Open source office at Veneto…

Open source office at Veneto health care

Document interoperability still the main issue

The ULSS5 health care organisation, one of 22 in the Italian Veneto Region, has nearly completed the transition to the open source office suite LibreOffice and the open document format ODF. Already 70% of all 1500 workstations have LibreOffice implemented, and the migration will be completed in 2016, says Enio Gemmo, one of the instructors involved in the project. Exchanging documents with others remains one of the main problems.

Incompatible, proprietary fonts are one of the causes of document interoperability, says LibreOffice instructor Gemmo. Having to change fonts causes changes in document layout. The current default font in the ubiquitous proprietary office suite may not be used by free and open source software. When documents with such fonts are opened in competing office applications, the visual result is often different, up to the point that users fear content is missing. “Changing fonts causes all kinds of disasters”, says Gemmo, “including changed tables and distorted paragraphs.”.

When exchanging documents with other public administrations is causing problems, staff members use LibreOffice to save documents in the proprietary OOXML format. To fix the most-pressing issues, ULSS5 has to fall back on a proprietary office suite, Gemmo says. In September, he was one of the speakers at the LibreOffice conference in Aarhus (Denmark).

The four hospitals and numerous other health care departments of the ULSS5 health care organisation are financed by the Italian Veneto region. Switching to LibreOffice has allowed ULSS5 to save costs on proprietary licences, says Gemmo.

Advanced features

Gemmo has been involved in showing ULSS5 staff members how to use LibreOffice since 2013. So far, he has trained almost 500 staff members, one-fifth of the total. For most, an introduction to free and open source followed by an introduction to LibreOffice is enough, he says. A few staff members take follow-up classes, to gain experience in using some of the advanced features of the open source office suite, and how to use LibreOffice for specific tasks.

“Communication and training comes first”, says Gemmo. “A training should include an introduction to free software.” Many users are unaware of free software principles, and confuse it with free of charge. Gemmo experiences that presenting these principles helps to avoid misunderstandings.


A few years back, ULSS5 decided to unify its office tools, Gemmo says. At the time it used a mix of several version of a proprietary office suite, and OpenOffice - closely related to LibreOffice. Many PCs had both suites installed.

At ULSS5, the installation and updating of LibreOffice is managed automatically. When the IT department is done fixing and testing the most-critical documents and spreadsheet, it deploys LibreOffice department by department. “Testing normally involves two users of each department, and so far this approach has made sure that staff members are content with the transition.”


More information:

ULSS5 (in Italian)
Presentation on LibreOffice at ULSS5 (pdf)
Font interoperability problems
Font interoperability problems

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