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Belgian Gov't requires ODF From 09/2008 106

Posted by Hemos
from the moving-faster-then-MA dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Belgian government has decided all government agencies will be required to use only open document standards from September 2008 onwards. One year earlier, they should be able to read them. In practice this means only ODF will be supported, although OpenXML will be considered if it becomes an accepted standard, and enough applications use it. According to a Belgian Microsoft-spokesman, Microsoft is considering supporting ODF (article in Dutch)."
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Belgian Gov't requires ODF From 09/2008

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  • Yeah, right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SpooForBrains (771537) on Monday June 26, 2006 @09:19AM (#15604956)
    According to a Belgian Microsoft-spokesman, Microsoft is considering supporting ODF (article in Dutch)


    Four little words. Cold day in Hell. Some reason will be found in a few months to delay the decision until Microsoft's format can be considered instead. When it comes to governments, money still talks ... *sigh*

    of course, I'd LOVE to be proved wrong, but where is the great German Linux migration, hmm?
    • Re:Yeah, right. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fishdan (569872) on Monday June 26, 2006 @09:35AM (#15605061) Homepage Journal
      The point is that once it has become an issue, it will always be considered as an alternative -- much like the spread of Firefox. Even if odf fails in Germany (which I'm not conceding yet btw), fails in Massachussetts, fails in Argentina, etc etc, one day it will succeed somewhere.

      What's really needed here is more than just a top level city/state/country decision. How many people are using odf in their daily lives? What killed WordPerfect was that they could not open Word Documents. Try sending out a few odf's every now and then and do YOUR part to show that it is being used. When you get the email back saying that it could not be opened, you'll have your OpenOffice and Open Document speech all ready to go. "Open Office opens all MSFT documents PLUS odf and does x y and z!"

      • Re:Yeah, right. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Khuffie (818093)
        And your resume gets tossed by the wayside and they look onto the next applicant that isn't trying to convert them onto something...
        • Or you get deported back to Canada because the governement didn't want to deal with your evangelism and lack of reading the requirements.
        • In the future you just might consider using pdf for your resume. Nothing sucks as much as an old version of word falling apart due to differences in document format. Or better yet, those little edits you made that changed the resume for the better can be 'back tracked' by the people considering to hire you.
        • C'mon (Score:3, Interesting)

          by fishdan (569872)
          well, sending your RESUME in odf might also get you hired if you send it to the right place -- and at my VERY large company (60k+ employees) we only accept resumes in .txt or .rtf or .pdf format. Emails with a .doc attachments sent to jobs@ourdomain.com bounce back with that message. We also list that very clearly on the web page.

          I'm not saying be a complete nazi about it, and I'm not advocating doing anything as stupid as sending your resume in a format someone might NOT be able to read (which includes

      • Can I keep doing my part using plain text ?

      • What killed WordPerfect was that they could not open Word Documents

        The rumours of WordPerfect [corel.com]'s death have been greatly exaggerated. A new version was released only last year. I know a number of people who still use it in their day-to-day work. Most of them are novelists. One is a lawyer. It isn't dead, it has been relegated to niche markets.
    • Four little words. Cold day in Hell.


      C'mon - we've seen this dozens of times before. They'll support it. Then they'll add extra "features that our customers want."

      Deja vu all over again.
    • If the article is to be trusted, the decission has already been made and the only way MS can get any foothold is to either support ODF or have OpenXML coexist at a ratio depending on it's third party support in comparison to ODF.
      • Re:Yeah, right. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by NNWizard (863065)
        Actually, for some issues the government has already adopted open standards for text documents. For instance, as far as research funding is concerned, many calls for proposal, along with the forms that must be completed, are distributed in odf format. It sure annoys our secretaries here at the university, but it is a good step at promoting open standards. If educated people who are potentially future decision makers are faced with such issues at 'training time', maybe they can make enlighted decisions at 'w
    • It'll be an even colder day in hell if Microsoft refuses to support a file format that everyone is going to use. Doing so would force people to use non-Microsoft software. Microsoft are not stupid. They would rather let their software read/write open file formats than have no one using their software.
      • Note the article doesn't say anything about how well ODF has to be supported.

        £10 says that Microsoft will implement a half-arsed attempt at supporting ODF, which sometimes produces interoperable documents but usually doesn't (of course they'll render perfectly in Office), the Belgian government will accept this and everyone will go home happy.
      • by ajs318 (655362)
        I don't know. The thing is, Microsoft's current business practice depends on forcing customers to buy MS Office. What usually happens is that someone receives a Microsoft Office document they can't open, from someone who has a new PC that came with MS Office already installed {which actually costs Microsoft a small amount}. They then get hold of a pirated version of MS Office, and eventually they might -- especially if they're a business -- get a paid-up version of MS Office. Given enough n00bs blindly
        • With the need to upgrade just to be able to read other people's documents removed, nobody is ever going to buy a paid-up copy of MS Office again.
          The problem with your theory is that you don't need MS Word to read other people's documents. Microsoft offers for free the MS Word viewer [microsoft.com] for this purpose.
          • The problem with your theory is that you don't need MS Word to read other people's documents. Microsoft offers for free the MS Word viewer for this purpose.

            hrmmm... can't seem to find a link to the linux version.

            • There isn't a linux version of MS Word either. If you read what I was replying to, it was the notion that people buy MS Word just to read Word documents written by others. If you can run MS Word you can run the viewer.
          • And the source code, so people who are not using Windows can compile it for their own setup, is where exactly?
    • Da bears (Score:3, Insightful)

      by porkThreeWays (895269)
      Agreed. It's sad, but true. Very few stick to their guns on these issues. MS comes in with their welcome wagon and gives away so many deals they are actually being paid to use product x. Then it doesn't become about idealology anymore and more about free money. I wish it weren't this way, but it is.
    • Re:Yeah, right. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by spectrokid (660550)
      My brother works in the Belgian justice system, and they are (slowly) migrating to Linux on the desktop. Money talks, yes indeed. And Linux is a hell of a lot cheaper.
    • Perhaps when it comes to governments, money still talks. but then only to obtain money from citizens, not for spending money for products that costs too much when there are alternatives. So to make this short and clear, yes the belgian government is, for years already, investing in good and decent open-source products instead in spending large amounts of money in commercial products that also contains bugs or operating systems which you need to (largely) slow down with anti-virus programs, spamkillers, an
    • Belgium is massively investing in the renewal of its administration.

      Lately we heard of many projects :

      - They plan to hire 7.000 cs by the end of 2007.
      - The e-ID card
      - Now people can pay their taxes on the web ... and lately :

      - The ODF format.

      It's not just an idea thrown into the air.
      That's a massive structural update at all the level of the organization of the belgian governement.

      Now if you are in this context and you have to choose for a common document format, would you really
      choose MS Word (.doc) file fo
  • Again ?! (Score:4, Informative)

    by GrosTuba (227941) on Monday June 26, 2006 @09:20AM (#15604958)
    You can tell they've definitely made up their minds [slashdot.org] !!!
  • "considering" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Monday June 26, 2006 @09:21AM (#15604961)
    MS is "considering" supporting ODF. They will continue to "consider" it and will go so far as to "almost promise" that ODF support will come. Once the Belgian government signs another contract with Microsoft based on the "near promises" and "strongly worded statements indicating that MS will indeed support ODF," Microsoft will decide that it's not feasible. They simply won't have the resources to devote to such a task.
  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Monday June 26, 2006 @09:21AM (#15604962)

    You know what that means, right? It means that not accepting MS Office files is just the tip of the iceberg. It means every other format the government uses will have to be open too, including audio/video codecs, and -- best yet -- CAD FORMATS!

    As a civil engineering student and Free Software advocate, this is really exciting, because right now AutoCAD has a near-monopoly on CAD for civil engineering applications, to the point where governments often require its native format (.DWG, .DXF) for contract proposals and such. Don't get me wrong -- AutoCAD isn't a bad program, but it's a Windows-only one, which makes me constantly frustrated at work. Mandating use of an open standard format might give a boost to competing, cross platform, software.

    Incidentally, I ran across this website that has a lot of good information about this: the Open Design Alliance [opendesign.com]. From their FAQ:

    Why is the Open Design Alliance necessary?

    Despite the common availability of neutral file formats, such as IGES and STEP, the vast majority CAD drawings are stored in proprietary formats. The best-known of these is Autodesk's DWG file format. DWG has, for many years, been far and away the world's most popular format for the storage and exchange of 2D and 3D CAD drawings, with billions of important drawings in this format around the world. With an estimated 5 million seats of AutoCAD sold throughout the world, AutoCAD is in a monopoly position within its market segment, where no competing product could be successful without the ability to read and write DWG files.

    Beyond this, DWG files have been used to store the designs of publicly funded roads and bridges, and US and other government contracts often explicitly require that drawing data be stored in DWG format. Autodesk has declined to publish the format or to make libraries available to read and write DWG files to those companies it considers competitors. The Open Design Alliance was originally founded as the OpenDWG Alliance in 1998 to provide an open specification for OpenDWG (it's version of the DWG format), and to provide program libraries -- to anyone who wanted them -- for reading and writing OpenDWG files.

    • You know what that means, right? It means that not accepting MS Office files is just the tip of the iceberg. It means every other format the government uses will have to be open too, including audio/video codecs, and -- best yet -- CAD FORMATS!

      Well, from the real article [zdnet.co.uk] this seems not to be so simple.

      They use sentences like "Belgium's government departments will be instructed to use an open file format for internal communications", "all document exchanges within the services of the Belgian Government w

      • For many people Microsoft Word is a de facto standard, they wouldn't consider using anything else even though not that long ago they probably would have used WordPerfect and before that WordStar.

        The point being that de facto standards can be toppled both from within the proprietary alternatives and the free software programs available. Microsoft has learned that to keep their users locked into Microsoft Office formats they have to do things we in the free software world can't do and wouldn't want to do
        • Microsoft has learned that to keep their users locked into Microsoft Office formats they have to do things we in the free software world can't do and wouldn't want to do--change the format

          Which is presumably why my copy of Office97 isn't able to open documents saved by the latest and greatest versions of MS Office.

          Except it can. MS don't do this, and haven't done it since they redesigned the format to use an extendible syntax, which was (I believe) first implemented in Word95. Older versions only fail to
    • Ah, just the man I wanted to talk to... ;)

      I need a simple and free CAD application for a one-time project, and I was wondering, since you're in the industry and all... Which one would you recomment? What I need is a simple 2D CAD application that's free and runs on both Windows and Linux (and preferably other OS'es) so I can share my files with others with as few restrictions on the platform it runs on as possible. I have some experience width CAD from using RoboCAD back in highgschool (which is now free

      • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Monday June 26, 2006 @12:15PM (#15606156)
        since you're in the industry and all...

        You did notice I said I'm a student, right? ; )

        Anyway, most of my (limited) experience has been with AutoCAD and SolidEdge, which are both expensive and Windows-only. I have done some research into the matter at times, though, but I don't think I'll be of much help.

        First of all, if your needs really are simple, you could just use a drawing/diagramming tool like xFig, Dia, or Inkscape. Beyond that, though, all I can really suggest is QCad or possibly BRL-CAD [brlcad.org], seeing as how those are about the only two Free* CAD apps for Linux that aren't already dead or "in planning" or whatever.

        I also found this list [tech-edv.co.at], although I suspect it isn't of much help.

        *I don't like QCad's license either, especially seeing as how the Free Software version is crippleware. I'm surprised nobody's forked it yet -- it needs it!

        • Thanks, I'll check 'em out in my spare time (kinda busy with other stuff right now).

          And yes, you're right, QCad definitely needs forking; the problem is not many people have a need for an open free CAD application, and few of them are coders... Fewer of them still, understand the whole math behind CAD applications. I guess that kind of sums up the reason there's so few FOSS CAD applications out there. At least, that's my theory.

    • For some information about other possible file format standards used by the Belgian government, see Belgif [belgif.be], the BELgian Governement Interoperability Framework. A lot of it is still in early stages, but it is nice knowing that the are discussing this in the open, with all possible partners. At least, they are discussing it with the other five governments [wikipedia.org] in Belgium (yes, it seems like a mess. But we can live with it).
  • by should_be_linear (779431) on Monday June 26, 2006 @09:24AM (#15604990)
    As MS employee, I can promiss we will not only support ODF, but extend ODF to many new ways our customers are excited to experience.
  • My mind hurts.it hurts.but I like the translated title!

    -
    Government exiles microsoft documents

    As from September 2008 its all digital office documents of the federal government Odf-bestanden. ODF or open document Format are a file format for office documents that previous month officially were accepted by the international standard organisation ISO. It opens, standard '', which by software developers at discretion can be used to develop applications. ODF are with that a potential competitor for its ow
  • by cazzazullu (645423) on Monday June 26, 2006 @09:39AM (#15605093)
    Here you go guys:

    Government bans Microsoft-documents

    From September 2008 onwards all digital office-documents of the federal
    government wil be ODF-files.

    ODF or open document format is a file format for office documents that
    was officially accepted last month by the international
    standards-organisation ISO.

    It concerns an "open standard", that can be used at will by software
    developers to create applications. ODF is therefor a potential
    concurrent for the own file formats the software giant Microsoft uses
    in its office software Microsoft Office.

    The federal ministrial counsel took the radical decision last friday to
    make the ODF-standards obligatory from September 2008 onwards for all
    federal governmental services. One year earlier all services must
    already be able to read the ODF documents. According to the magazine IT
    Professional Belgium is the first country in the world to take such
    measures, and thus de facto forbids the usage of the Microsoft formats.

    However the door isn't entirely closed for Microsoft. The company now
    has the choise: either they open their programs for ODF-files, or they
    develop a standard themselves that can be used next to ODF. The most
    important candidate for the latter is the by Microsoft designed Open
    XML.

    But according to Peter Strickx, who is responsible for software
    standards at the federal government, Open XML has to be first
    officially recognized and there have to be enough applications
    supporting the format. According to Microsoft spokesman Frank De Graeve
    they also consider supporting ODF in the Office software.
  • Or subvert?
  • by andrewman327 (635952) on Monday June 26, 2006 @09:46AM (#15605130) Homepage Journal
    I am very annoyed by Microsoft's additions to html in FrontPage. Fortunately it seems that they cannot do the same type of thing with ODF, as it is a more protected format.

    As much as I am ashamed to admit it, however, I use OpenOffice but save in the .doc format.

    Maybe what we need is a support group to expand odf. Let me start.

    "Hi, I'm Andrew and I have been using .doc for ten years."

    • Have you considered using Rich Text Format (RTF) instead? Word will read and save RTF without problems, and from past experience, RTF is consistently smaller in filesize than .doc. Unless you're using some feature in .doc that isn't in RTF, it should be a good alternative for you. I use it for all of my work documents (we are stuck using Office).
  • by gelfling (6534) on Monday June 26, 2006 @09:53AM (#15605164) Homepage Journal
    Here comes the deep discounts to Belgium for MS Office

    Here comes yet another bad business practice for MS stockholders to suffer at the hands of WalmartSoft.

    Here come the ./ bots to mod down my comments about MS.
  • by CAPSLOCK2000 (27149) on Monday June 26, 2006 @10:23AM (#15605374) Homepage
    This is a big step forward.
    The Belgium federal government might not be the biggest government in the world, it's still a big (read rich) government.
    You can bet your ass that many sotware companies are allready thinking of how they can make money out of this.
    This will increase the amount of secondary support and software available for OpenOffice.

    Also, if your biggest customer is the government (which is true for many companies), it would be logical to use the same file format. Especially if you can use it for free.

    Thirdly, if the government publishes documents on it's website, they will now do it in ODF, instead of MS-Office. Which means that many civilians will install ODF compatible software, just to read them.

  • Belgian Gov't requires ODF From 09/2008

    WANTED: Somebody to go forward in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box @#!%, Oakview, CA 93022. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own document formats. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.
  • Well if you look at the timeframe between the widespread of "word" for the "dummy" secretaries, and the time for ODF to be in use... It's what? 15 years?

    Plus concurrence is back. Word is buggy and the GUI sucsk. It's not hard to do a better job, but the bottleneck is compatibility with "word" format. So what? Well. Concurrence is again possible on the word processor market. Hurra!!

    Same thinking for DRMs. they're just starting out of she shelves. Will it take another 20 yrs before we have legislations that o
  • Well if you look at the timeframe between the widespread of "word" for the "dummy" secretaries, and the time for ODF to be in use... It's what? 15 years?

    Same thinking for DRMs. Will it take another 20 yrs before we have legislations that outlaw them? 2026? Well.. I can leave with a 20yr gap without a music/video purchase. But can the RIAA and MPAA?

    It's good to see that sooner or later ppl get to understand technology, and can easily get rid of abuse in a few years..

    I can't help but dream of the day with all
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Why is it that I can't help picturing the Thunderbirds launch sequence when I think of all those Microsoft lobbyists rushing off to Belgium?
    • Microsoft - FUCK YEAH!
      Here we come to save the Motherfuckin' World, yeah!

      Microsoft - FUCK YEAH!
      Freedom is the only way, yeah!

      Linux Hackers your day is up, cause now you have to answer to
      Microsoft - FUCK YEAH!

      So lick my butt, and suck my balls
      Microsoft - FUCK YEAH!

      What are you going to do when they send you .doc files
      It's the dream we all share, MS Office for tommorow

      FUCK YEAH!!!
      Vista, FUCK YEAH!
      Clippy, FUCK YEAH!
      X-Box, FUCK YEAH!
      Explorer, FUCK YEAH!
      Spyware, FUCK YEAH!
      Bluescreen, FUCK, YEAH!
      chkdsk, FUCK YEAH
  • Oooohhh....Belgium!

  • "OpenXML will be considered if it becomes an accepted standard, and enough applications use it"

    yes, sure it will become an accepted standard -- by sheer weight of their monopoly on desktop OS.

    and plenty applications will use it: M$ Office Basic Edition, M$ Office Starter Edition, M$ Office Professional Edition, M$ Office Director's Cut Edition etc

    btw, M$ will support ODF when WinFS is finally released.

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