Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Belgium Chooses OpenDocument 77

Posted by timothy
from the land-of-the-free-format dept.
Freggy writes "The Belgian government decided today that all public services should use open standard file formats for the exchange of office documents ( press release in Dutch, French). The reason is that they don't want to force people to have to buy a proprietary program to be able to read official documents. All federal public services should be able to read ODF files by September 2007. If no problems arise after a study, the use of the file format will be obligatory from September 2008."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Belgium Chooses OpenDocument

Comments Filter:
  • by neonprimetime (528653) on Friday June 23, 2006 @02:44PM (#15591424) Homepage
    bon métier belgium
  • by soloport (312487) on Friday June 23, 2006 @02:45PM (#15591431) Homepage
    Hope they don't waffle on this like MA (USA)

    Dah dumph!
  • agree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by joe 155 (937621) on Friday June 23, 2006 @02:47PM (#15591441) Journal
    I agree completely, no one should be barred from having access to their governments documents because they can't afford some software... although I wonder what closed standard they were using that couldn't be opened by free aplications. ".doc" opens fine in Oo, .pdf's open fine in Xpdf... Still, it is a good move from the side of being able to access the data in years to come (and it's good for open source as a whole)
    • Re:agree (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      http://partners.adobe.com/public/developer/pdf/ind ex_reference.html [adobe.com]

      Please repeat:

      PDF is not a closed format.
      PDF is not a closed format.
      PDF is not a closed format.
      PDF is not a closed format.
      PDF is not a closed format.
      PDF is not a closed format.
    • Re:agree (Score:4, Informative)

      by javilon (99157) on Friday June 23, 2006 @03:08PM (#15591640) Homepage
      I guess they want to solve the problem where microsoft changes its format overnight and everybodys application stops reading the documents created with the new version until they either pay for a new version of office, or wait until openoffice catches up.
    • .doc doesn't always open fine in Open Office. Too often the formating is all messed up, and sometimes it's completely illegible. Also, if you have an old computer you may be limited to Abiword or something else that isn't a resource hog like OO, and Abi's support for .doc sucks. The reason Xpdf (and Evince, ect) work so well with PDFs is because Adobe opened the specs for their format. Microsoft hasn't and never will with .doc, so any other word processor trying to use it will never fully work like it w
    • Re:agree (Score:4, Informative)

      by Matt Perry (793115) <perry.matt54 @ y a h o o . c om> on Friday June 23, 2006 @04:53PM (#15592471)
      ".doc" opens fine in Oo
      At the moment it does, and only because of extensive effort to reverse engineer the format. What if the format changes in a future version? If governments use some newer version of Office to create a document, and OpenOffice can't open that then should citizens just wait for OpenOffice to reverse engineer the new format? How long could that take?
      • We/You have several hysterical^Whistorical examples of MS-Office components being changed to do exactly that.

        When you realise that Bill appears to do everything either for more money or more control, this stops being surprising. This observation also makes the future plain: MS-Office document formats will almost certainly be broken several more times during the suite's death^Wlife-span, whereas more suites (possibly including MSO) will come to do OpenDocument I/O as well.

        Belgium has (once more) planned to a
    • although I wonder what closed standard they were using that couldn't be opened by free aplications. ".doc" opens fine in Oo, .pdf's open fine in Xpdf...

      ...and .xls files (including ones with VB Script) open fine in OO.o Calc, and .ppt files open fine in OO.o's presentation app (or whatever it's called), and...

      ...oh wait.

    • Re:agree (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      As Microsoft has historically offered freely downloadable 'Reader' programs for its various Office file formats, the argument for open standards needs to be much more than 'you can read it without paying for software'.
    • by Tim C (15259)
      no one should be barred from having access to their governments documents because they can't afford some software

      I agree, but likewise no-one should be barred because they can't afford a computer.
      • true, but there are always public librarys that people can use, as well as that people can still get hard coppies
  • go without saying (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jandar (304267) on Friday June 23, 2006 @02:48PM (#15591459)
    "The reason is that they don't want to force people to have to buy a proprietary program to be able to read official documents"

    Incedible this isn't self-evident for any government.
    • by Kadin2048 (468275) <.slashdot.kadin. .at. .xoxy.net.> on Friday June 23, 2006 @03:34PM (#15591871) Homepage Journal
      Well it's self-evident to most governments that aren't receiving a substantial amount of tax revenue from a particular company marketing the software, or where the individuals in that government haven't been given large campaign contributions by said company.

      It's sort of a litmus test, in fact. It's like sending out a survey ("Question: Do you think that forcing all of your citizens to send between $80-300 USD each to Redmond, Washington, USA is a good idea?") but without having to do all the paperwork. You just watch the results roll in.
      • receiving a substantial amount of tax revenue

        I assure you tax revenue has nothing to do with it - brown envelopes stuffed with cash, "campaign donations", month long "fact finding trips" to tropical islands, etc - that's what motivates governments.

      • It's like sending out a survey ("Question: Do you think that forcing all of your citizens to send between $80-300 USD each to Redmond, Washington, USA is a good idea?") but without having to do all the paperwork.

        What format would this survey be distributed in?

      • Well it's self-evident to most governments that aren't receiving a substantial amount of tax revenue from a particular company marketing the software ...

        Well, that would be most of them seeing as MS basically pays no tax [theregister.co.uk]. Even so, that company must be running on fumes by now since even MSFT shares [yahoo.com] have been tanking in stages and its stock used to provide more income that its cash cow Windows.

  • Bad Reason Then (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The reason is that they don't want to force people to have to buy a proprietary program to be able to read official documents.

    Huh? There are free downloadable viewers for Microsoft Office documents as well as pdf files. You don't have to force anybody to buy anything when they are already free.

    More FUD from the OSS crowd once again. Its not just the big bad evil corps that seem to be engaging in it.
    • Re:Bad Reason Then (Score:3, Informative)

      by PunkOfLinux (870955)
      Just so you realize, those viewers ONLY run in windows.
  • This is really great to see progress on the open format front, even if it isn't in the US. The Massachusetts thing is such a farce... first they say they'll do it, then vendors make them question it, then who knows... I saw an article [boston.com] in the Boston Globe about Microsoft donating $30M "worth" of "advanced software-writing and Web-building technology" software to Massachusetts public high schools and colleges. While it's nice to get free stuff, we can easily see that Microsoft is doing that to keep schools from adopting open solutions. Why try GNU/Linux + the GNU dev tools for development, or Nvu for web site creation, when Microsoft gave us Visual Studio and (gulp) Frontpage for free? It's a good argument, too! I don't know who can do it, but someone needs to sit down and realize that accepting $30M of donated software is really allowing M$ to bypass a real evaluation of the best software for the school's needs, and gaining them favor in future business dealings. If the whole school has Visual Studio for free, of course they'll buy upgrades, especially if M$ throws in another discount! And for M$,it's just pure cash.

    • How about the EFF(USA) donating 50 Mio. USD in OSS to MA - calculated based on Microsofts packet prizes for equivalent software. Ideally they should donate the Software on a physical medium (aka CDs) - the production cost of 1USD per CD cost could probably easily collected via PayPal donations. The CD could be some http://theopencd.org/ [theopencd.org] for clients and a server software CD with Apache/PHP/MySQL and PostgreSQL, Python, Zope and for example some good webapps like eGroupware etc.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Belgium is still the core of the EU: it's one of the three founding members and informally the capital state of EU, with Brussels as the administrative nerve center of the EU.

    Belgium has a prioneering role in lots of initiatives, it's possible that other EU countries will take opening up their documents more seriously.

    Hooray for Belgium!
    • There were 9 founding members. I can't remember many initiatives from belgium actually. However I do hope that this sets a precedent for other EU states.
      • There were neither three, nor nine. There were six countries who founded the EU: Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Luxembourg, Italy and Germany.

        Though three might be also true, but only to some extent if you think that the founding of Benelux should be considered as the start of the future EU.
  • this is stupid (Score:2, Interesting)

    by stubear (130454)
    Why is the government sending out documents which can be easily edited? Word and its ilk (word processing documents) are the absolute worst file types to distribute things like this in. PDF and Microsoft's new XPS are perfect for this sort of thing and it's what they were designed for. Not only would PDF be great for reading, you can extend its functionality with forms. Governments could do away with paper forms cutting down on processing time and errors.
    • Why do you say PDF's aren't easily editable? Oh, you're using the free Adobe Reader. If you look around, there are other cheap or free software that can import or mark up PDF's. Just because it's not easy for you, doesn't mean someone else can't do it easily. It's easy when you know how!
      • Unless a document is digitally signed, ANY format (proprietary or open) is editable.

        Like the GP, I would much prefer documents that weren't meant to be edited to be distributed in PDF format*. Although they certainly can be edited, PDF's aren't generally meant to be edited and the format reflects this - and it is actually these "reflections" that make PDF preferable, not the issue of editability (if that's even a word) itself. Examples includes not reflowing pages and the availability of a light-weight re

        • Unless a document is digitally signed, ANY format (proprietary or open) is editable.

          If you want to be pedantic, those formats are editable too. Perhaps the signature probably won't validate (unless you don't mind waiting a little while), though.

  • If not wanting to force people to pay to be able to view documents is their reason for switching to open formats, then they are missing the point.
    Besides, Word Viewer [microsoft.com] is, and always has been, free.
    The point should be that the *format* is non-proprietary, not the program.
    My two cents, anyway.
  • Now we know what tool to use when we write our Serious Screenplays.
  • Rough translation (Score:4, Informative)

    by riflemann (190895) <riflemann@ b b . c a ctii.net> on Friday June 23, 2006 @05:13PM (#15592610)

    Use of open standards for office document exchange.

    The ministerial department has decided upon the open standard format to be used for the exchange of office documents.

    Minister Vanvelthoven: 'The format of office documents such as text documents and spreadsheets is currently based primarily on popular office suites such as Microsoft Office and Corel Wordperfect Office. Documents produced by these products can usually only be read by those products. When you need to exchange documents with someone else, you're also forcing them to use the same software that the document was made with.'

    To reduce the dependencies on these proprietary formats, we need to make use of open standard formats. XML is a standard for the exchange of information between diverse computer systems; an XML based document is thus guaranteed to have long term accessibility to the information within.
    The OpenDocument Format (ODF) is an XML based document format that is approved by the ISO (International Standards Organisation). Hence we propose to to settle on the use of ODF as the standard format for the exchange of office documents such as from word processors, spreadsheets, presentations, as soon as it's approved by the ISO.

    All federal government departments must be able to read ODF documents by September 2007. This doesn't exclude the use of other formats. The responsibility of guaranteeing readability is up to the relevent departments.

    Depending on the result of a [federal ICT dept] managed impact analysis, from September 2008 the official format for the exchange of office documents will be ODF.

  • Last time I tried, I couldn't open my odt file in MS word. I had to save it as a .doc file and you can imagine what that done to the formatting.

    Admittedly, this is solely Microsofts fault. But I can imagine alot of people having the same problem.
  • At the bottom of the press release is a link http://www.belgif.be/ [belgif.be] to a Wiki (available in English, French, and Dutch) discussing something called the "Belgian Interoperability Framework".

    To quote from the site:

    Like many other countries, Belgium has decided to have its own interoperability framework. It is a result of the collaboration between several belgian institutionnal levels and is compatible with the European Interoperability Framework (EIF). Defining interoperability means to define how technic

"More software projects have gone awry for lack of calendar time than for all other causes combined." -- Fred Brooks, Jr., _The Mythical Man Month_

Working...