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UK government makes Open Document Format default

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The UK government has decided to make the Open Document Format (ODF) the default format for sharing or collaborating on government documents, it announced on Tuesday 22 July. For viewing government documents, it will standardise on PDF/A and HTML. The decision was welcomed by advocates of free and open source software solutions.

IT news site ZDnet quotes standards experts Andy Updegrove, saying that: "sound reasons for insisting on truly open, independent standards created with the user and not the vendor in mind has begun to prevail."

OpenForum Europe, an organisation advocating the use of open standards and open source, called the decision a fundamental step in implementing the Government's Open Standards Principles. "The implications of a successful implementation will be widespread. The potential is there to catalyse change well beyond central government", OFE writes. "The Cabinet Office deserves every credit for a thorough and informed approach to being an intelligent adopter of standards."

Vendor neutral

OpenDoc Society, an organisation that organises the ODF Plugfest, where software vendors and open source developers get together to test ODF compliance of their solutions, comments: "It is good to see the British government putting its cards on the table, and publicly recognise the vital importance of converging on open standards that are vendor neutral for its operations."

April, a French free software advocacy group, said it is very pleased to see the arguments for interoperability and against IT vendor independence prevail. It calls on the French government to follow the UK's example, and to clarify its current position on standards for editable documents.

Courage

Paul Brownell, European Public Policy Director for open source solutions provider Red Hat writes on the firm's opensource.com site that he hopes the decision will be put into good practice. "The document format decision is a significant development and the UK government is to be commended for their vision, thoroughness, and courage in making this important choice."

Zdnet also quotes Italo Vignoli, a director at The Document Foundation, the organization behind LibreOffice, calling the decision "a milestone in the freedom of documents and protecting people from organizations trying to lock them into any kind of format."

The ODF decision was reported by IT news sites in multiple European member states.

On Wednesday, Member of the European Parliament Max Andersson flagged the UK's decision in a written question to the European Commission, asking the EC to seriously consider using ODF externally. Several public administrations in the EU have requested the EC to support their use of the open document format.

 

More information:

Government announcement
Computer weekly news item
Computer weekly news item
Kaldata new item (in Bulgarian)
Gaceta Technologica (in Spanish)
Heise news item (in German)
Tweakers news item (in Dutch)