About OpenDocument Format


Open Document Format (ODF) is an international family of standards that is the successor of commonly used deprecated vendor specific document formats such as .doc, .wpd, .xls and .rtf. ODF is standardised at OASIS. ODF is not software, but a universal method of storing and processing information that transcends specific applications and providers. ODF is not only more flexible and efficient than its predecessors, but also future proof. Public sector, business and cultural content must not be lost if a supplier decides to no longer support legacy file formats, while other software cannot deal with those files. With ODF you avoid that risk: it is an international standard actively supported by multiple applications, and it can be safely implemented in any type of software, including open source software - such as is common on the majority of mobile phones and tablets these days. The societal importance of the move to ODF is therefore considerable.

In any normal office situation you will be using ODF in your word processor or spreadsheet, but it is just as easily incorporated into software frameworks, business software, web applications or a with a braille reader. For people with visual disabilities, ODF is a major advance as it means access to a richer range of applications. A growing number of governments are switching over to ODF for exchanging information. There are many applications that could get you started today too. Make sure you're ready for the future!

With ODF the way you store documents does not determine the software you work with. Files in the OpenDocument Format (ODF) are platform independent and do not rely on any specific piece of software whatsoever. Every software maker can implement without having to pay royalties. Although technically behind the scenes all Office applications now use the same ISO-standardized format, for the convenience of new users it was chosen to use separate names for the different applications - just like they are used to. You recognize these by their "extensions": .odt (text) .ods (for spreadsheets), .odp (for presentations), and so on.

Make information work for you

Working with ODF is the way to go if you want to pair security and backwards compatibility with higly innovative features that can help improve your work flow, and there is ample industry support to back that statument up.

"Microsoft has supported ODF, which stands for Open Document Format, since Office 2007 Service Pack 2 and made significant contributions to defining the latest version" ,tells Emily Warn on Microsoft's Office.com, "Software engineers on the Microsoft Office team provided detailed information about Microsoft Excel's behavior so Excel's formulas will interoperate in the future with other spreadsheet programs that use ODF. And, they contributed to ODF 1.2's security standards, which will make sure you can protect information in your documents."

"Word processing software moves beyond the traditional processing of simple strings of letters to performing reasoning on information and helping you manage the things in your life" ,says Dr. Ben Martin, a leading freelance software developer that has contributed to a number of the leading open source Office solutions including AbiWord, Calligra and KOffice.

When work first started on ODF 1.0, back in December, 2002, the idea of having an open standard for office documents was radical" ,says Rob Weir (IBM's Lotus Symphony and Apache OpenOffice incubator project). Every word processor had its own format, and most formats were undocumented or had documentation available only under anti-competitive licenses. ODF challenged that status quo and shook the palace walls of companies whose business models relied on ensuring that your documents were the source of their vendor lock-in. In some places the walls crumbled. Today having an open standard document format is considered to the norm."

(read more quotes on ODF from governments, developers and experts all over the world)

Works the same everywhere

How to work with ODF

If all is well in most situations you won't really notice that you are using ODF, it works just like the old file formats. Many of the latest versions of Office suites, word processors, spreadsheets and presentation software you work with, will create new documents directly in ODF. If the wrong settings prevent the application from doing so, check the manual or contact your vendor to configure it correctly so your application stores documents in ODF.

Popular solutions like Apache OpenOffice, LibreOffice, IBM Lotus Symphony, Calligra Suite, EuroOffice and Microsoft Office for Windows have ODF as their default file format. The same applies to online software such as Google Docs and Zoho Office, which also use ODF as a standard.

Why would you even consider storing your valuable information in a vendor-specific, deprecated file format that was written off by the entire market, including the companies that created them - especially if you can have a reliable, future-proof and widely supported international standard that is supported by the same products?

If you are using alternative products that support ODF natively next to application specific formats, you just select OpenDocument format when you "save as". You can use one of these solutions to convert existing documents (eg. a .doc file) safely to ODF.

We like that ODF has been developed through an open, inclusive process - one that welcomes government participation and input - and that there are many products which support ODF, so vendor lock-in is not a concern. As a vivid promoter of open standards, Fedict welcomes ODF 1.2 and encourages vendors to implement this specification on various platforms, ensuring "universal" (any device/any OS) information accessibility both in the short term and long term.

- Peter Strickx, CTO Fedict
(the agency responsible for developing and implementing e-gov strategy in Belgium).