Neelie Kroes Supports ODF In Government

Neelie Kroes is a smart and influential European bureaucrat. When she tells people “choosing open standards is a very smart business decision indeed” people listen.“When open alternatives are available, no citizen or company should be forced or encouraged to use a particular company’s technology to access government information. No citizen or company should be forced or encouraged to choose a closed technology over an open one, through a government having made that choice first. I know a smart business decision when I see one – choosing open standards is a very smart business decision indeed.” The campaign to use ODF for government documents is one I support too. It’s the right way to create, view, modify and distribute documents. Locking in one’s self to doing things M$’s way is not smart. It’s stupid, especially when we know it’s a trap M$ deliberately created to keep it’s cash cow pouring milk into M$’s pail.

Bill Gates recognized that M$’s monopoly depended on lock-in many years ago and did everything possible to achieve it including shifting file formats to force users to constantly update to new versions of their office software. This fixation on jerking around the market by manipulating file-formats persisted even to the days that M$ introduced their own ISO standard file-format.

M$ even went as far as figuring out ways to prevent converting M$’s file formats. Conversely, with FLOSS, users are in heaven.

See Support FixMyDocuments.eu.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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25 Responses to Neelie Kroes Supports ODF In Government

  1. oiaohm says:

    Deaf Spy I have used both Softmaker and Kingsoft Office suites. I can tell you now they are are better in some areas but horrible worse in others. Complex excel spreedsheet you will have a fairly good chance it will work in Libreoffice but absolutely no chance in either Softmaker or Kingsoft why the math functions will not be supported. This is the problem no matter how you look at it some OOXML documents will open perfect in Libreoffice yet fail completely in Softmaker or Kingsoft. The reverse is also true.

    Why must the open source implementation work. National Archives wish to archive the tools to access the data with the data. Business might get away with dispose of it after 7 years. Governments have to store records for historic reason for over 100 years. RTF came out of in the first place governments demands for means to archive. Government demands on software vendors for applications to access archival data to be part of archive is not new just they are getting more determined that their wish be granted.

  2. Deaf Spy wrote, “why should implementation in open-source office alternatives be supported? And why closed-source alternatives Softmaker and Kingsoft can do it just right?”

    Anything to avoid OOXML is a good thing. It’s a poor standard poorly implemented. It was designed to lock people into Wintel, an entirely bad idea.

    Softmaker is more expensive than LibreOffice and “like with all non-Microsoft office suites, are in documents which use VBA scripts. While BasicMaker is a step forward, it still doesn’t offer seamless VBA compatibility.” (Wikipedia).

    KingSoft costs less but has not yet been released for GNU/Linux.

  3. Deaf Spy says:

    The mixing of outdated and incompatible versions of OOXML, an XML document format, is hindering implementation in open source office alternatives.

    And why should implementation in open-source office alternatives be supported? And why closed-source alternatives Softmaker and Kingsoft can do it just right?

  4. OSOR covered this here:

    https://joinup.ec.europa.eu/elibrary/case/complex-singularity-versus-openness

    In short:

    The mixing of outdated and incompatible versions of OOXML, an XML document format, is hindering implementation in open source office alternatives. The different OOXML versions also pose difficulties for public administrations that use different proprietary office suite versions, and the inconsistencies are causing problems with older documents. The OOXML document format is hindering the interoperability of suites of office productivity tools.

  5. DrLoser says:

    There are lots of issues with a fluffy spec.

    But that isn’t what I asked, is it, Robert? Let me remind you what I asked.

    Why do you, Robert, consider the number of pages (lines, characters, let’s go full-on wc here) in a specification to be of any importance at all to the end user?

    Obviously, you know what I mean by that. But, for the benefit of others, like Dougman, with nothing but fluff between their ears:

    An ideal specification is nothing but a set of concrete and testable logical propositions, embedded in the linguistic form of choice.

    If you can boil that specification down to a single character, then good for you!

    But whether it takes a hundred pages or a thousand pages, who really cares? Not the end user. Not the developer. Not the architect.

    Who?

    And sometimes … just sometimes … it helps to be a little verbose here and there. Footnotes. Citations. References. That sort of thing.

    Evidently, Robert, you are able to build your own Office Suite from scratch, based upon a completely minimalist set of (obviously thorough and complete) requirements.

    Well, you know what? I can’t!

    You first, Robert …

  6. DrLoser wrote, “Why do you, Robert, consider the number of pages (lines, characters, let’s go full-on wc here) in a specification to be of any importance at all to the end user?”

    There are lots of issues with a fluffy spec:

    1. It’s a lot of work to implement. That cuts out competition by all but the big boys. That’s not in the interest of the end-user who should have lots of choices of supplier.
    2. That’s a lot of complexity, 6K pages. That means more bugs, more vulnerabilities, higher cost and likely, poor performance. Smaller is better for many reasons. End-users can buy luxury cars but smaller/cheaper is better in many cases.
    3. That solution does not fit the problem. In the old days, one could sketch a design for a house and a carpenter and crew would make it happen on-site with frequent trips to suppliers. Today, a modest home requires 7 big sheets of paper, each approved by some official for a fee. That reflects some increase in complexity, but the product is still a home with doors, windows and floors… Since ~1K pages is clearly sufficient to build a nice document, 6K must be too much for no extra benefit. The end-user benefits by some simplicity/ease of use even if the end-user is unaware that it’s the specs that outline his environment.
    4. If an end-user ever did want to peruse/skim the spec just out of curiosity, ~1K is manageable, like the dictionary or a large tomb or maybe a three-volume set of something. ~6K means a whole bookshelf putting such a product beyond 99.995% of humanity. People just aren’t curious enough to suffer that much pain by and large. I think it’s important for an end-user of anything to be able to grasp a manual and understand how it all works. They can for their house, their car, their TV, their PC… why not for their word-processor? What’s so special about that? If the documentation is not digestible, how can the application be usable?

    There it is, the K.I.S.S. principle applied to specifications.

  7. DrLoser says:

    I’m going to bypass the WallOfGibberish for once, Robert. Because I’m genuinely interested:

    Why do you, Robert, consider the number of pages (lines, characters, let’s go full-on wc here) in a specification to be of any importance at all to the end user?

    Because they’re not, you know.

    Fundamentally, the question is, “does it work for me?” And please leave the “lock-in” stuff for later, because that is not the issue here.

    The vast majority of consumers (of M$, Apple, Gnu/Linux, Android, etc products) stop right there. But let’s go one step further.

    Some consumers care about things like a reference model (ODF doesn’t have one) or a comprehensive test suite (ODF doesn’t have anything like that) or even the basics like predictable interoperability.

    Practically nobody other than tree-huggers cares how many pages the thing requires.

  8. oiaohm says:

    Deaf Spy PDF standard mandatory rendering rules state embedded undefined cannot be used in render processing for PDF. ODF demands ODF representation if its ever expected to be displayed.

    Of course you can embed your own things in an RTF.
    This is intentionally missing the fault.

    The issue here is that the embedded objects that are undefined have to be processed to print RTF document correctly. This is not true with PDF or ODF. ODF demands production item must have a representation in the ODF standard if it is to be displayed. PDF standard says embedded extras that are not defined as part of the PDF standard are not to be rendering at all and only to be extractable. Note to print transitional OOXML is also required to process the extra embedded bit same error as RTF.

    Unclean document standards require processing of extra embedded parts out standard to produce results.

    Latex supports free-flow. Latex is free-flow and fixed position. But it has strict rules for both. Claiming since RTF ODF and so on are free-flow so cannot have rendering rules is bogus. This also shows a failure to understand what Latex is.

    Deaf Spy National archives have to store electronic documents for hundreds of years. This has included tools to convert MS Office documents to ODF and PDF for archiving. Governments switching to ODF/PDF reduces overhead on their national archives.

    How exactly a lock-in to a proprietary format (pretty well documented) is any different than a lock-in to an open format?
    Open format you can archive the program to access in most cases. Mind you national archives have a list of extra requirements on top of a format not just being proprietary. The tools to access and modify the format must not be proprietary and must be able to completely render by National archives. PDF/A options are acceptable to national Archives. Please note PDF/A is not all forms of PDF.

    If a citizen wants a document from their National Archives they will most likely only get it in open formats any how. This is a international reality.

    Deaf Spy you like to claim no complaints about MS Office. Then please explain why more and more governments are switching. There are on going complaints from governments is the breaks between versions. Open Source Office suite at least allows them to afford to update to the same version.

    Deaf Spy there have been tones of “company X” that have attempted to process and render Microsoft Office documents. Result has been broken rendering.

  9. Deaf Spy says:

    The world needs a document format not designed by salesmen at M$.
    And who says so? Mr. Pogson? History is full of philosophers saying what the world needs, but only according to them. Sadly, the world itself fails to agree and follow. Go figure.

    …as if no one complains about interoperability, shifting file-formats, and the Wintel treadmill as tools of lock-in.
    Seeing the marketshare of MS Office, and the popularity of SharePoint (still the best-selling MS product, excelling even Kinect), only a tiny minority complains.

    Lock-in is real. Live with it.
    How exactly a lock-in to a proprietary format (pretty well documented) is any different than a lock-in to an open format?

    Let’s imagine that MS disappear tomorrow from the face of the earth. On the first day, Pogson will celebrate. On the second day, Pogson will be hungover. On the third day, company X will have already picked support for office documents. You know why? Because that will be a great business opportunity.

  10. Deaf Spy wrote, ” Documents are created, edited, endorsed, and archived. Simple, short-lived lifecycle.”

    Nonsense. Many documents in government are intended to be perpetual. e.g. treaties, records of votes in the legislature, etc. The world needs a document format not designed by salesmen at M$.

    Further, Deaf Spy wrote, of bad software, “when such a thing happens in real-world, the citizen or company would simply abandon the said software product.”

    …as if no one complains about interoperability, shifting file-formats, and the Wintel treadmill as tools of lock-in. Lock-in is real. Live with it. Wise people know that lock-in gets worse over time so the lucky ones have already migrated away from M$ and the rest are figuring out how to do it. Some just give up and pay whatever M$ wants. That’s why margins are so high for M$’s business unit. Eventually everyone will reach some tipping point where the cost of upgrading the archives exceeds the current licensing bills and migrates. Munich migrated for other reasons but with the same result. They saved a bundle. So will France and every other government who sees the light.

    Governments all over Europe have realized there is lock-in and are collaborating to reduce/avoid/escape it. “Out of the 106 persons who registered for the Workshop, 77 actually attended the event. Most of them were representing central and local EU public administrations, research institutes and various business support organisations, as well as ICT suppliers. Some of the members of the Multistakeholder Platform (MSP) on ICT standardisation also attended the Workshop.” Read a report on the conference.

    Lock-in is a well recognized phenomenon in governments there:“how many types of lock-in are there? Essentially two.
    *Strict lock-in: This type of lock-in can be traced back to those legal restrictions that we used to see in the 80’s.
    *Soft lock-in: This type of lock-in is the most widespread nowadays and it can be summarised with one word: convenience.
    Most individuals and organisations are scared of moving from a proprietary system to another because of convenience. Indeed, the cost of moving from one supplier to another (switching costs) might be very high for end consumers and organisations. Let’s think of a consumer that has to switch from his smartphone, which he is confortable with, to another smartphone of a different brand. It is clear that he will have to bear some costs before understanding how to use the new product.
    We should therefore avoid, if possible, buying proprietary systems that, even if very easy-to-use, will raise the switching costs of moving from a vendor to another. But how do we do that? How we do make sure to be able to move from one vendor to another?”

    So, Deaf Spy might be deaf to lock-in but the rest of us are not.

  11. Deaf Spy says:

    Ohio, glad to see that something (Ole Structural Storage) got into your head for long enough at least to search it in Google and spill back some incoherent text. Of course you can embed your own things in an RTF. Why should everyone else be able to render them? You can embed private things in a PDF, too. And even Adobe Reader will not render them.

    Even so RTF does not include any rendering information either.
    It was never intended to, little one. Nor is DOC(X). Nor is ODF. These three have one thing in common, and it is that they are free-flow formats. Latex and PDF, on contrary, are not, they are fixed-position texts.

    Try something better next time, or I will simply ignore you. Ah, and BTW, did you learn the difference between KLM and Windows 8 MPC?

  12. Deaf Spy says:

    Why should a citizen or company be forced to accept closed document formats, especially when the citizen or company finds these formats are badly implemented by their creator and tools to use them are incredibly expensive?

    Pogson, when such a thing happens in real-world, the citizen or company would simply abandon the said software product. This is exactly the reason why software companies go out of business. See Lotus, who failed to create a GUI-friendly version of 1-2-3 on time. See Borland, who failed to create a stable IDE that can match Eclipse or VS. These are just the well-known names that were once successful. Many small companies never saw success, because their product sucked from day 1.

    Now, you try to imply that there is some supernatural powers at Microsoft, which can force people to use software they don’t. No, there are no such things. When a citizen / company does like Windows, he / it buys Mac.

    So, you have 10K documents in the organization and that trivial process can be done to make things right
    What processing do you mean, Pogson? Documents are created, edited, endorsed, and archived. Simple, short-lived lifecycle. I don’t see how exactly ODF will help here.

    Let me tell you about an open format. HTML / CSS. Now, please enlighten me why some pages are rendered differently in Chrome, Firefox and Safari?

  13. oiaohm says:

    Deaf Spy MS Word inserts binary blobs as base64 encoded inside RTF files that are OLE structural storage basically fragments of a .doc file due to embedded object in the document being converted to RTF.

    Yes processing everything that a RTF can be equals having to be able to process binary .doc as well.

    I will give you pure clean only to standard parts of RTF is nice to process problem here is majority are not clean. MS Office generated RTF prepare to shot self as its horible. In fact its horible on so many levels like stating at the start its using X version RTF then having newer RTF features in the document.

    Deaf Spy the key world you used was most. I have attempted to do all RTF documents. I will tell having todo OLE binary and RTF with over laps between RTF decoded OLE and binary still encoded OLE really starts sending pushing you to want to kill someone. MS word produced RTF files can be just horible messes of O my I am every standard. Old binary .doc is cleaner. I will give you still horible.

    ODF you can read all. The spec of ODF decided not to define a structure for undefined data. Wise move. OOXML contains a structure for undefined data with history of how this will be used its not wise to exist.

    Even so RTF does not include any rendering information either. This is what has been going on and why two programs cannot render documents the same heck change printer and under windows ms word renders differently. Lets define how to store stuff lets not bother defining how it rendered. Latex and PDF standards both define what final render should look like. As far as I know Latex and PDF are the only commonly used document format that are documented how they should render.

    Robert Pogson RTF existed before ODF. If RTF had worked as the idea states there would be no ODF word-processor document. The reality is ODF exists because RTF failed due to Microsoft miss management that is suspected to be intentional to gain market share. Documents around the word perfect case suggest Microsoft intentionally broke RTF.

    I was one of the people who thought RTF was going to save us from document transfer nightmares between programs back in that time.

    To be truthful I am waiting for either ODF to mature and release formal rendering documents or for ODF replacement to appear that has formal rendering documents.

  14. Deaf Spy wrote, “RTF is a plain-text-encoded document, which anyone with half a brain can generate and read to get most of the data in most of the practical cases.”

    So, you have 10K documents in the organization and that trivial process can be done to make things right. What’s the cost? What’s the rate of errors? Better to avoid these riskscertainties and convert to ODF sooner rather than later.

  15. Deaf Spy wrote, “Why should a citizen or company be forced to accept open document formats?”

    Why should a citizen or company be forced to accept closed document formats, especially when the citizen or company finds these formats are badly implemented by their creator and tools to use them are incredibly expensive? M$’s offerings should be accounted with the cost of escaping M$’s grasp included, giving the real cost of plodding along the Wintel treadmill. Then no one would stay on. Yep, you get the software for ~$10 per annum but it will cost ~$10 per document to migrate away from M$…. That’s a really bad deal, eh? Multiply that out by ~5 documents per day per user times 8 years times 100 users…

  16. Deaf Spy says:

    Ohio, you try to best yourself:
    Its simpler to process the old binary .doc than it is to process RTF

    Let me guess. You’ve never, ever tried to parse an old binary .doc file. Never. You even don’t have the slightest idea what you are talking about. As usual.

    FYI, I’ve been there, done that, and got the t-shirt. Fighting with OLE structural storage (step 1) can send one screaming into the night. Parsing the format itself (step 2) is even worse.

    At the same time, despite the versions and all, RTF is a plain-text-encoded document, which anyone with half a brain can generate and read to get most of the data in most of the practical cases.

  17. Deaf Spy says:

    One thing I really don’t get. Why should a citizen or company be forced to accept open document formats? Especially when the said citizen or company finds these formats are well-documented, and tools that produce proprietary formats better?

  18. oiaohm provided a link to an RTF spec…

    “With the RTF Specification, documents created under different operating systems and with different software applications can be transferred between those operating systems and applications. RTF files created in Word 6.0 (and later) for the Macintosh and Power Macintosh have a file type of “RTF.” “

    Yeah, right… If the world used ODF there would be no need at all for RTF. Further, if M$ had been sincere, there would be no need for multiple versions of RTF but they kept extending it anyway so M$’s RTF processing would be the only one up to date, on the newer releases. It’s all part of the Wintel treadmill.

  19. oiaohm says:

    DrLoser RTF was ruined by Microsoft with undocumented extensions.
    If RTF has not been ruined lot of issues would not have happened.
    http://www.biblioscape.com/rtf15_spec.htm
    As per normal DrLoser making up wild guesses. RTF spec document itself is 157 page in length for 1 version. This is incomplete due to binary blobs of ms office documents been found inside rtf files. There is another 900+ pages of documents to read before you can process every RTF file in existence without the binary blobs. RTF is not consistent between version numbers. Yes there are about 7 versions of RTF documentation you have to read and play spot the difference.

    Fairly much processing RTF takes as much reading as it is to process all ODF file types. This is Microsoft Fault as they were the ones who created the RTF standard and was in charge of managing it. Microsoft we make a bug in the program we make a new version of RTF. Microsoft treatment of RTF is why OOXML release was not highly trusted. Its simpler to process the old binary .doc than it is to process RTF. Why the old binary .doc all the differences between versions is in fact in one document. Same is true of ODF that all version information is in 1 document. OOXML has sub versions. Please Microsoft stop torturing implementers.

    DrLoser here is the real killer out of ODF less 1K pages and OOXML over 6K pages neither of those documents include any information what so ever on rendering the document to screen or paper. At least ODF has a reference implementation you can look inside of. So there is no such thing as ODF or OOXML rendered as per standard. PDF on the other hand standard documents how stuff should render to screen or paper. If you want a file to look the same at source and final location PDF it.

    http://plugfest.opendocsociety.org/doku.php If they render anywhere near the same with ODF comes down to the yearly plug test. From memory Microsoft hosts something the same with OOXML.

    DrLoser I could give you linked to ODF and OOXML graphical conformance testing examples but reality since that stuff is not in the standard they are highly subjective. The lack of information on rendering in both standard does explain why there rendering can go so badly south.

  20. DrLoser says:

    Nope. Those “standards” are very burdensome. M$’s spec was 6K pages… ODF was less than 1K.

    I can save you three orders of magnitude on both specs, Robert. In only six pages, I can define precisely how to format a document in plain ascii.

    Should you choose, you can move up to RTF (which is good enough for most household purposes). No idea how many pages that spec is, but I reckon I could manage it in, say, 60 pages.

    But yes, you’re right: this is a hitherto unexamined way to attack Microsoft for their fiendish plans.

    “I was going to write a birthday note to my grannie in DOCX, but now I realise that the specification for DOCX, which I was never going to read in the first place, is a whopping 6K pages! Oh, the Humanity!
    “The ODF specification is less than 1K, but it’s still too big for my poor little brain. I must, I must, I must, read every single word!”

    No, wait, I’ll just send flowers instead. Yes, that would be conformant with real-world expectations.

  21. DrLoser says:

    Even if most users switch to ODF, MS Office renders ODF like poop, so nothing is really gained. MS Office can’t save to ODF properly either.

    Really? Other than the fact that Libre renders ODF like poop, I haven’t come across a significant issue either way here.

    Confirmation bias? Or do you have evidence?

  22. kurkosdr, advising the world stuck in a hole to keep digging, wrote, “the compatible choice is doc, ppt and xls”.

    Nope. Those “standards” are very burdensome. M$’s spec was 6K pages… ODF was less than 1K. Better to make a clean break and set up a crew to convert the inventory to ODF. One could probably prioritize the inventory of documents by access-dates or whatever to get the job done on time. The important things are the templates/forms. They are often numerous but far fewer than the archives of documents. Too bad the world doesn’t send M$ the bill for escaping the hole M$ created.

  23. dougman wrote, “saves some money in the long run”.

    It’s forever, so the savings are an infinite sum. That’s a lot of money. Even if the outlay is a few $hundred every decade per PC, that’s a few $tens per annum per PC. Enough years and enough PCs make it as big as you want, $millions, say. Most organizations think in shorter terms like the time to “break even”/make the investment in time and money pay off. For migrations I’ve done, break-even was in a week or so because we had better IT right away for $0 and about the time I would have wasted “fixing” that other OS. Most larger organizations see break-even in a year or two at most. This is why I say “Don’t plan, just migrate.”, because all the problems that arise are fixable and probably in way less time than it takes to make the perfect plan. Even on my biggest migration, done under a contract. I did no detailed planning, just obtain the hardware and install on it. Configuration was just a few hours. The biggest job was just moving equipment around for which task I had another body to help. There were only two or three significant problems in the whole process: getting Multiseat X to work and I did mess up authentication but that was fixed promptly and the system was delivered in ten days instead of the contractual 30 days because I was younger then and worked 16h days…

  24. dougman says:

    KUKU, your IF/THEN statement is illogical. In your statement, X has no relation to Y, and Z has no correlation.

    So lets examine:

    – If users switch to ODF…You left this blank, but I will fill it in for you. If users switch, then they are free of M$ lock-in and saves some money in the long run.

    – M$ renders ODF like poop, seems to say that they are willfully doing and not wanting to play with others, as ODF is an accepted ISO/IEC 26300:2006 standard and M$ wants to maintain it’s struggling dominance.

    – M$ cannot save to ODF properly, that’s more then likely by design. I mean, the ODF standard is open and available for them to read. To understand what I am saying, lets refer to the ISO website.

    “What is a standard?

    A standard is a document that provides requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose.

    What are the benefits of ISO International Standards?

    ISO International Standards ensure that products and services are safe, reliable and of good quality. For business, they are strategic tools that reduce costs by minimizing waste and errors, and increasing productivity. They help companies to access new markets, level the playing field for developing countries and facilitate free and fair global trade.”

    Level playing the field and create free/fair trade. I think those items go against what M$ is vainly attempting to do on the world scale, eh?

  25. kurkosdr says:

    Ahem… Even if most users switch to ODF, MS Office renders ODF like poop, so nothing is really gained. MS Office can’t save to ODF properly either.

    Sounds weird, but the compatible choice is doc, ppt and xls. Microsoft has an interest in maintaining compatibility with those formats, said formats don’t change, and they are generally well-understood so Libre/OpenOffice can handle them too.

    A similar thing happens with video. You choices for broad compatibility are DVD-Video and Divx avi, a proprietary format and a franken-format respectively. Normally we should use MP4, but “the internet” can’t seem to decide whether the sound should be AC3 or AAC. MKV-H.264 is much worse, since you can encounter sound in AC3, DTS, FLAC and AAC.

    Progress!

    PS: The newest version of Libre is good for the basics.

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