If any party accepted money with strings attached they would pretty much instantly lose their integrety and a large part of their voter-base. It really is amazing how much harder it to screw you over when there's alternatives.

Re:Seems obvious (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#19118181)

That's called corruption.

That it is. And it amazes me how Microsoft gets away with it time and time again. All I can say is that they're masters of reasonable doubt. They really do threaten, cajole, and otherwise pressure others without making it seem like they're doing it, or at least seem like they're doing it illegally. (e.g. If you try and switch to free software, Microsoft will need to invoke the audit clause of the EULA to ensure that you're not using it as a cover for software piracy.)

I will say this: The Microsoft empire is crumbling, albeit ever-so slowly. Even if an attempt to be Microsoft-free doesn't succeed, it chips that much more out of Microsoft's armor. Eventually, damaging wounds will begin to appear. Microsoft won't disappear, but they may find themselves relegated to the semi-relevance of another three-letter computer giant.

Re:Seems obvious (1)

starfishsystems (834319) | more than 7 years ago | (#19118455)

Believe it or not, it turns out that not all governments are as corrupt as the United States federal administration. Some are more corrupt, some are less corrupt, and what principles of government in particular are up for sale depends on the government.

Even within the USA it's not all uniform among the states, take Massachusetts for example.

So, while it's fine to be cynical in a particular instance, it's not possible to extend your reasoning more generally from that position. In other words, there's hope. There really is.

Redundant copies? (3, Insightful)

HostAdmin (1073042) | more than 7 years ago | (#19116699)

> Other formats may be used however, as long as documents with the same content are available at the same time in ODF or PDF.

I suppose this is to limit opposition from MS and crew, but it's a bad idea. How's going to audit every document to be sure they're in sync?

Make a choice and stick with it.

Re:Redundant copies? (4, Insightful)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117051)

Simple, only the ODF document can be authoritative. Any derivative document can not be considered authoritative by default as it is not the Gov't spec'd format.
-nB

And how long will they be maintained? (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117187)

So when the Open Standard copy becomes authoritative, how long do you believe someone will spend the time and effort keeping those "redundant copies" in sync?

Not very long. This is the old "path of least resistance". And it works.

Re:Redundant copies? (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117147)

Think of PDFs as the final "compiled" product of ODFs. If you want to distribute the document in a non-editable, non-variable, and printable format that's accessible by all, PDFs are it. ODFs are more of the "source code" document used to produce the final PDF product. Thus the concerns about synchronization are handled by the method of pipelining the documents. All edits are made to the ODFs internally, then published to web under the PDF format.

Hmm. (1)

u-bend (1095729) | more than 7 years ago | (#19116713)

I read stuff like this and it makes me wonder if this isn't going a little too far. No wait, don't mod me a troll. I love OSS. I use it all the time. But, being required to use it if you're a govt. employee? Weird. I'm no friend of closed formats, and I recognize MS is really bad for innovation, and has a really damaging business practice, but I think that this type of forced adoption is strange too. It can be likened (a bit) to countrywide smoking bans. In a country like Ireland, where they have socialized medicine, and the citizens and government are literally paying for lung cancer treatment, I guess I can see banning smoking in all pubs. Here though? There's nothing I hate more than having a good meal ruined by someone's smoke, but I'm big enough a boy to either deal with it, or choose to give my money to a restaurant that doesn't permit smoking--in any case, I don't think it's right for the city/state governments to tell restaurant and bar owners that they can't allow smoking. Anyway, it seems (slightly) like that with ODF forced adoption.

Re:Hmm. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19116915)

> I don't think it's right for the city/state governments to tell restaurant and bar owners that they can't allow smoking

But it's all right for the restaurant and bar owners to make their employees breathe that smoke eight hours a day in order to make a living? There is no choice for these folks. It may be secondhand smoke, but it's enough exposure that it may as well be chain-smoking. Just because it's recreational doesn't make it a right when it impinges directly on others.

And BTW, we do all pay for the treatment eventually.

Re:Hmm. (1)

u-bend (1095729) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117009)

Oh, I don't know. You're right and you're wrong I guess. On the one hand, they could choose to go work somewhere else. If they want to stay in the food service industry, choose a restaurant without smoking. On the other, those restaurants may be few and far between. But I think they're getting more popular. I guess it's one thing I'd like consumers to decide. Helps keep up the fragile illusion of freedom of choice :)

Re:Hmm. (1)

Constantine XVI (880691) | more than 7 years ago | (#19116921)

ODF is more of a language than a program. It's like saying you need to speak Klingon (or other lang.) if you want to do business with me. There's nothing stopping you from learning Klingon, or speaking English as well, but you must know Klingon.
If Microsoft wants Office to be used in Norway, all they have to do is implement ODF (which is a open standard)

Re:Hmm. (2, Insightful)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 7 years ago | (#19116967)

But, being required to use it if you're a govt. employee? Weird.

Not really. It's simply policy. Governments have hundreds of policies that need to be followed, this is just another one. The reason it gets coverage is of what it means. It wouldn't do to have individual departments, or worse, individual people, decide what file format to use.

It's like a business. A business will dictate the use of one format in order to streamline operations; it wouldn't make sense to have one branch use Word while another used WordPerfect and so on.

Forced adoption is simply just keeping consistancy.

Re:Hmm. (1)

u-bend (1095729) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117105)

I guess that makes sense. No difference than requiring a certain web browser or something. In that case, better for it to be an open format than a closed one....

Re:Hmm. (1)

jaavaaguru (261551) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117563)

I'd say it's more like requiring websites to be available in HTML and CSS rather than some proprietary format.

ODF is an open standard, as is HTML. You can read about how to parse/interpret it on the Internet, and anyone with the time and know-how can write a program that reads/writes it.

Hopefully more office applications will start supporting ODF, just as all web browsers support HTML.

Re:Hmm. (1)

wizkid (13692) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117121)


Another reason governments are doing this is because they have historical requirements to be able to retrieve the documents for a long period of time. Try calling up a word document from the early 80's. It probably won't come up, unless you build an old computer with a old os and and old old version of word.

Re:Hmm. (1)

thehunger (549253) | more than 7 years ago | (#19118061)

You need to RTFA. There is no mandate to use open source software, only that government-produced documents are stored in an open format, ODF. There is nothing that prevents you from using commercial software here.

Re:Hmm. (1)

Haeleth (414428) | more than 7 years ago | (#19119059)

I love OSS. I use it all the time.
What does OSS have to do with anything? We're talking about open formats, not open source software. You can produce an ODF file in Microsoft Word if you have the right plugin.

But, being required to use it if you're a govt. employee? Weird.
No weirder than the previous situation, to whit, being required to use Microsoft Office formats if you're a govt. employee.

In fact, neither situation is inherently weird. There is nothing weird about a large organisation, be it government or industry, standardising on a single document format. They all do it. They all HAVE to do it, because failing to standardise means wasting vast sums of money on needless interoperability problems, and they are accountable to shareholders/taxpayers who will hardly be pleased to know that money is being wasted. The only weird thing is when they standardise on a format that is controlled by a single company on the other side of the world.

in any case, I don't think it's right for the city/state governments to tell restaurant and bar owners that they can't allow smoking.
This isn't the city/state governments telling restaurant and bar owners that they can't allow smoking - this is the city/state governments announcing that city/state government employees will no longer be allowed to walk out of their offices and blow smoke into the face of passing citizens. Sorry, I just don't see any problem with that.

First Linus, then Pirate Bay and now this? (4, Funny)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 7 years ago | (#19116855)

Sounds like the Scandinavian countries are too out-of-line. I'm surprised that Microsoft hasn't petitioned the U.S. government to nuke them or at least go on a bombing campaign against these shameless eco(nomy)-terrorists.

Finland ain't Scandinavia (1)

orzetto (545509) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117337)

Scandinavia [wikipedia.org] = Denmark+Sweden+Norway. Scandinavia+Iceland+Finland = Nordic countries.

That's because all Scandinavian languages are mutually intelligible, and even though Icelandic is strictly speaking Scandinavian it is also very different from the other four (yes, four: Norwegian comes in two flavours, Norwegian and New-Norwegian. Norwegians, you can start flaming now.). Finnish is a completely unrelated language altogether.

(However, Linus is a Swedish-speaking Finn. Not sure whether that counts for Terra Scania.

Except when it is (1)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117739)

Scandinavia is often used as a synonym for the Nordic countries [wikipedia.org] in an English language context.

Yes nuke us now! (2, Funny)

anss123 (985305) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117345)

We Norwegians love to get attention, and we welcome any nukes with open arms. That won't only put us in the news, but also put us in the history books! Go for it! Our current plan of becoming the best nation to live in isn't working, apparently historians doesn't care about statistical jiggery :>(

Re:First Linus, then Pirate Bay and now this? (1)

hyfe (641811) | more than 7 years ago | (#19118319)

Sounds like the Scandinavian countries are too out-of-line.
Well, as a Norwegian, I can honestly say that this is scaring the shit out-of-me. The US has a long history of getting "back" at countries by confusing different issues. Between us recognizing the rightfully elected Palestine government, our lack of enthusiasm for invading Iraq and this, we're fast getting on the shit-list.
.

Now, we have an on-going border dispute with Russia over the Barentsea and Svalbard, and without US support we're pretty much screwed.

Microsoft will have no problem supporting ODF (0)

iamacat (583406) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117103)

But small companies and open source groups will have trouble implementing such a complex standard in full. While this is an excellent move for ordinary citizens who can use OpenOffice to communicate with government, I wonder why government documents need such a complex standard? On the server side, the data will be anyway stored in a relational database. So what is wrong with plain HTML on client side (and some trivial spreadsheet format when needed)? It's not like government forms are a beauty of design art?

So OOXML is right out, then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19117485)

because it is an even WORSE standard attempt.

But one of the arguments MS has against ODF is that it doesn't do enough stuff to cover the uses it will be put to. So the standard is necessarily complex. Either that or it is incomplete.

With HTML, you cannot place things on a page. You cannot auto-generate contents and apocyrpha. HTML doesn't store mathematical equations (so storing spreadsheets is not possible). HTML doesn't version. HTML doesn't have tags for author, review history, errata and addendum, chnge tracking or signing. When you then decide on what tags you need to use to cover these things, you end up with something not incomparable to ODF.

Not much of a change there, really...

Re:Microsoft will have no problem supporting ODF (1)

KokorHekkus (986906) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117601)

...I wonder why government documents need such a complex standard? On the server side, the data will be anyway stored in a relational database. So what is wrong with plain HTML on client side (and some trivial spreadsheet format when needed)? It's not like government forms are a beauty of design art?
Because government forms are just a small subset of government documents. Think of all documents going between, out from and into government agencies. Every system they buy will demand that the documentation be delivered in ODF, all reports commissioned by or issued by the government will be ODF etc.

Plain html just isn't good enough for real documents with typsetting-like information - just see how different browsers renders the same page.

Re:Microsoft will have no problem supporting ODF (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 7 years ago | (#19118241)

Because

a) Governments were created in 80s, when computer word processors became available
b) Governments today produce fundamentally different documents than 100 years ago

or

c) Quality of documentation shipped with products keeps increasing and really need such a complex format to express
?

Just because someone wants to play with a complex layout doesn't mean they need it to do their job. For private sector, sure let the market decide. But for a government I want all the e-paperwork to be expressed in a simplest possible format that everyone can write tools for to process and analyze.

Re:Microsoft will have no problem supporting ODF (1)

KokorHekkus (986906) | more than 7 years ago | (#19119155)

b) Governments today produce fundamentally different documents than 100 years ag

or

or c) Quality of documentation shipped with products keeps increasing and really need such a complex format to express
Government agencies, just like all other organisations, do produce fundamentally different documents compared with even relativly close historical times.

Just because someone wants to play with a complex layout doesn't mean they need it to do their job...
It's more a question of predictable layout than one about complex layout. And one thing you can get a handle on with a proper document format is people playing around with the layout. Documents in any sufficently large organisation, commercial or not, needs to be standardized for structure. If you have templates it's easier to enforce that. Of course could argue that you can add meta information requirements to any html on the side, so to speak. But then you start getting an ad hoc structure with each major user because there is no standard for what to do. So you end up with a somewhat easier to parse structure but that requires intimate knowledge about the organisation using the application instead of the application itself - the document format. Of course that can be considered a good thing - if you want job security.

Oh yes they *will* have problems supporting ODF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19118141)

Microsoft has a huge problem supporting ODF: it destroys their business model that's utterly dependent on vendor lock-in. Of course, the governments of sovereign nations don't like giving up control of their data. So Microsoft is bound to lose this fight.

Funding SCO and spreading patent FUD has nothing to do with Vista. It has everything to do with what's going on in Europe with respect to these kinds of developments.

Re:Microsoft will have no problem supporting ODF (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 7 years ago | (#19118307)

I would like to see your evidence for this non intuitive conclusion that you have come to at the beginning of your post.

Re:Microsoft will have no problem supporting ODF (1)

Larry Lightbulb (781175) | more than 7 years ago | (#19119099)

On the server side, the data will be anyway stored in a relational database.
I don't see where this is mentioned in the summary or the article.

Not Getting Excited (2, Insightful)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117371)

I keep hearing that some large company, county, state, or country is moving closer to ODF and (fill in FOSS of your choice), but it doesn't actually happen. Microsoft swoops in, independent thinking I.T. director is fired, reassigned, or re-educated, and nothing big happens. Microsoft may be paying some of these entities to continue using their software, rather than the other way around, to keep up appearances, but it still doesn't happen.

Give me a story where 50,000+ desktops have actually thrown Microsoft out, and kept them out, and then we may have a news story. Until then, stop wasting the bandwidth!

Is Norway accepting immigrants ? (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117457)

Or sweden ? because it seems that those would be the best places for geeks/internet people to live in. pirate party is enough by itself.

So why not just LaTeX? (1)

280Z28 (896335) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117577)

Maybe they're avoiding it and looking for something that's been around longer and/or less buggy? Or maybe they like ODF because it has free tools for editing it?

Re:So why not just LaTeX? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19117845)

I wasn't aware there were non-free tools for LaTeX...

Re:So why not just LaTeX? (1)

cortana (588495) | more than 7 years ago | (#19118541)

latex2html? ;)

Re:So why not just LaTeX? (1)

seandiggity (992657) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117917)

ODF is an ISO standard, which is a big selling point (as it should be). Some also think it's a prime candidate as the successor to HTML [wikipedia.org] .

Re:So why not just LaTeX? (3, Interesting)

808140 (808140) | more than 7 years ago | (#19118101)

Although I use LaTeX myself for most of my document production needs, asking government employees to use LaTeX to produce documents is probably a little bit unrealistic, no matter what you or I might think about the ease of document production using a TeX-based system. Publishers and professionals will continue to use tools like LaTeX, because in those sectors there are professionals who handle layout and expecting them to be able to use powerful but occasionally cryptic software is not at all unreasonable (authors rarely ever make decisions on how to layout the text of a book they've written). But here, we're talking about people that aren't layout professionals and who are used to WYSIWYG tools, for whom LaTeX would present an unreasonable learning curve.

LaTeX and TeX look great and are arguably still better than most of their direct competitors, and certainly produce documents that look vastly superior to those produced by WYSIWYG programs (as Knuth quipped, "What you see is all you get"). But the government is more concerned about content and the ease of producing it than how it looks. They also probably aren't typesetting complex mathematical formulae, which has historically been TeX's great strength.

And before anyone says as much, yes, I have heard of LyX -- but if you think you're getting all of TeX's power using a TeX editor like that, you'd be wrong. Plus, at that point, how is TeX superior to ODF? You may not realize this, but TeX (like PostScript) is a Turing complete language, complete with branches and loops, and there's no way that any editor, no matter how feature rich, could duplicate that level of complexity, for the same reason that there are no "WYSIWYG" tools for creating applications that duplicate all the functionality of C, C++, Java, C#, whatever.

You may think, "that's ok, let's just support a subset!" Not a bad idea (that is, in fact, what PDF does -- it implements a subset of PostScript that is not anywhere near as complex). But then you really have to make it a subset and only a subset, otherwise I might decide to edit the LaTeX code you wrote with your word-processor by hand and unknowingly create a beautiful document that no one can edit using WYSIWYG tools, because I strayed outside of the supported subset of the language.

Plus, people these days are gravitating towards XML-based formats, and for good reason: XML is easy to parse, standard, and ubiquitous. Using a non-XML based standard like some TeX-subset means having a completely different parser internally. XML is also structured as a tree, which makes dynamic content generation easy, whereas TeX, which was designed to be much more flexible, eschews such restrictions (to our great annoyance, as we cannot support all its exotic features for the reasons outlined above anyway).

Every time this sort of discussion comes up, someone invariably says "What about TeX?" Hopefully I've shed some light on why that's not really workable or ideal.

MS Patent Troll Biz Lurks Under ODF-OOXML Merger (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19117625)

Microsoft appears to be making moves towards turning a profit whether people accept their software or not. They can try to profit from Free and Open Source Software by ensuring that it must implement "patented" technology in OOXML. Just look at their latest insinuations regarding FOSS and Microsoft "patents" -- OpenOffice.org (which supports ODF) is in that list and it doesn't even have OOXML support!

If ODF is ever merged with OOXML then Microsoft will try to force free software developers to turn the same tricks Novell has. Or perhaps it will go after users in a RIAA-like rampage. This is why ODF should be protected from Microsoft's influence and OOXML (or any new standard Microsoft participates in) should probably remain untouched for at least 20 years.

Oblig. Monty Python (3, Funny)

owlnation (858981) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117687)

Does this mean that closed formats are now pining for the fjords?

Technical comparison (4, Informative)

seandiggity (992657) | more than 7 years ago | (#19117749)

A white paper based on a technical comparison between the ODF and OOXML formats [freesoftwaremagazine.com]

...the OOXML "standard" is terrible from a technical point-of-view, even if you forget about Microsoft's motivation behind it.

Re:Technical comparison (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19118189)

hahahahaaaaa.....

deep breath

hahahahahaaaaa.......

sorry mate, but that white paper looks like it was written by a child with a grudge. based on the ODF 'standard' could you implement a word processer. based on the OOXML 'standard' could you implment a word processor. go figure that out and then make the decision as to which one is 'terrible from a technical point of view'.
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