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ODF – The Key to Preserving Government Data

Dr. Yusseri Md. Yusoff CTO of Omnilogic Sdn Bhd on behalf of The Malaysian Open Source Software Alliance (MOSSA)
We'd put a logo here, except that we can't decide which one ...


Standards – use of, abuse of ODF – ISO/IEC 26300:2006

International standard with overall goodness

Reasons for Having a Standardised Document Format Examples of ODF in action Conclusions Questions


Standards are, at its core:
– –

An agreed way to do something NOT an application

ergo, independent of implementation which is different from competitiveness

A mechanism to ensure competition

Often subject to manipulation by interested parties

(Trivial) Example of a Standard

Consider the example on the left

Three soft drinks bottles (contents drank by presenter beforehand) 1 Kickapoo Joy Juice 1 100plus Lemon Lime 1 Coca-cola

– – –

(Trivial) Example of a Standard, con't

Now, the bottles have their caps swapped around

Kickapoo bottle, 100plus cap 100plus bottle, Kickapoo cap Coke bottle, PepsiMax cap

(Trivial) Example of a Standard, con't

In the example given, we consider the caps to be adhering to a set standard. As such, the caps can be swapped around. Extensive experimentation have shown this to be true for all 1.5 litre soft drink bottles and their caps.

As such, manufacturers of soft drinks can pick and choose which suppliers of bottles and caps to use, as long as they adhere to the standard cap size

The Open Document Format – ISO/IEC 26300:2006

The OpenDocument format is a file format for

word processing documents, presentations, spreadsheets and charts

First developed by the Open Office XML Technical Committee of the Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS)

based on the file format used by

ODF is an Open Standard

ODF is an Open Standard – NOT an Open Source software project

freely available, unencumbered by royalty claims or other Intellectual Property Rights shenanigans Key contributor, Sun Microsystems have made an irrevocable intellectual property covenant on their patents, see:

Specs can be downloaded at:

Reasons for having a standardised document format

Big Picture View

Not beholden to a single vendor for your documents Sovereignty and security Freedom of choice Ownership of your data forever (or until your hard disk dies)
(All the above are more or less the same thing)

Pragmatic View

Version incompatibility (theoretically) eliminated

e.g. Microsoft Word '97 cannot open Microsoft Word XP documents

Application incompatibility (also theoretically) eliminated

e.g. Documents can be passed around by/to users of Microsoft Office,, Koffice, Corel WordPerfect, Lotus SmartSuite, IBM WebSphere, Sun StarOffice, GNUmeric, ABIword, ekcetera Formatting would be preserved

Pragmatic View, con't

Potentially saves money

e.g. Retail copy of Microsoft Office 2007:

Basic = 530, Small Business Edition = 745, Professional = 990 Downloadable for free from

e.g. Retail copy of

BUT, it's not a zero-sum game.

Reasons for having a standardised document format, con't

To expand, using ODF does not mean that you MUST use
– – may not be suitable for your needs You have a budget which allows you to buy another office suite, and you like that office suite better

But not everyone you interact with can afford to purchase your preferred office suite

Holding on to your data (a.k.a. the fallacy of diminishing vendor support)

We are not under any extreme risk of Microsoft pulling support of their document formats

Try hard enough, and you'd still be able to open Word 2.0 documents

But we should strive for the decoupling of applications from their formats anyway

e.g. SQL databases (Oracle, MS SQL, MySQL, PostgresQL) e.g. JPEG images (digital cameras, Picasa, Adobe Photoshop, GIMP)

The same should apply for document formats

ODF In Action

ODF in on Linux

ODF in on Windows XP Professional SP 2

ODF in Microsoft Word 2003

ODF in Microsoft Word 2003, con't

When All Else Fails ...

In a scenario where all you have is a computer and NO office suite, content can still be accessed. ODF is stored in a ZIP file Uncompress file, and look at content

When All Else Fails ...

When All Else Fails ...

When All Else Fails ...



ODF is just a file format – a container, if you like. As an ISO standard, ODF should be universally applicable. Adoption of ODF brings benefits, some of which are rather intangible (rather like insurance – you don't need insurance except when you need it). Widespread adoption of ODF means freedom of choice, and The guaranteed preservation of your data, for all time.


Thank You

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