Platforms and devices

Platform availability

ODF implementations exist for virtually all known platforms: Android Linux, Blackberry/QNX, Chrome OS, DragonFlyBSD, FreeBSD, iOS, Linux, Mac OS X, the Maemo Leste/Meego/Mer/Sailfish family of mobile OS-es, NetBSD, OLPC, OpenBSD, OpenIndiana, Solaris and Windows. The availability of browser technology based implementations such as WebODF enable any platform and device that has a browser to use ODF as well. In practical terms, the vast majority of mobile phones and tablets these days offer some ability to work with ODF.

ODF has a simple underlying syntax which is human readable and easy to understand and program. So easy in fact that even a few thousand lines of Javascript are enought to read most documents. The underlying document structure is verifiably robust – no more ‘corrupt’ documents users have to recreate due to unsolvable application errors, if need be you can just unzip the document and access the content directly. There are also dozens of software libraries in many programming languages, such as Java, C++, Python, Perl, Ruby, XSLT, Javascript, PHP and C#.

There is a number of existing open source implementations implementing ODF that already have been ported to many different platforms. This makes it easy to develop your own software if none of the existing solutions fit your entire need. Most open source projects are eager to work on new features, and many organisations find that the cost for hiring people from the team or a local SME to develop the features you need is quite low compared to the total cost of ownership of office applications. If you’ve chosen a non-open source-solution and need additional features added, it is also a real possibility to contact vendors and explain what you want from them.

Devices and input

Probably one of the biggest hurdles to take for making existing office applications run on mobile devices is not as much software related as it is hardware related. Office applications traditionally only had to take computer mouse and keyboard input mechanisms into account. With devices such as smartphones, tablets and “two-in-one ultrabooks” , touch screens as input mechanism are gaining ground quickly. In december 2014 the Calligra project demoed a first version of its open source, touch enabled solution “Calligra Gemini”. Other solutions are expected to follow suit.

OpenDocument Format is an international *de jure* and open standard published first in 2005, and there are no known restrictions with regards to software patents or other legal hurdles to implement the standard on any platform and on any device. The technical specifications of ODF are available online for free.

It can also be safely implemented in open source software. The Software Freedom Law Center has published a thorough legal analysis on the matter, in which its Director-Counsel Prof. dr. Eben Moglen concludes:

<quote>On the factual basis described, and subject to reservations, it is our opinion that ODF, as standardized and licensed by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information (OASIS), is free of legal encumbrances that would prevent its use in free and open source software, as distributed under licenses authored by Apache and the FSF.</quote>

Act yourself where necessary

CENATIC is the National Reference Center for ICT applications based on open source, a strategic project of the Government of Spain. When CENATIC felt the need for an ODF viewer for the upcoming Android platform in 2010, it supported local open source developers to port an existing application for J2ME devices. Besides offering an office document viewer, it intended the code to “be used, improved and distributed by both communities, manufacturers and organizations, as end users”. Since then, quite a number of other apps for Android have been created including ports of existing open source implementations such as Calligra, LibreOffice, WebODF and Apache OpenOffice.

Vendor restrictions

In rare cases, the platform vendor may restrict your ability to create or distribute software yourself outside your organisation. For instance, even though the non-commercial webODF project has taken the effort to port its application to a natively installable app for iOS years ago, Apple has until now refused to put the final product into its app store. Since Apple only allows applications from the app store on its iPhones and iPads, and in practical terms blocks opening and handling of files otherwise, not having such an installer means that the application can only be used inside the browser on iOS. Before you start developing software, check if similar unfriendly conditions apply and possibly reconsider the choice of platform. There is a good choice of platforms that do not impose such restrictions on their users.