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Standards/Consortia: Abolishing OOXML, Web Standards, and the European Commission's Interoperability Drive

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Web
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  • Professors, please let us submit PDFs

    We are under two weeks away from a presidential election and already eight months into a deadly pandemic, but we still have time for the little things. No, I don’t mean smelling flowers and sipping pumpkin spice lattes, though you are welcome to do so—I mean the types of file formats that professors request students use to submit papers.

    In my experience, most professors ask for files with a DOCX extension, a format which was developed by Microsoft in 2007 to help standardize its file extensions across its various applications. Officially known as Office Open XML, the DOCX format broke backwards compatibility with the old .doc format. This meant that all previous versions of Microsoft Word prior to the new standard would be unable to open files with this particular extension. Consternation followed that development in 2007 (or 2008 for Mac users), but in the year 2020 we have mostly solved that issue, as most computers these days do not run any pre-2006 versions of Microsoft Office.

    The modern problems with DOCX are really not problems with DOCX itself, but rather with its place in the pantheon of file extensions that are now available. Most students in our current age produce their work in a Google Doc (in point of fact, this very article was produced in a Google Doc). It’s a simple workflow that has all the functionality of a full-blown application without having to leave a web browser or fight with a sign-in form (beyond the one that we’re always signed into as a part of daily campus life). I don’t support submitting an essay or exam as a raw Google Doc, however, and my reasons for not doing so are partially shared with my aversion to submitting in DOCX: all the writing tools are immediately available upon opening the document.

    [...]

    The obvious solution is for professors to request papers in Portable Document Format, PDF. Originally developed in 1993, the PDF file format has not outlived its usefulness. Anything, from Windows 10 to Windows 95, MacOS to OS X or Unix to Ubuntu, anything can open a PDF. And since anything can open it, when students finish writing and export to PDF, we can see exactly what it is we’re submitting with our names attached. And it’s not like professors should hate it; it’s the default format for any downloaded academic document, and providing comments is much closer to how comments are written on physical paper.

    Students shouldn’t be the only ones submitting files in PDF format either. For every file in DOCX a professor puts on Moodle, there are probably three copies on every student’s hard drive. Every weekday we face the choice of digging through our downloaded files for the syllabus we downloaded a week ago or downloading yet another copy of that same syllabus. Uploading PDF files instead of DOCX to Moodle lets students open it in a web browser, a faster and less cluttered operation that lets our focus stay on class instead of going through old files.

  • Static versus dynamic web sites

    In this post, I want to explore two fundamental principles or criteria that underpinned my original article, but were more or less unpronounced: sustainability and power. I also want to update you on my current site configuration.

  • [Old] Writing HTML in HTML

    I've just finished the final rewrite of my website. I'm not lying: this is the last time I'm ever going to do it. This website has gone through countless rewrites – from WordPress to Jekyll to multiple static site generators of my own – but this is the final one. I know so, because I've found the ultimate method for writing webpages: pure HTML.

    It sounds obvious, but when you think about how many static site generators are being released every day – the list is practically endless – it's far from obvious. Drew DeVault recently challanged people to create their own blog, and he didn't even mention the fact that one could write it in pure HTML:

    If you want a hosted platform, I recommend write.as. If you're technical, you could build your own blog with Jekyll or Hugo. GitHub offers free hosting for Jekyll-based blogs.

    Now, there's nothing wrong with Jekyll or Hugo; it's just interesting that HTML doesn't even get a mention. And of course, I'm not criticizing Drew; I think the work he's doing is great. But, just like me and you, he is a child of his time.

    That's why I'm writing this blog post – to turn the tide just a little bit.

  • Shaping the future interoperability policy

    The European Commission is currently evaluating the ISA² programme and the European Interoperability Framework to present a reinforced public sector interoperability policy in 2021.

    The related roadmaps (EIF and ISA²) are now published for feedback on the Commission’s Have your say portal. You can provide feedback on the EIF and future interoperability policy roadmap till 12 November 2020. Feedback on the roadmap for the evaluation of the ISA² programme is open till 13 November 2020.

Collabora Online moves out of The Document Foundation

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OOo

The Document Foundation (TDF) was formed in 2010 as a home for the newly created LibreOffice project; it has just celebrated its tenth anniversary. As it begins its second decade, though, TDF is showing some signs of strain. Evidence of this could be seen in the disagreement over a five-year marketing plan in July. More recently, the TDF membership committee sent an open letter to the board of directors demanding more transparency and expressing fears of conflicts of interest within the board. Now the situation has advanced with one of the TDF's largest contributing companies announcing that it will be moving some of its work out of the foundation entirely.

The dispute over the marketing plan has its roots in money, as is often the case. Developing a large system like LibreOffice requires the work of dozens of engineers, who need to be paid to be able to put a full-time effort into the project. Some of the companies employing those developers — Collabora in particular — think that TDF has succeeded too well; the free version of LibreOffice is solid enough that attempts to sell commercial support for it are running into a wall. The proposed marketing plan was designed to better differentiate "community-supported" LibreOffice from the professionally supported offerings from TDF member companies. This idea did not sit well with community members, who worried that LibreOffice was being pushed into a second-class citizen status.

The tension is at its highest around LibreOffice Online, which provides for collaborative editing of documents hosted on a central server. Evidently, what revenue does exist in the LibreOffice ecosystem is mostly focused on LibreOffice Online, which is a relatively hard service to set up and maintain without having somebody dedicated to the task. TDF has encouraged potential users to go with commercial offerings by, among other things, allowing the system to suggest commercial support to users and not offering binary builds of the LibreOffice Online server. Currently, if you want to establish a LibreOffice Online instance, you must start with the source and build it from there.

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More: an Online move ...

LibreOffice Drops An Open Letter to Legacy OpenOffice, and it's huge.

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The LibreOffice board announced their take on OpenOffice via an open letter today. And it seems a big deal.
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Open Letter to Apache OpenOffice

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OOo

Today marks 20 years since the source code to OpenOffice was released. And today we say: LibreOffice is the future of OpenOffice. Let’s all get behind it!

It’s great to have a rich and diverse set of free and open source software projects. Hundreds of millions of people around the world have benefited from the choice and customisation that they bring. But sometimes, users can lose out when they’re not aware of newer alternatives, or when one brand overshadows another.

OpenOffice(.org) – the “father project” of LibreOffice – was a great office suite, and changed the world. It has a fascinating history, but since 2014, Apache OpenOffice (its current home) hasn’t had a single major release. That’s right – no significant new features or major updates have arrived in over six years. Very few minor releases have been made, and there have been issues with timely security updates too.

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Software: Office Suites, BleachBit and gti

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Software
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  • List of Best Linux Office Suites

    Despite all the features, the freedom and the flexibility that Linux may offer you, it is not perfect. New Linux users face a lot of issues when they switch to Linux; such as not being able to use Microsoft Office, which is a popular productivity software!
    Now don’t panic just yet; there are two solutions to this problem. You can use a software called Wine that can enable you to install MS Office on your Linux. This solution is not preferred as not all version of MS Office are supported, leaving you with a very little choice.

    The second option is that you can use alternative MS Office suites that are available for Linux, which will be the topic of this article. Following is a list of the best Linux office suites.

  • FreeOffice on openSUSE

    I am not really much of an “Office Snob” but in recent weeks, I have heard people hammer and clammer about this FreeOffice for both “in favor of” and “against” it. In full disclosure, I mostly use LibreOffice and I still use Microsoft Office 2007 for certain very specific reasons. That said, I am obviously not an open source purest. Back to the reason for this write up, I use office products a lot for the purposes of creating product for home educating my kids as well as for many administrative things that I do as a part of my employment. For the most part, I don’t do anything terribly complex but I do like a certain uniformity and bits of information on things to keep me organized.

    Bottom Line Up Front, FreeOffice is a fine, well polished, very complete application. I am only using the “Free version” and I am very impressed with it. The user interface is flexible to your liking, looks clean and modern, most things work fantastically well and I am not sure how they get away with the look of the UIs similarity to Microsoft Office. Although this would likely serve all my needs, I will stick with LibreOffice because it is what I am most accustomed and I don’t gain anything by switching to FreeOffice. At a minimum, I would have to keep LibreOffice Draw for a few specific tasks.

  • BleachBit 4.0.0

    When your computer is getting full, BleachBit quickly frees disk space. When your information is only your business, BleachBit guards your privacy. With BleachBit you can free cache, delete cookies, clear Internet history, shred temporary files, delete logs, and discard junk you didn't know was there.

    Designed for Linux and Windows systems, it wipes clean thousands of applications including Firefox, Internet Explorer, Adobe Flash, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari, and more. Beyond simply deleting files, BleachBit includes advanced features such as shredding files to prevent recovery, wiping free disk space to hide traces of files deleted by other applications, and vacuuming Firefox to make it faster. Better than free, BleachBit is open source.

  • Linux Candy: gti – typo-based curio inspired by Steam Locomotive

    Linux Candy is a series of articles covering interesting eye candy software. We only feature open-source software in this series.

    gti is intended to catch accidental typos of ‘gti’ instead of ‘git’. It displays an animation of a car driving by, and then launches git. Any parameters or arguments given to gti are passed through to git.

    gti is a tiny C program, written in a mere 329 lines of code. It’s just an inoffensive bit of fun that might raise a smile now and then, particularly important in these trying times.

Why Use LibreOffice in Education and Celebrating Document Freedom Day 2020

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  • LibreOffice: A great choice for schools and education

    Because LibreOffice is free and open source software, students and teachers can download and install it on as many machines as they like, without worrying about license fees, subscriptions or audits. If you’re a teacher, you can be sure that your students won’t suddenly be locked out of their documents for not renewing a subscription. They can keep working, as long as they like!

  • Document Freedom Day 2020

    When you save a document on your computer, it is stored in a computer file. Whether it is a text file, a picture, a video or any other kind of work, it is saved with a specific coded structure, known as the file format.

    To be able to share data, software programs must be able to communicate with each other. It implies that no barrier whatsoever may hinder the exchange of data and the related write or read operations. For such a seamless exchange to be possible, software programs are required to be “interoperable”.

    Interoperability is guaranteed when it relies on open standards, i.e. public technical specifications, freely usable by everyone, without restriction nor compensation, and maintained by an open decision-making process. File formats based on these open standards are “Open Formats”.

    Where software interoperability is set aside, or if a program editor does not give access to the key information for interoperability or if the file design recipe is kept undisclosed, or if the file design recipe is available but is not followed by the program, file formats are considered to be “closed” and do not allow interoperability. For a software user, choosing between an Open File Format or a closed one has a deep impact on the ownership of and the access to his/her own data and their availability over time.

Season of Docs 2020 and Document Freedom Day 2020

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Google
OSS
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  • Announcing Season of Docs 2020

    Season of Docs brings technical writers and open source projects together for a few months to work on open source documentation. 2019 was the first year of Season of Docs, bringing together open source organizations and technical writers to create 44 successful documentation projects!

  • Announcing Season of Docs 2020

    Google Open Source has announced the 2020 edition of Season of Docs, a program to connect open source projects with technical writers to improve documentation. Open source organizations may apply from April 14-May 4. Once mentoring organizations and technical writers are connected, there will be a month long community bonding period, beginning August 11. Writers will then work with mentors to complete documentation projects by the December 6 deadline.

  • Paint a Dove for Document Freedom Day

    Help us celebrate the Twelfth Anniversary of Document Freedom Day by making a paper dove!

    Download the dove template and the instructions from this link: https://tdf.io/dfd1, and once you are done with your dove take a picture of it and upload your photo using this link: https://tdf.io/dfd2.

TDF new Board of Directors

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OOo

The new Board of Directors of The Document Foundation has just started the two year term on February 18, 2020. Members are: Michael Meeks, Thorsten Behrens, Franklin Weng, Daniel Rodriguez, Cor Nouws, Lothar Becker and Emiliano Vavassori. Deputies are: Nicolas Christener and Paolo Vecchi.

Five people have been elected for the first time to the Board of Directors: Daniel Armando Rodriguez from Posadas in Argentina; Lothar Becker from Karlsruhe in Germany; Emiliano Vavassori from Bergamo in Italy; Nicholas Christener from Bern in Switzerland; and Paolo Vecchi from Luxembourg (in Luxembourg).

During the first meeting of the Board of Directors, the nine members have elected Lothar Becker as Chairman and Franklin Weng as Deputy Chairman. In the meantime, also the responsibilities and areas of oversight have been discussed and decided.

At the same time, six people – who have served as board members and deputies during the previous term(s) – have left the board, but will continue their activity as TDF Members: Marina Latini, Chairwoman; Björn Michaelsen, Deputy Chairman; Eike Rathke, Member; and Jan Holešovský, Simon Phipps and Osvaldo Gervasi, Deputies.

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Also: QA/Dev Report: February 2020

ODF 1.3 approved as OASIS Committee Specification

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OOo

OASIS is pleased to announce that Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) v1.3 from the OpenDocument TC has been approved as an OASIS Committee Specification.

The OpenDocument Format is an open XML-based document file format for office applications, to be used for documents containing text, spreadsheets, charts, and graphical elements. OpenDocument Format v1.3 is an update to the international standard Version 1.2, which was approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as ISO/IEC 26300 in 2015. OpenDocument Format v1.3 includes improvements for document security, clarifies underspecifications and makes other timely improvements.

The OpenDocument Format specifies the characteristics of an open XML-based application-independent and platform-independent digital document file format, as well as the characteristics of software applications which read, write and process such documents. It is applicable to document authoring, editing, viewing, exchange and archiving, including text documents, spreadsheets, presentation graphics, drawings, charts and similar documents commonly used by personal productivity software applications.

This Committee Specification is an OASIS deliverable, completed and approved by the TC and fully ready for testing and implementation.

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The Document Foundation welcomes the release to OASIS of the TC Committee Draft of ODF Version 1.3 for ratification

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The Document Foundation welcomes the release to OASIS of TC Committee Draft of ODF Version 1.3 for ratification. At the end of the process, ODF Version 1.3 will be submitted to ISO to become a standard. The final approval is expected in late 2020 or early 2021.

Editing of ODF Version 1.3 Committee Draft has been sponsored by the Community of ODF Specification Maintainers (COSM), a project launched by The Document Foundation in 2017 with the donation of a seed of euro 10,000 to get the COSM project started, plus up to euro 20,000 to match each euro donated by other stakeholders.

So far, the COSM project has been backed by Microsoft, Collabora, the UK Government Digital Services, CIB, the European Commission’s StandICT project and Open-Xchange. The money has been used to pay an editor to finalize the ODF 1.3 specification and manage it through the OASIS review and ratification process.

Major new features of ODF 1.3 are digital signature and OpenPGP-based XML encryption of documents, plus several improvements to features already available in ODF 1.2 like new polynomial and moving average regression types for charts, a new specification for number of decimal digits in number formatting, a special header/footer style for first page of documents, contextual spacing for paragraphs, additional type argument values for the WEEKDAY function, and the new text master template document type. Most of these new features have been contributed by developers at CIB, Collabora, Microsoft and The Document Foundation.

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Also: [LibreOffice] QA Report: October 2019

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