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A National Archive Moves to ODF 99

Andy Updegrove writes "The National Archives of Australia (NAA) has announced that it will move its digital archives program to OpenOffice 2.0, an open source implementation of ODF. Unlike Massachusetts or the City of Bristol (which announced it would convert to save on total cost of ownership), the NAA will deal almost exclusively with documents created elsewhere in multiple formats. As a result, it provides a "worst possible case" for testing the practicality of using ODF in a still largely non-ODF world. If successful, the NAA example would therefore demonstrate that the use of ODF is reasonable and feasible in more normal situations, where the percentage of documentation that is created and used internally is much larger."
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A National Archive Moves to ODF

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  • First (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Doytch ( 950946 ) < minus language> on Monday April 03, 2006 @05:28PM (#15053510)
    Is this the first time a national government has switched to odf?
  • Worst Possible Case? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by multiOSfreak ( 551711 ) <culturejam@g m a i l . com> on Monday April 03, 2006 @05:35PM (#15053560) Homepage Journal
    As a result, it provides a "worst possible case" for testing the practicality of using ODF in a still largely non-ODF world.

    Wouldn't this sort of test be a more or less good test case for switching to ODF and dealing with non-ODF outside documents? Maybe I just misunderstood the comment.
  • by qwijibo ( 101731 ) on Monday April 03, 2006 @05:58PM (#15053716)
    That's the point. The real world plethora of formats is the worst case. If ODF can handle the worst case, it would be a testament to the robustness of the format. The worst case test for interchangeable file formats would demonstrate that ODF is viable.
  • by MrPower ( 687654 ) on Monday April 03, 2006 @06:08PM (#15053782)

    What I think they meant to convey is that this will be a worse case scenario they can use for testing the practicality of using ODF in a non-ODF world.

    But I don't actually think so...

    Whereas I think this will be great for ODF, as the NAA will have to produce heaps conversion software to convert many formats to ODF but because they are an archiving operation, they won't ever have to convert back. Instead, I imagine that the common document format for outgoing files from of the archive will most likely be PDF...

    This scenario won't test the ability for ODF in collaborative work among entities, something that I would see as the worst case scenario needed to test the practicality of using this format.

    Having said all of that - to hell with everyone else - I have been using non Microsoft formats (first Star Office formats and now ODF) for five years now and rarely come across a problem. Then again, I am a simple user so I wouldn't expect too much grief. From my experience advising other people I can see that the true hurdle is not the file format, rather the application. Word and Excel are automated from so much business and scientific software that people just expect the results of their query or analysis to be dumped directly into their spreadsheet or word processor. So until Quicken or MYOB support something other that MS software, or until alternative software is produced that does, business will largely use MS.

    On the other hand I strongly recommend to people to use OOo at home and with the ever increaseing compatability that OOo has with MS formats, this is not a bad option.

  • Small experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anne Honime ( 828246 ) on Monday April 03, 2006 @06:20PM (#15053849)
    Back in the Uni, I was in charge of merging some 20+ articles from various authors into a single document. The target was to give the publisher a uniform document which he would then transform into a book.

    All documents were made with a flavour of Word or another, from word for MacOS 6.0 to the latest (at the time) word XP for windows. As you'd have already guessed, the only word processor able to make sense of all the documents at once was Of course, I faced issues (bulleting appearing "funny", for instance), but as I was applying a style I created, that was not a problem as long as the text was there.

    No single version of word in my possession was able to open all the documents, some documents even crashing word XP with thunder and lighting.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 03, 2006 @08:30PM (#15054560)
    Always happy to feed the trolls.
    Those which run under Linux probably wouldn't require new hardware either.
    Find me a Linux driver for my paid-for yet unsupported Microtek Scanmaker 4850 flatbed scanner, which was purchased long before I thought of switching this computer to Linux, and I'll believe you. Unless you are working with a computer that was built from the ground up for Linux, including buying a printed copy of a distribution's hardware compatibility list to carry with you to the computer store, I am 90 percent sure that you will have issues with at least one piece of hardware if you switch a computer from Windows XP to a common Linux distribution.
    I was very careful to use the word "probably." Note that the scanner (which we've heard you bitch about before) is a slightly niche product. Also note that it has little to do with document editing. Furthermore, you'll be able to purchase a new scanner for less than the cost of a lot of commercial software. I have converted a TON of legacy hardware to linux. There are, like your scanner, edge cases, but it is probably cheaper to deal with the edge cases than to continue business-as-usual. (And ANY migration can have edge cases--there is hardware that works on Linux & not windows (and, especially, not newer versions of windows.)
    And what about vertical-market proprietary software intended to run on the same computer, which is either available only for Windows or (if you're lucky) available for multiple platforms but priced such that using multiple platform versions in an organization is cost prohibitive? You would have to use Wine (significant overhead and less than full compatibility) to run your existing licensed software for Windows on a Linux box.
    Or you choose different software. Or you run one of the numerous apps which read ODF in windows (I notice that you didn't reply to the part of my comment which pointed out a majority of apps mentioned can be run there). It is your call.
    It's the same reason most listeners prefer payola'd major label music to independent music: repeated exposure builds familiarity.
    Familiarity isn't the strongest criteria for archival, though. Availability is. So the ARCHIVES made a fairly logical decision in choosing an open format with open implementations which nearly anyone can use.
    Which magazines and which TV channels are you looking at? In the news magazines and cable news channels, I see a whole bunch of advertisements for Microsoft Office software.
    I've seen some advertisement for third-party software or how-tos or what not. And I've seen advertisements for the niche Office apps in trade press (such as Sharepoint, Visio, etc.). There's also little reason to advertise when you're the monop^h^h^h^h^h market leader.
    Then why doesn't Sun advertise its StarOffice software, the official commercial distribution of Or by "giving away software" do you also mean "we're practically giving it away", that is, budget software?
    Where are the WordPerfect ads? Where are the MS Excel ads? I don't think conventional advertising is the norm for general purpose office apps. And it certainly isn't a criteria that any national archive should consider.

    This being said, there are OO.o bus ads [], and I'm sure they've done ads in trade publications as well.
  • by the_womble ( 580291 ) on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @12:40AM (#15055595) Homepage Journal
    Turning off java does speed up Openoffice considerably.

    So does increasing the memory settings.

    However it still takes about 3 or 4 seconds to start up on my desktop. As far as I remember from when I still used Windows this is not all that different from MS Office on XP on similar hardware. Does any one else who has done the same tweaks differ?

    However Abiword or Lyx starts instantly. I mostly use Lyx (which I find more productive) and Gnumeric (faster, with some nice features) rather than OO.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 04, 2006 @01:21AM (#15055719)
    If your documents are stored in MS Office formats, and you upgrade Office a few times over the years, who knows how many of your documents can no longer be opened, or displayed correctly?

    With the open, fully-documented ODF formats, any problems down the road can be analyzed, and corrected, but with the secret, proprietary MS Office formats, when a problem occurs, you're stuck!

    Thus, if you store your documents in MS Office formats, it means that you have to re-examine your entire archive, every time you update your MS Office software, or add a patch release.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger