CH: Federal Court's Office su…

CH: Federal Court's Office suite switch is first step to Open Source desktop

Published on: 27/03/2008
News

The Swiss Federal Court's use of StarOffice, Sun Microsystems' version of OpenOffice, is its first step to an Open Source desktop, says Daniel Brunner, its deputy IT manager.

The Federal Court in Lausanne has been using the Open Source suite of Office applications for its 350 users since 2002.

Brunner talked about the IT departments' experiences at the Open Source Software Conference and Exposition. The conference took place earlier this month in Bern, Switzerland. He said that migrating to an Open Source desktop is best undertaken step by step. He recommends beginning by installing the Open Source web browser Firefox and ensuring that all web applications work well with this browser. Next, switch to OpenOffice, or if you have special support requirements, Sun's version StarOffice. The final step is to replace the operating system. "You do not have to switch, but you can, if you want."

Using Open Source applications makes the Federal Court more flexible, Brunner explained. "We can run several versions of OpenOffice simultaneously. We need to, because some of our applications depend on an older version. You can try the same with Microsoft Office, but you will have more problems."

The deputy IT manager reminds others who plan to switch to OpenOffice or StarOffice to pay attention to user needs and to provide plenty of documentation. His advice is to first train a group of users that are eager to work with Open Source. "Their enthusiasm will spread to  others." Eager users will also help overcome issues, persevering until a fix is found.

He pointed out that switching office applications means those users experienced in the old system  can lose influence, prompting them to respond negatively and complain about many details. "It is important not to neglect these power users." These users can be very helpful when documents need to be converted, selecting those files that should be stored as PDF.

Switzerland set up a new, separate federal court, the Federal Administrative court, in January of last year. This court is currently using OpenOffice on its desktops, but might reconsider this.

Unifying the IT systems of both courts is under discussion. A commission has decided that forcing both to use the same IT architecture is unnecessary.

According to Inside-IT, a Swiss IT news site, the court has already decided to abondon OpenOffice. Brunner says this decision has not yet been made. He says it depends on two audits by consultancy firms KPMG and Price WaterhouseCoopers whether or not the Administrative court will continue to use OpenOffice after 2012.

The IT strategies of the courts were evaluated last year by KPMG. The courts published the report on 14 March this year. One of the conclusions of the IT consultants: "The Open Source strategy and applications of the Federal Court are technologically advanced and are comparable to Microsoft alternatives." They add that cooperation and organisation of the two courts is still evolving. "More cooperation should also lead to an increase in appreciation for the Federal Court's IT strategy."

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