Hackathons in Toulouse (France), Munich (Germany), Woerden (the Netherlands) and Bologna (Italy) involving software developers and public administrations, are providing input for the ODF Plugfest taking place in London on 8 and 9 December. The first four meetings involve developers working on the Open Document Format ODF and the LibreOffice suite of office productivity tools. The ODF Plugfest brings together multiple implementers and stakeholders of this document standard. The plugfest is aimed at increasing interoperability, tests implementations and discuss new features.
A product of OASIS, the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, UBL was developed in a transparent standards-setting process over a period of 13 years by hundreds of leading business experts. OASIS is the same organization that created ODF, the Open Document Format (ISO/IEC 26300), a widely used International Standard for word processing.
The Dutch city of Arnhem has, for now, given up searching for alternatives for its office productivity tools, after settling a claim with a dominant software vendor for unlicensed use of its office software. To compensate for not having adequately licensed the software used by the town’s civil servant’s who were working from home, Arnhem has paid 600,000 euro for new licences. These allow the use of the ubiquitous proprietary office software for the next three years, says the city’s CIO, Simon Does.
From this week, it has promised to publish PDFs and Word documents in PDF/A and ODS formats respectively.
However, on Excel, which are most commonly published as “live” data tables, it said: “Content producers should convert to ODS format before submitting to digital content teams.
“However the statisticians have identified problems with certain spreadsheets – where drop-down filters fail to work when converted – more work needs to be done on finding a solution to this problem and DCLG will to commit to the spreadsheets where possible will be published from 1 November 2014 being in an ODS format.”
DCLG said that it is committed to opening up government and providing a level playing field for open source systems, providing the citizen with free access to government information.
The Document Foundation role is to support and grow the LibreOffice & Document Liberation project and promote Free Software and Open Standards. You will notice in this statement two key points; first, it is not directly the role of the Document Foundation to develop the LibreOffice code: the community of volunteers is in charge of that and second, the actual role of the foundation is actually to protect and cater to the community’s needs and logistics.
Microsoft consistently opposed the policy, which the software giant saw as its last chance to overturn the UK government’s broader plans for open standards. As emails seen by Computer Weekly reveal, the decision became an issue in the supplier’s Seattle boardroom, and brought the lobbying powers of the software giant into full force in Whitehall.
There has been speculation about the role played by senior government minister David Willetts, then minister of state for universities and science in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), but who later left the post in David Cameron’s 2014 summer reshuffle.
An investigation by Computer Weekly has revealed that – according to well-placed sources – Microsoft turned to Willetts to help win its case, with the supplier’s global chief operating officer (COO) Kevin Turner getting involved. But neither BIS nor David Willetts himself is willing to discuss the role the minister played in Microsoft's attempts to influence this obscure but vitally important part of government IT policy.
Willetts was the government’s liaison point for Microsoft, as a major employer and investor in the UK economy. He also served as co-chair of the Information Economy Council, a body set up to enable dialogue between Whitehall and the IT industry over future policy.
For our first magazine interview, we got some cheap flights and headed out to Kaufbeuren, an attractive Swabian city an hour’s train ride from Munich. This is where we met Florian Effenberger, Executive Director at The Document Foundation (he was chairman at the time of this interview), and Alexander Werner from the Foundation’s membership committee. This is the non-profit organisation at the heart of LibreOffice, the famous fork of OpenOffice.org now dominant in every Linux distribution. We were able to ask Florian about the split, about arguments over a new name and what wheat beer he’d recommend as a souvenir for our journey home.