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Open source groups urge Freiburg to keep using open document format

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Five civil groups advocating the use of free and open source by public administrations urge the German city of Freiburg to continue to use the Open Document Format as its default format for electronic documents. "Free office suites are making progress. LibreOffice today has over 60 million users worldwide."

This week's Tuesday evening, Freiburg's city council is voting over a proposal to end its floundering migration of OpenOffice and to stop using the Open Document Format. Instead of ODF, the city board wants to default on Microsoft's alternative, OOXML.

The city board signalled already in May that it wants to switch back to a proprietary office suite. The switch is one part of a plan tackling multiple IT problems. The analysis underpinning its proposal was made public last week Tuesday.

Freiburg's plan is criticised by five groups advocating free and open source software; the Open Source Business Alliance, the Free Software Foundation Europe, the Association of Information and Communication Technology, The Document Foundation and Free Office Germany. The five point out several flaws in the city's argumentation.

For instance, there are several other small German municipalities that have successfully switched to free office suites. They also stress that the ODF standard is to be supported in the upcoming version of the ubiquitous proprietary office suite. And there is plenty of support available for public administrations using free software office tools: "We'd be happy to provide you with a list of companies."

Procurement fix
They warn the city that it's fixation on using a proprietary office suite possibly conflicts with procurement rules, which forbid requesting specific brands or products. "Potential contractors and candidates may consider to take legal action."

The city of Freiburg has over the past seven months ignored repeated questions on how it will make its plans fit within procurement rules. One of the city council members, Timothy Simms: "I asked about this during the council meeting last Monday. The legal department replied it would not be a problem, but they did not go into details."

More information:
Open letter to the city council (in German)
Letter by the Document Foundation (in German)
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