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Three of five biggest OOXML support issues fixed in open source office

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Open source developers have already fixed three of the five major problems that are limiting support by open source office suites for Microsoft's proprietary document format OOXML, reports Matthias Stürmer. The Swiss Ernst & Young IT consultant is one of those improving the open source office tools. He hopes better support for OOXML this will "help to successfully complete and maintain migrations towards open source office suites."

The first three hurdles have been cleared, Stürmer announced on 8 November at the ApacheCon conference in Sinsheim Germany.

The biggest problems that free software office suites have with Microsoft's proprietary document format, concern the lay-out, says Stürmer. "Up until recently, it was unknown if the visualisation is conform the proprietary office version."

This unsettles users of open source suites such as LibreOffice or OpenOffice, when handling OOXML-documents that include frames, images, tables, enumeration, headers or footers. They could be confronted with errors in handling of fonts, comments and track-changes that are included in documents in this proprietary format.

Stürmer oversees the 'Office Interoperability Project', a consortium of German and Swiss IT companies and public administrations. The project earlier this year contracted the LibreOffice Team from SUSE and the Hamburg-based open source company Lanedo to fix the five biggest problems. The 140,000 euro project is paid for by a consortium of public administrations, comprised of the Swiss Federal Court, the Swiss canton of Vaud (Waadt), the Swiss Federal IT Steering Unit and the German cities of Munich, Freiburg and Jena.

Concerted efforts
Stürmer says that the concerted efforts will help public administrations switch from using the proprietary office suite to the open source alternatives. Public administrations that switched to free and open source office suite often struggle to exchange documents with other administrations, business and citizens that continue to use the old, proprietary formats, he says. "These external stakeholders expect that their public administration can handle their documents."

An acute example of such document formats woes involves one of the cities paying for the project, Freiburg. The city council will decide next week Tuesday over its five-year long and faltering migration to OpenOffice. The city board wants the Freiburg city council to permit it to spend 1,5 million euro over the next six years for the renewal of proprietary office software licences.

The fixes developed by the Suse and Lanedo developers will be made available soon, Stürmer announced at the Apache Conference. The code be shared under the Apache Software Licence 2.0. "This license permits the widest possible distribution of the development services", he says. "That includes all users of the free office suites LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice."

More information:
Improving OOXML integration in LibreOffice/Apache Open Office, presentation at the Apache Conference
Similar presentation on LibreOffice conference
Similar presentation on LibreOffice conference