Open Document Format (ODF) Plug Fest

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Open Document Format (ODF) Plug Fest

Member II
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On Friday I was asked to present at the OpenDoc Society’s ODF plug fest in Maidenhead. The plug fest seemed to be the presentation equivalent of speed dating, with each of the attendees given 10 minutes to cover an aspect of ODF.

There were a number of presentations on the different office suites built to support ODF, including Libra Office (a branch of Open Office), EuroOffice (started life as a Hungarian version of Open Office, but now available in other languages), Lotus Symphony and Lotus Live Symphony (IBM’s version for the desktop and the cloud), and of course Oracle Open Office and Oracle Cloud Office (Oracles version for the desktop and the cloud).

Michiel Leenaars, of nlnet, talked about ODF Recipes. ODF recipes are examples that show how to programmatically drive the creation of ODF documents. The demo was very impressive. You can find out more at the Software Recipes web site.

Robin La Fontaine, of, showed a great solution for tracking changes in ODF documents. This solution went way beyond the normal track changes feature provided by normal office suites. Useful for teams simultaneously working on large documents.

Possibly the most interesting part of the meeting were speeches from Adam Afriyie (Conservative MP for Windsor) and from local councillors. Adam talked about his support for open standards and open source software. He is keen to see an increased usage within government. But then the councillors shared their real life difficulty of adopting open standards within the local authorities. It seems that although the MP’s talk about adopting open standards the reality is that bureaucracy gets in the way. A requirement to support Microsoft formats when communicating with central government means that the local authorities cannot drop MS Office. This frustrates the local councillors and costs the local authorities millions.

At the end of the day I had to question why I use MS Office…

  • Is it better quality than the open source alternatives?

  • Does it have features that the others do not have?

  • Do I use it so that I can be compatible with my work colleagues?

  • …Or do I use it because I always have done and nothing has made me change?

Perhaps it is time I moved to ODF. I think I will download one of the ODF office suites and give it a go, I will let you know how I get on.
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