Massachusetts Verdict: MS Office Formats Out

Yippee! It's about time:

The state of Massachusetts Friday made it official: It will use only nonproprietary document formats in state-affiliated offices effective Jan. 1, 2007. . . . As part of this new policy, the state will support the newly ratified Open Document Format for Office Applications, or OpenDocument, and PDFs (portable document format) as the standards for its office documents.

Yes. Only a techie writing teacher could get excited by government adoption of an open document format. But this is a big deal :)


I'm also a techie writing teacher, so I guess my enthusiasm has to be taken with some consideration too!

That article, though, didn't get into some of the more compelling reasons why a state government would wish to preserve an open office format. I would think there's much more to say about why a state government would be compelled to select open formats for its documents, and this article made it feel as if it were the preference of one CIO. It's great to see Mass get the ball rolling on this one.

I admittedly have not read much of the document, but one good thing is that they've published the technical report discussing their recommendation. This will be a great building block for others to use in similarly arguing for it.

The beginning of a trend, I hope.


I did find it odd that the state said they were in contact with Microsoft, but then selected to go OO anyway. The reason that is odd to me is because Microsoft has made the decision to make the default format of all documents (Excel, Word, Access) to be XML in their next Office suite. Why wouldn't Microsoft make this case if they thought they were going to lose a customer? Weird, weird.

The open format that Mass is advocating is also XML. The problem is that Microsoft's XML format is *their* XML format. Their current format is patented, so it still creates a vendor lock situation. Also, I would guess that the open format is better given thta it was collaboratively constructed.

Maybe I should have clarified. I was talking about Office 12, the upcoming Office (not the closed-XML or Wordprocessing ML, Excel ML, etc. patented for Office 2003).

From MS:

Microsoft Office Open XML Formats are fully documented file formats with a royalty-free license. Anyone can integrate them directly into their servers, applications and business processes, without financial consideration to Microsoft.

The open, royalty-free license will help ensure that third-party developers can easily integrate the file formats with their tools, enabling them to build solutions that provide universal access to Microsoft Office-based data without needing Microsoft Office applications and authoring tools.

I should have clarified, too :) I've read that the problem with all of their document patent licensing is that they may not be compatible with the GPL.