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1/2/2009
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Open Document Format Has Been Accepted By 16 Governments

The ODF Alliance, with Sun and IBM as principal backers, announced the countries would use ODF, not Microsoft's OOXML, as the format for government documents.

The Open Document Format continues to gain ground with governments as the format in which they wish to create important documents, despite Microsoft's Office format, OOXML, being recognized as an international standard as well.

Microsoft submitted Open Office XML to ECMA and the International Standards Organization and won approval for it in April. OOXML serves as the default format for Microsoft Office 2007 applications.

The ODF Alliance, with Sun Microsystems and IBM as principal backers, announced at the end of December that Germany and Uruguay had joined 14 other national and eight regional governments in requiring ODF, not OOXML, as the format for government documents. The ODF format was standardized by Oasis, an international standards body.

The importance of government support was evident when ODF backers initially won the support of the state of Massachusetts in requiring documents based on ODF. The state said it wanted its documents to be accessible to anyone far into the future, rather than being subject to a proprietary and changing format contained in Microsoft Office. Microsoft responded to the challenge by opposing ODF adoption in Massachusetts and submitting its own OOXML as an international standard.

No additional U.S. governmental departments or state governments have required ODF since the Massachusetts fight. But those that have include Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, Uruguay, and Venezuela. In addition, Andalucia and Extremadura, both states in Spain, require ODF, as do Assam and Kerala, states in India; Parana, a state in Brazil; Hong Kong, a state of China; and Misiones, a state in Argentina. Massachusetts stuck with its requirement that documents be generated by the state or submitted to the state in some open format, which may include OOXML as well as ODF; it also allows HTML, ASCII, PDF, and RTF.

China hasn't ratified ODF, but it's based its Evermore Integrated Office 2009 suite on OpenOffice.org, an open source desktop applications project. OpenOffice has adopted ODF. Sun offers StarOffice, a commercially supported form of OpenOffice, and likewise, IBM offers a revamped Lotus Symphony application set.

"It comes as no surprise that more governments are now requiring the use of ODF," said Marino Marchich, ODF Alliance managing director. "Governments can be assured they will have access to important documents over many years ... with no worries their software provider will discontinue support for the format," he added in a prepared statement at the end of 2008.

EIOffice is sanctioned by the Chinese government for use by its citizens and can read either ODF or OOXML files.

Microsoft in December started announcing the details of how it will support ODF, as it promised during OOXML standardization debates, in Service Pack 2 for Office 2007.

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