back to article Microsoft asks pals to help KILL UK gov's Open Document Format dream

The UK Cabinet Office is close to adopting Open Document Format (ODF) as the official standard for government documents, but it hasn't happened yet – and it won't, if Microsoft has anything to say about it. The software giant has issued an open letter to its partners in the UK, urging them to submit comments on the Cabinet …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh...

    the wailing and gnashing of teeth and the sound of breaking rice bowls.

    My heart bleeds for these poor souls - please, please feed these poor parasites.

    1. LaeMing

      Re: Please feed these poor parisites.

      Yes. Feed them!

      A nice generous portion of Wormex(TM).

    2. Bob Vistakin
      Linux

      There's a serious error in this article everyone has missed

      Right there in the headline. Microsoft has "pals"? Nope - only paid shills, many of whom frequent these very forums.

      1. Malcolm 1

        Re: There's a serious error in this article everyone has missed

        How does one become a paid shill? It Given the number of them allegedly frequenting just about every tech forum or website it must be quite the career.

        1. Jason Hindle

          Re: There's a serious error in this article everyone has missed

          I'm not sure about the paid bit, but writing anything not critical of Microsoft may well lead to accusations being levelled at you.

          Back to the subject at hand, I vote ODF, with a rigorous approach to styles, ensuring that even if you can't make documents look identical across suites, you can at least make the differences predictable and presentable.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How does one become a paid shill?

          http://waggeneredstrom.com/

        3. ecofeco Silver badge

          Re: There's a serious error in this article everyone has missed

          How does one become a paid shill? It Given the number of them allegedly frequenting just about every tech forum or website it must be quite the career.

          Like any job that is easy and pays well, yet brings no benefit to the public, you have to know somebody.

        4. Diogenes

          Re: There's a serious error in this article everyone has missed

          Dunno, I suspect its the same place we CAGW sceptics get paid from.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Microsoft has "pals"? Nope - only paid shills,

        That's not fair. It also has:-

        Hardware companies that rely on the next generation of Windows to bloat up even more, so people need to refresh their hardware.

        VARS, who make a living fixing the problems their software and file formats cause.

        Training companies, who train users how to use the work arounds the VARS have developed.

        Competitors, who it has not managed to destroy yet.

      3. Charles Manning

        Re: There's a serious error in this article everyone has missed

        "Nope - only paid shills, many of whom frequent these very forums."

        As of this reply there are 8 downvotards who have identified themselves as shills.

    3. g e

      Re: Oh...

      I like the way they 'accuse' the government of trying to save money. Well DUH, they obviously don't read the news and are unaware that everyone's skint.

      More like they're accusing the Government of conspiring to not give money to Microsoft.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh...

      the wailing and gnashing of teeth and the sound of breaking rice bowls.

      My heart bleeds for these poor souls - please, please feed these poor parasites.

      I predicted that the whole ODF sage would bring MS acolytes out in force, and frankly, my answer to them would not be printable in this fine mag because there is simply no appropriate response that would not use a lot of bad words.

      I have seen this vermin infest government IT from the moment New Labour entered (and yes, it did coincide with a change in government), and scam the tax payer for all it was worth for over a decade. I hope the government guys cook up a response a response a la Peru because they damn well deserve it. Nothing has worked well since they got their claws into the public purse (well, them and consultants) so the further they can be kept from what's left the better.

      Heck, I'm going to get in touch with some friends. Enough is enough.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Oh...

        >I have seen this vermin infest government IT from the moment New Labour entered

        The vermin have been around much longer than that, suggest you explore the history of: MAP/TOP, UK GOSIP 3.0, US GOSIP etc. etc.

        By 1990 these had reached a reasonable level of maturity - although many of the underlying application file format standards were still at the draft International Standard stage. However, it seems that a combination of lobbying and 'user' demand for the cheaper PC based applications, lead to all falling by the wayside and the rest is history as they say and has directly lead to the mess governments (and large user enterprises) are in today.

        So as per then we can expect MS acolytes to lobby MP's et al to get them to overrule the Cabinet Office. Expect MS to fly in Bill Gates et al to have one-on-one's with David Cameron.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh...

      Microsoft Office is by far the best solution for ODF too, so they are unlikely to loose out even if this stupid decision is made.

      Microsoft are simply pointing out the insanity of not supporting the format that pretty much everyone on the planet uses....

      1. RudyF

        Re: Oh...

        "unlikely to loose out"

        Precisely. They do have most users in a noose!

  2. Chemist

    "The letter further accuses the Cabinet Office of backing ODF primarily out of a desire to save money on software by switching to open-source applications"

    This bad because ?

    1. Lars Silver badge

      I suppose they want their partners to believe it's bad for them if good for the customers. But it also shows that OpenXML is not open.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

        A fundamental requirement for a specification to be open is to have more than one interoperable implementation.

        Both of these are guilty as charged here. There is _NO_ interoperable implementation capable of catering for the minimal set of features required in a templated structured document. These do not ineroperate between themselves either - I will believe them to be interoperable on the day when libreoffice will successfully read-in a DOCX index and bilbiography and vice versa. That is still a decade ahead as it was a decade ago.

        In any case, on pot-kettle/kettle-pot. With the practical demise of KDE and Koffice there is no second implementation for ODF anyway so it fails to be an open standard. Same as MSFT. None of them is and none of them will be until there is one.

        Lesson for both of them. If you want to establish a standard _BUILD_ a second interoperable implementation. Slap a GPL2 (if not 3) on it for good measure so it is usable as a reference implementation but cannot be commercialized in a way which is adverse to you. And be done with it. Yes, I know, this trivial idea is a bit too difficult for people who have drank too much of Redmond water supply.

        1. HollyHopDrive

          Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

          This is actually the problem with Microsoft and where they have totally lost their way since slowly having their Monopoly ebbed away.

          They have two options -

          a) fight like dogs to keep their monopoly (a battle they will eventually loose even if this approach keeps them going for another 20 years)

          b) Embrace the opportunity to compete fairly on merit and actually implement the Open standard.

          You can't deny office is good (and I'm no fan of Microsoft) but they got to the top by not playing fair with wordperfect, borland, lotus and the like. They don't like that open office is starting to scrape away at (potentially) government. They know its a slippery slope from there.

          If I'd been Microsoft I'd have gone for the second option and use the "positive PR" to show what damn good eggs we are these days and how oh we've changed. (Even if on the inside you are fuming) By doing what they are doing people just think Microsoft are a bunch of scum bags and that in actual fact the decision for open standards is actually the right way to go. (Which it is btw)

          As I've said before, the government need to really kick this bunch out to field and make them compete on a fair and even basis.

          We need to save money and Office isn't cheap. How many people use more than 10% of word (I don't and I use it every day!) or 10% of excel (again, its my tool of choice for presenting data and I use this A LOT). Could I do my job with Libre Office - er... yes I could. In fact, importing data in Libre Office is a damn sight better than with Excel (Excel does make prettier document though)

          I guess the question is would we save enough money rolling out Open Office to the government vs paying the licence fees and sticking with the shitty standards....

          Well here is a thing - turns out all the XP desktops have got to be replaced anyway so sticking a different office into the build is a negligible cost - you'll be retraining the staff anyway if they end up on Windows 8 or the latest office if they've been stuck on 2003. So, yes, it is cost effective. In fact, this **is** the opportunity to save money!

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Unhappy

            @HollyHopDrive

            "They have two options -

            a) fight like dogs to keep their monopoly (a battle they will eventually loose even if this approach keeps them going for another 20 years)

            b) Embrace the opportunity to compete fairly on merit and actually implement the Open standard."

            History demonstrates that MS invariably goes with a), and if it fails gets their PR in to airbrush it out of history to maintain their "undefeated" mystique.

            Recall "MSN" ?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

            "since slowly having their Monopoly ebbed away."

            Erm, but Microsoft's revenue is still increasing, and Microsoft still have over 90% of the desktop / laptop market, over 95% of the Office market and 75% of the server markets...A few government decisions are unlikely to change that.

            "Embrace the opportunity to compete fairly on merit and actually implement the Open standard."

            Microsoft already have implemented by far the best ODF support on the market.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

              > Erm, but Microsoft's revenue is still increasing

              While not personally a customer, I am happy for Microsoft and for their shareholders if that is indeed the case. As a Linux and FOSS user, advocate, and contributor, I sincerely believe that Microsoft is still an important player with a role to play in and things to contribute to computing technology.

              > Microsoft still have over 90% of the desktop / laptop market, over 95% of the Office market and 75% of the server markets

              Even accepting your figures without challenge, may I point out that the desktop / laptop market has been continuously eroded in the last few years by the advent of other consumer computing platforms?

              May I also express my scepticism of that "75% of server market" figure, using any of a number of plausible definitions of "server"?

              > Microsoft already have implemented by far the best ODF support on the market.

              I do beg your fucking pardon????

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

                "May I also express my scepticism of that "75% of server market" figure, using any of a number of plausible definitions of "server"?"

                See http://www.trefis.com/company?hm=MSFT.trefis#/MSFT/n-0582/0657?from=rhs&c=top

                Microsoft has a stronghold over the server OS space and had a unit market share of 75.2% as of 2012 as per our estimates. We expect Microsoft's share of the server OS market to remain around the same levels in the coming years.

                "I do beg your fucking pardon????"

                Granted.

                In case you need more details. Office 2010 supported ODF 1.1 and Office 2013 supports ODF 1.2.

                http://blogs.office.com/2012/08/13/new-file-format-options-in-the-new-office/

                1. vagabondo

                  Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle @AC

                  " ... and had a unit market share of 75.2% ... "

                  As this came from a financial report it could well have a basis in truth. The market in question would be measured in terms of sales. The figures would be somewhat different if they were in respect of deployments.

            2. sisk

              Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

              75% of the server markets

              The rest of what you say rings true, but I suspect that 75% of the server market is based on sales. There's a healthy chunk of the server market not reflected in the sales data. I strongly suspect Microsoft's true share of the server market is closer to the 45-50% mark, but that's only a suspicion. I have neither the time nor the resources nor the care to properly research it without a dependence on sales data.

          3. Hans 1 Silver badge

            Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

            @HollyHopDrive

            >We need to save money and Office isn't cheap. How many people use more than 10% of word (I don't and I use it every day!) or 10% of excel (again, its my tool of choice for presenting data and I use this A LOT).

            Is it just me or is this 10% so full of bugs ? formatting anyone ?

            >Could I do my job with Libre Office - er... yes I could. In fact, importing data in Libre Office is a damn sight better than with Excel (Excel does make prettier document though)

            You do not know SVG so your opinion does not count, here.

            BTW, OpenOffice, in all fairness, has an issue with Calc where you import CSV files with locales ... a , iso . for decimals, for example (1,5 iso 1.5 - French/German/... way of specifying decimals). But a bug has been filed and it should be fixed soon, if not already (I have not checked in a while).

            Apart from that, great comment - I upvoted ;-)

        2. vagabondo
          WTF?

          Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

          " the practical demise of KDE and Koffice"

          KDUE4 is alive and kicking (KDE-4.12.2 is the current version). KOffice was succeeded by the Calligra suite 3-4 years ago.

          Abiword etc. support ODF in the Gnome environment. And besides LibreOffice and OpenOffice there are others for Free, Open, and proprietary environments.

          Of course it will always be possible to create document loaded with macros, etc. that will need a specific environment to work optimally, but for the most part ODF allows the essential transfer of information between collaborating users. For finished wore the Cabinet Office specified the use of PDF.

          The most important thing is that government offices should not mandate the purchase/use of any particular manufacturers software by citizens or businesses. This is what MS is trying to achieve by vigorously promoting its own closed document formats. Our government should be acting on our behalf, not promoting the profits of a forign corporation and its associates.

          1. ecofeco Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

            Our government should be acting on our behalf, not promoting the profits of a forign corporation and its associates.

            That's just crazy commie talk!

          2. ajx1

            Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

            > The most important thing is that government offices should not mandate the purchase/use of

            > any particular manufacturers software by citizens or businesses. This is what MS is trying to

            > achieve by vigorously promoting its own closed document formats. Our government should be

            > acting on our behalf, not promoting the profits of a forign corporation and its associates.

            The government specifying that people use ODF versus closed proprietary file formats is no different than codifying the use of the English language in documents. It does not promote profits of any organization...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

              The government specifying that people use ODF versus closed proprietary file formats is no different than codifying the use of the English language in documents. It does not promote profits of any organization...

              Yes it does. I have to pay for something that can read, edit and spit out USABLE .docx format, whereas I have a massive selection of free tools that can handle ODF, so there is an economic incentive to force .docx, which simultaneously acts as an access barrier to those less well off. Stop twisting the truth.

        3. Connor

          Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

          As vagabondo said there are several suites that support ODF: LibreOffice, OpenOffice, IBM Lotus Symphony, WordPerfect Office, Caliigra Suite, AbiWord, NeoOffice Suite, Adobe Buzzword, StarOffice and Zoho Office Suite. That is pretty much all the major office suites online and offline bar the three from the big players Microsoft (who does offer some support for ODF), Apple (TextEdit apparently allows some editing of ODF) and Google (Google Docs doesn't support ODF). There are enough implementations of ODF to ensure that everyone on almost any major OS can use ODF. The same cannot be said for Microsoft's format. I am pretty sure that when Governments start using ODF the big three will support it right away.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

            Google Docs supports importing an exporting of odf very well.

        4. ecofeco Silver badge

          Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

          I have no idea how to vote for you, Voland's right hand

          On the one hand, you seem to miss the point that a standard has to start somewhere and since ODF is already in existence and does not demand tithe, it's a good place to start. But I may be misreading your comment.

          On the other hand, your final solution of a GPL and a standard that actually works easily and effortlessly is good.

          But I've been hearing all this for years and at this time, anything to stop the Redmond juggernaut is good.

        5. Chronos Silver badge

          Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

          VRH: "With the practical demise of KDE and Koffice there is no second implementation for ODF anyway so it fails to be an open standard."

          What? There are three suites I can name off the top of my head that support ODF: OpenOffice, LibreOffice and the Android viewer. None of these solutions require a king's ransom for the general public to access, so they are both free as in freedom and free as in beer. A free standard simply provides a interoperability - there is no critical mass dictated to qualify as one.

          KDE's current issue is their insistence on making every back-end, including those which most definitely don't need any more than a flat file with a few lines in it, into a bloody database and then changing the schema every time someone farts. For the vast majority of users whose OCD doesn't stretch to configuration, back-ends, process economy and wanting their e-mail client to work after a minor point upgrade, KDE is alive and kicking.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

            "free as in freedom and free as in beer"

            Unfortunately also free as in get what you pay for and are completely crap too...

        6. Nuke

          @Voland's right hand - Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

          "Demise of KDE" ?? First I've heard of it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Voland's right hand - Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

            > "Demise of KDE" ?? First I've heard of it.

            And last I've read of that post above. Whoever wrote it seems so ignorant of the matter, including being apparently unaware that KOffice changed name years ago, yet feels it worth his while to open his mouth.

        7. jonathanb Silver badge

          Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

          ODF works on LibreOffice and OpenOffice.org. That is your two competing implementations.

        8. Charles Manning

          Now here's the really sad part...

          Microsoft has never tried to compete by producing better product. They have always tried to compete by body-slamming any competition. Rather than put their efforts into brilliant engineering and marketing, they put the effort into lawyers, FUDmeisters and other negative tactics.

          MS have amazing resources. If they pointed those resources in a positive direction they could generate some astounding software that would blow away the competition and could compete on a level palying field. Stuff worth buying, at full ticket price. But no, they're so obsessed with trying to screw the competitors that they are no longer being of service to their customers.

          As Ballmer has sometimes said: "We're taking the fight to Google." Well Mr Ballmer, why not ignore Google and just focus on brilliant customer service - that would bring customers to you and you would not have to worry about Google. Google only get a foot in the door because you're such a bunch of dicks to the customers. Cusomers now have choices and "assume the position" is not something they want to hear anymore.

          It is sad that a company with such resources, that could be a force for good in the software tech world, has chosen to underdelivers and be so destructive.

          Microsoft, you could be so much more than this.

        9. R69

          Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

          Until large scale customers such as the public sector start heavily using (& therefore driving the improvement of) Open Source software such as the various Office Suite rivals, then it will lag a little behind the expensive proprietary stuff.

          What the customers also need to realise is that to make a success of a move like this also requires investment in you internal IT capabilities & skills. A combination of those two can only be a good thing, leading to better quality Open Source software and er...'skillier' resources

        10. jbuk1

          Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

          If you wanted your implementation to be used you'd use the apache or bsd licence and not the gpl3.

        11. sisk

          Re: Kettle, met pot, pot meet kettle

          I will believe them to be interoperable on the day when libreoffice will successfully read-in a DOCX index and bilbiography and vice versa.

          Er....the difficulty in doing just that kind of thing is sort of why OpenXML isn't one of the formats mentioned if I'm not mistaken.

          With the practical demise of KDE and Koffice there is no second implementation for ODF anyway so it fails to be an open standard.

          Calligra Suite, AbiWord, OpenOffice, LibreOffice, and I'm sure a few I'm not familiar with all fully support ODF. There's 4 implementations right off the top of my head (three if you want to count LibreOffice and OpenOffice as the same one since they have a common ancestrial code base -- a case which could be made). If StarOffice is still around (no idea, haven't look at it in ages) that'd be another one.

    2. Wensleydale Cheese
      Go

      They've left themselves wide open here

      Tax row turns to Microsoft over £1.7bn of online revenues

      "The row over the amount of tax multinationals are paying has taken another turn after it emerged that Microsoft pays no UK tax on £1.7bn of online revenues."

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "This bad because ?"

      Because some people require a version of Office that actually works and can display and edit Office documents from other organisations properly to do their job....Open Office / Libre Office might be bearable if you are a one man band, or a home user with very limited requirements, but are a pale imitation of the real thing.

      1. Jonathan Richards 1

        Pale imitations

        I remember pioneering computerised word processing in an arm of a government department, and I'd say that productivity has declined over the last decades with the increasing complexity of the MS Office tools. When we started, we used Volkswriter to edit material downloaded to a 5 1/4" floppy, as a great alternative to using cut and paste... that was cut, as in using scissors on fanfold printouts delivered by secure courier, and paste, as in glue pens, to generate a new document. Classifications were added using an impressive array of rubber stamps! Volkswriter did the job: one needed only to be able to move text around, delete spurious stuff, proofread it, and send it to a printer. Job done.

        I submit that 90% of what a civil servant does now does not require anything so very much more sophisticated. Much later, our unit's documentation standards were weighty, specifying things down to typeface and point sizes, and full of MS Office-specific features, but our output would have been equally valuable if we'd used plain text. Civil servants are there to implement policy, not to be graphic designers, so I say bring it on. A pale imitation is what we need, the paler the better.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > Because some people require a version of Office that actually works

        [Snide remark: That would be Word 97 then?]

        > and can display and edit Office documents from other organisations properly to do their job

        Do you realise this is precisely the problem that this change is attempting to address?

        > Open Office / Libre Office might be bearable if you are a one man band, or a home user with very limited requirements

        I better tell that to my current client (a 1,000 employee engineering company) or to the people of my home country, where LibreOffice *is* the de facto standard (probably because of the better localisation job being done by committed volunteers as opposed to a company--rightly--focused on RoI).

        > but are a pale imitation of the real thing.

        Whereas e.g., Word and Excel (which I assume you are thinking of) are indeed important, and in many if not all aspects, fine examples of word processing and spreadsheet software respectively, they are not the definition of word processing and spreadsheet software (respectively). Other products, free or not, do not seek to imitate, but to offer their own approach at addressing the task.

        Thank you for your input, though.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "[Snide remark: That would be Word 97 then?]"

          Well that's still signifcantly more powerful and capable than any of the freetard office suites....However you need Office 2010+ for ODF compatibility.

          1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

            Your trolling is starting to show, might want to cash that Redmond check in now.

          2. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: However you need Office 2010+ for ODF compatibility.

            You will find that the OpenXML/ODF Translator works with Office XP/2003/2007/2010. Okay it only produces ODF 1.1 and yes it is a third-party add-in rather than being bundled by MS.

            However, if vendor support is important then with Office 2007 SP2, MS did deliver an ODF update to Office 2007 enabling it to be set as the default file format etc. One of the things that really sucks in Office (and third-party variants), is that if the default file format is anything other than .docx (in the case of MS Office) what you see on screen cannot be assumed to be what will be saved.

            As for Office 97 being more powerful and capable than any other office suites, the laugh is that for many users it still contains more than enough functionality, as evidenced by people being satisfied by the "freetard office suites"...

  3. Harry

    Lets all say loud and clear -- if ifs anything to do with microsoft, its NOT a standard no matter how much microsoft might protest to the contrary.

    We're all sick and tired of microsoft -- look how many unreadable emails we've all had over the years caused by microsoft non-standard and sub standard emails and microsoft still doesn't seem to be able to produce a browser that flawlessly renders web sites that work perfectly well in properly-W3C compatible browsers.

    No, we must all stand up and INSIST that the government adopts a standard that's controlled by an independent standards committee not something which microsoft unilaterally and falsely claims to be a standard.

  4. Martijn Otto

    So according to Microsoft adopting a "standard" that only renders in a closed-source, proprietary, expensive piece of software that runs only on a closed-source, proprietary and expensive operating system would decrease costs.

    In what world does this make sense exactly?

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Quite!

      Already made this point 'over there'. Hope some other here also do.

    2. Bartholomew

      > In what world does this make sense exactly?

      Brown paper envelope world.

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/the-pressure-mounts-on-britain-to-stamp-out-the-brownenvelope-culture-805110.html

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > Brown paper envelope world.

        > http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/the-pressure-mounts-on-britain-to-stamp-out-the-brownenvelope-culture-805110.html

        Luckily something is being done about it at last.

        I heard they're changing the envelope colour.

        1. Lapun Mankimasta Bronze badge

          >> Brown paper envelope world.

          >> http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/the-pressure-mounts-on-britain-to-stamp-out-the-brownenvelope-culture-805110.html

          > Luckily something is being done about it at last.

          > I heard they're changing the envelope colour.

          Last I heard the UK govt had approached UNESCO to get the brown envelope culture declared a World Cultural Heritage, quoting amongst others, Gilbert & Sullivan, HMS Pinafore:

          Now, landsmen all, whoever you may be

          If you want to rise to the top of the tree

          If your soul isn't fettered to an office stool

          Be careful to be guided by this golden rule

          Be careful to be guided by this golden rule

          Stick close to your desks and never go to sea

          And you all may be Rulers of the Queen's Navy

          Stick close to your desks and never go to sea

          And you all may be Rulers of the Queen's Navy

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      So according to Microsoft adopting a "standard" that only renders in a closed-source, proprietary, expensive piece of software that runs only on a closed-source, proprietary and expensive operating system would decrease costs.

      In what world does this make sense exactly?

      Why, in the free market capitalism world, you commie hippie!

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Not even in the free-market capitalism world, since the use of an open standard allows more competition.

  5. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    It's not DOCX we're worried about

    "According to Microsoft's own documentation, many Word features are still listed as "partially supported" or "not supported" when saving to ODF."

    How can this be, if both ends of the conversion are truly open standards. Surely all that is required is an XSLT? (Ducks and runs...)

    More seriously, so what? If you read the small print on Microsoft's "Office 2007 compatibility pack" then you'll discover that some DOC, XLS and PPT features are not supported when saving to DOCX, XLSX or PPTX either. The ironic links in this article notwithstanding, my experience is *still* that more people use the older DOC, XLS and PPT formats than the new ones when they publish stuff, so the DOC->ODT conversion is the one that matters, not the DOCX->ODT conversion.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's not DOCX we're worried about

      >"According to Microsoft's own documentation, many Word features are still listed as "partially supported" or "not supported" when saving to ODF."

      Which ODF? It's pretty good with ODF 1.0/1.1 now - ODF 1.2 is a problem.

      ..... the Cabinet Office are talking up and about ODF 1.3 with BSI ensuring it meets requirements through their involvement in developing and influencing the Standard.

      1. vagabondo

        Re: It's not DOCX we're worried about

        "with BSI ensuring it meets requirements through their involvement in developing and influencing the Standard"

        That would be the same BSI that acted on behalf of Microsoft to push the undefined MS-OOXML through the OSI?

    2. Primus Secundus Tertius

      Re: It's not DOCX we're worried about

      I am involved with three voluntary groups. In such groups, you find computer systems ranging from Windows95 to Windows8.1, some with old versions of MS Office and some just with wordpad. And, of course, the occasional Mac user. So you go for DOC format as the most generally acceptable.

      The government dreams that all these people will do whatever business they do with government using their computer. This ranges from renewing the tax disk (or just paying the equivalent after tax disks are abolished, as mooted) to filing income tax returns.

      So DOC and XLS (as in Office97) are de facto standards which we the people will continue to use, even if government uses ODW and ODC.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's not DOCX we're worried about

        LibreOffice is available for Mac OS X, Linux & Windows, for free.

        No excuse not to use it apart from ingnorance of its availability.

        It's our job to inform charities etc. of such F/OSS alternatives out there.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's not DOCX we're worried about

          No excuse not to use it apart from ingnorance of its availability.

          Actually, I'm with the OP here. If you try and change user behaviour you have to do this slowly or you will lose your audience. By mandating the earlier formats which worked well (despite MS's allegation of more "advanced" features in the X formats) you can start this change.

          Mandating ODF has actually the same effect as mandating MSOOXML when it comes to letting people use what they want to use. Like it or lump it, by starting with .doc and .xls formats you can ensure that people can ALWAYS open a doc with a reasonable expectation of fidelity, irrespective of how cost effective their software is. LO and MS Office both open those formats reasonably well.

          The fact that LibreOffice is free is not entirely accurate when you look at the total lifecycle: someone has to install it, users need to be trained on it (which is at least a defendable cost - the same tends to happen with every MS UI change in Office so it's not really an EXTRA spend), and those who made the mistake of locking themselves in via VBA will have to learn new skills or forego functionality - that too costs $$$ (sorry, £££).

          On the plus side, intelligent contractors and consultants will realise the opportunity here: there is a LOT of new coding work out there. The problem is that there is little in the way of certification and training for it yet. Although I am the first to agree that a lot of this certification stuff amounts to total BS, fact is that there are very few HR and procurement people out there who have the competence (and the cojones) to read between the lines of a CV. They WANT tick boxes because they're no subject matter experts themselves, so I suspect there is a whole new market to be created - another massive incentive to eventually go ODF all the way. But it needs to be done step by step or you risk losing people - which would exclusively benefit MS.

          Last but not least: if MS made £1.7bn and did not pay much in the way of tax I would say there is every incentive to throw them out on their ear. Again a vote for ODF, but let's do it right. There is too much at stake to get sloppy.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It's not DOCX we're worried about

            You are thinking of the wrong type of free, LibreOffice is free as in free speech, not free beer.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Happy

            Re: It's not DOCX we're worried about

            MS forcing their monopoly is not necessarily a good thing. If FOSS software can open/use DOC formats easily, this is fine. If the risk is MS introduce propriety formats, then how are the rest of the users to open it?

            Really, it matters less what is chosen, but more that it's consistent. Other than it also being useable of cause.

            PS, LibreOffice was free as in both "free beer" and "free speech" last time I checked. It's not "without cost", but neither is "free beer" to the one giving out the rounds. :P

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's not DOCX we're worried about

          "No excuse not to use it apart from ingnorance of its availability."

          I need a version of Office that actually works and supports commonly used features such as addins, Power Pivot and macros. If you only need the effective capabilities of WordPad, then good luck but many of us need something a bit more up to date....

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It's not DOCX we're worried about

            > many of us need something a bit more up to date....

            I've no idea what the context of your comment is, but I don't know why, I have this feeling (from that Power Pivot mention) you might be one of those using Excel for everything from running spreadsheets to typing up notices to running inventories to doing photo editing (I swear I've seen that! Not to mention scanning something then rather gratuitously pasting it into an Excel file before emailing to somebody--seen that too)

            When your only tool is a hammer... :-)

            [ To tell the truth, I use R in much the same way. ]

            1. Hans 1 Silver badge

              Re: It's not DOCX we're worried about

              > many of us need something a bit more up to date....

              There you are .... you are the guy who, when asked for a screenshot, printed it out on printer, scanned it in to email it to me ... I had been looking for you for years ... everything Ok, have you found the right-hand side mouse button, yet ?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: It's not DOCX we're worried about

                "you are the guy who, when asked for a screenshot, printed it out on printer, scanned it in to email it to me "

                Sounds like a candidate for Open Office to me...

          2. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: It's not DOCX we're worried about

            >but many of us need something a bit more up to date....

            The trouble is longevity. The ONLY documents I can easily read that date from the 80's are .txt and .csv everything else is problematic - hence why I have a VM that can spin up Win98/Office 97 - the last version of MS Office that could read all these early documents.

            I agree with the original poster, when I set up OpenOffice/LibreOffice/MS Office, for many years, I've set the default file format to .doc etc. because I knew these people would be corresponding with others and the Office 97/2000/2003 file formats were widely supported, hence I saved myself getting loads of calls about recipients not being able to read documents. Obviously, with MS now effectively dropping support for these formats in their newer Office suites we no longer have a defacto standard. To me the new defacto standard is ODF 1.1 since this is now widely supported, except by those who are still running Office 97 et al....

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's not DOCX we're worried about

          >LibreOffice is available for Mac OS X, Linux & Windows, for free.

          >It's our job to inform charities etc. of such F/OSS alternatives out there

          Cough....Google Grants...tell them about that...

          ......Google Apps for Business and pretty much all their (generally very expensive) commercial services are free for Registered Charities...doubtless that's unacceptable ideologically [though you should be real and factor the infrastructure saving] .....charities can at least take up the £1000's a month in free AdWords and stop paying agencies and skimmers.

          1. vagabondo

            Re: It's not DOCX we're worried about

            "......Google Apps ..."

            We should also warn charities about the risks of giving up their (and their clients') data to a data mining/selling company in a jurisdiction where European style data protection laws do not exist. Any organization that is responsible for storing and/or processing sensitive data should be wary of third party cloud "solutions".

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: It's not DOCX we're worried about

              ""......Google Apps ...""

              Office Online is completely free, but without the Google Spyware....

              1. vagabondo

                Re: It's not DOCX we're worried about

                "Office Online is completely free, but without the Google Spyware.... "

                And who in their right mind would trust Microsoft to look after their sensitive or mission critical data?

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: It's not DOCX we're worried about

                  "And who in their right mind would trust Microsoft to look after their sensitive or mission critical data?"

                  Someone slightly more sane than would trust Google with the same....

                  1. MrXavia

                    Re: It's not DOCX we're worried about

                    ""And who in their right mind would trust Microsoft to look after their sensitive or mission critical data?"

                    Someone slightly more sane than would trust Google with the same....""

                    I wouldn't trust either with mission critical data... I certainly don't trust them with anything really personal....

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's not DOCX we're worried about

        > So DOC and XLS (as in Office97) are de facto standards which we the people will continue to use, even if government uses ODW and ODC.

        Even if your three specimen sample had any significance, I wish to point out that you the people are free to use and continue using whatever rocks your boat.

        Someone put up a link to the Peruvian letter above. I suggest you read it.

      3. strum

        Re: It's not DOCX we're worried about

        >I am involved with three voluntary groups. In such groups, you find computer systems ranging from Windows95 to Windows8.1, some with old versions of MS Office and some just with wordpad. And, of course, the occasional Mac user. So you go for DOC format as the most generally acceptable.

        But documents won't be interchangeable between those instances of MSWord. Just because it comes with a *.doc suffix, doesn't mean it will be read by MS Word.

  6. nematoad Silver badge
    Terminator

    An offer...

    ... you can't refuse.

    "First, we want to make clear that you are not obliged, either by Microsoft or by the government, to do anything or comment in any way,"

    Tell that to the likes of Novell & Netscape.

    Who are they?

    No, sorry they don't exist anymore

    1. hugh wanger

      Re: An offer...

      No, novell and Netscape aren't around because they're sh*t.

      seriously. Lan Manager 2.2 came and we we're all like "this is much nicer than Netware, I'll take it"

      And Nutscrape was bad. Id rather user Gopher :/

  7. Nya

    Looking at the gov list of file types to distribute things to us minions why apart from HTML are any of them even considered really. Surely these days it should be a format easily readable on any device which considering pretty much every manual on the planet has used for donkeys years (ok I hate to say it I'm endorsing an Adobe product) why not just shove everything in a pdf and be done with it. Ok interoffice stuff before el public get to see it fair enough odf etc, but to put all gov publications for Joe Public in it is just asking to (and agreeing with MS here) cause more aggro. Even the most general of the general public now know what a pdf is, so just stick to using them and don't fiddle!

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      @Nya

      Pointless Document Format is a shit format. 99.9% of documentation can work fine in free flowing html and, apart from being a lot smaller, is a lot more accessible and a lot more readable on phones and small tablets.

      Its time paper shaped documents died out altogether - unless it needs a signature.

      1. Kevin Johnston Silver badge

        Re: @Nya

        If you think that PDFs are bad then you should see how HMRC are making use of them.....There are now a number of forms which 'must be completed electronically using the supplied PDF'. Just a shame that the PDF is stuffed to the gunwhals with executable code which give non-windows machines a migraine. Thos who have a Windows PC are not much better off as if you try to restrict what executables your staff can download then the filtering kicks the form out before it even gets started.

        1. MrXavia

          Re: @Nya

          PDF's used by HMRC are pretty damned handy, lets you fill in so many forms easily offline and then submit them securely...

          OK sure, they COULD do it all nicely with web forms, such as you get with VAT, but still the PDF's do the job nicely...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Nya

        HTML is a lot more secure than PDF from appearances too. :/

        1. vagabondo

          Re: @TechnicalBen

          "HTML is a lot more secure than PDF"

          I think that you are confusing the ISO standard for PDF with Adobe's proprietary software, and its extensions to the standard. Just as there are many W3C standards compliant browsers for HTML, there are several PDF generators and viewers written to the ISO standard.

          It would be difficult for any other company or project to even remotely approach the level and consistency of security vulnerability that has been historically achieved by Adobe and Microsoft.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      PDF is a solution to a problem that was solved over a decade ago with Open Office and digital printers from home to industrial becoming able to accept any file type.

      1. the spectacularly refined chap

        PDF is a solution to a problem that was solved over a decade ago with Open Office and digital printers from home to industrial becoming able to accept any file type.

        Over a decade ago? Wow. And PDF dates from what, 1993? Over two decades then. What was the unnecessary solution then?

        PDF still fills a role. The real world still needs paper documents even if they are distributed electronically. PDF isn't perfect but is readable much more widely than ODF, is read only and can be encrypted and made tamper-proof very easily. Those are key attributes for a lot of scenarios away from this "HTML (or whatever) is good enough for everyone" la-la land.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > is read only and can be encrypted and made tamper-proof very easily. Those are key attributes

          Sorry I downvoted your comment, but although your assertion that PDF fills a role is indubitably correct, your justification is not and your statements are patently false.

          To wit:

          1) the role that PDF (an open if not particularly pretty standard, btw) fills is that it focuses on document layout and presentation, as opposed to content (there are other formats for that, such as DocBook).

          2) PDF is not any more read-only than any other format, encryption support is not exclusive to it (disregarding the fact that encryption can be applied to any form of data), and making anything tamper-proof is a horribly difficult job.

        2. ecofeco Silver badge

          Over a decade ago? Wow. And PDF dates from what, 1993? Over two decades then. What was the unnecessary solution then?"

          I just explained it. Maybe the explanation wasn't complicated enough? Here, let me say it again:

          PDF is a solution to a problem that was solved over a decade ago with Open Office and digital printers from home to industrial becoming able to accept any file type.

          In other words, I can use almost any word processor program these says and save it into almost any file type required, and send it to almost anyone else, who can open it with almost any other word processor and print it to almost any printer, INCLUDING printers like Docutech class printers.

          Now if you want to quibble over "almost" well then be my guest, but PDF is for all practical purposes, obsolete beyond highly specific, non-everyday, requirements. Much like TIFF files, AVI, Cinepak, Ideo, Compugrahic, Genigraphic, CGM, TGA, etc.

        3. Hans 1 Silver badge

          ODF editors all have this "convert to PDF" button, though ...

      2. vagabondo

        "... and digital printers from home to industrial becoming able to accept any file type"

        Most printers do not accept any file type. The lingua franca of printers since the early eighties (as far as I can recall) has been Postscript and its successor PDF.

    3. Diogenes

      In 1983 I was using IBM's DCF which is a SGML subset. With the addition of stylesheets that became popular when the 3800 & 3820 printers were introduced it became possible to format some really nice documents.

      This is also why I had no trouble converting to HTML/CSS in the late '90s, and little problems with creating EPubs today. With the appropriate stylesheet you should be able to publish for web, print whatever easily

  8. Derek Kingscote

    Thinking Ahead for Once

    They are preparing for a post-Microsoft world !

  9. jake Silver badge

    Microsoft has "partners"?

    Last time I looked, microsoft was a massive marketing machine, only caring about it's shareholders. It's end-users only exist to pay said shareholders. There are no "partners".

    But follow your bliss, people. Believe what you like.

  10. Oh Homer
    Holmes

    Multiple standards

    Microsoft is disingenuously presenting this as a question of choice, where those choices are both ostensibly open standards, but surely the issue is that there needs to be a single standard, so error-prone conversions between one and the other become unnecessary.

    A more honest proposal from Microsoft would have been "choose OOXML", not "let's have multiple open standards". Of course that argument would have forced the government to choose between two open standards, only one of which is truly implementable as a standard, since apparently even Microsoft can't properly implement OOXML, so what hope does anyone else have?

    Microsoft failed to consider the possibility that the government has already made that choice based on that factor, or more likely is arrogantly ignoring it and presenting this "choice" gambit to muddy the waters, by painting this decision as unreasonable favouritism.

    Well, even if that were the case, perhaps that's exactly what's needed to balance decades of the government's unreasonable favouritism toward Microsoft.

    The reality is that the government, or anyone else, will never truly escape Microsoft's grasping clutches until it has completely abandoned not only its software, but also its file formats and so-called "standards". That's something that's desperately needed for all sorts of reasons, not just austerity.

    1. Neil Lewis

      Re: Multiple standards

      I don't really see a problem with having two truly open standards, but while ODF is truly open, the MS equivalent formats are at best an XML wrapper (the open part) around a closed binary blob.

      There should be no reason why two properly open formats could not interchange data easily and with full functionality and data integrity. So long as the specifications of both are properly understood, two-way interoperability is easy enough. And most people accept that there is value in competing products, in principle, because it tends to encourage faster progress.

      That others outside MS find it hard to convert to and from MS formats, and that MSOffice does not properly interoperate with ODF is by MS deliberate design, not an accident.

      The problem is, and always will be, that for as long as they have a monopoly of the desktop OS ecosystem, it's not in MS interests to make their own formats truly open, nor for conversion from open to proprietary or vice-versa to be easy and reliable. They depend upon the lock-in to proprietary formats to prevent use of alternative office suites, and by extension, of alternative OSs.

      If HMG and other governments mandate the use of ODF, then MS will have to make sure MSOffice can handle and interoperate properly with other office suites, including LibreOffice and others which run on OSs other than Windows.

      That scenario undermines their entire lock-in mechanism, so of course they will fight tooth and nail to prevent it.

      1. Oh Homer
        Boffin

        Re: "wrapper around a closed binary blob"

        Yes, hence my assertion that it's only ostensibly "open".

        The reason I didn't mention it is because, at the time of the war between ODF and OOXML, various Microsoft protagonists (largely hired for the purpose) were keen to point out that ODF suffered exactly the same "binary blob" problem. Although again that was a highly disingenuous argument, because ODF's "binary blobs" are platform-agnostic standard filetypes, whereas OOXML's binary blobs can be any arbitrary type, typically dependent upon Windows libraries, and thus essentially tie OOXML documents to the Windows platform (as was Microsoft's intention, of course). This allowed Microsoft to disingenuously claim that OOXML was "open" whilst at the same time ensuring it was only really usable on Windows.

        Hopefully the government is aware of that issue too.

        1. Primus Secundus Tertius

          Re: "wrapper around a closed binary blob"

          @Oh Homer

          That all sounds a bit too technical for the modern, managerially focussed, British Civil Service to begin to comprehend.

          They should all be sacked, and replaced with a corps of Reg readers!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "wrapper around a closed binary blob" @Oh HOmer

          Love the way the guy in your link is "too busy these days" to actually post any details, says his network is "uploading something at full speed" but gives no indication of what's actually happening and then proposes a test that he can't be bothered trying himself. (Not sure whether it's reasonable to expect a file to be readable after messing around with it in the way he suggests, but if ODF can handle it and a docx can't then fair enough.) Have I tried it? No; I'm not making claims either way so why would I bother? Simply pointing out that if someone posted something so vague about OSS stuff here, it'd just be written off as FUD.

          1. Oh Homer
            Windows

            Re: "wrapper around a closed binary blob" @Oh HOmer

            Dear anonymous Microsoft shill, if you're not prepared to believe "my guy" then maybe you'll believe Bob Sutor, Rob Weir and various Windows developers who have dissected the offending binary junk in some detail.

            Thanks for playing.

      2. Michael Thibault

        Re: Multiple standards

        >There should be no reason why two properly open formats could not interchange data easily and with full functionality and data integrity.

        Not to disagree with the general thrust of this post--and most others here--but a minor quibble... quasi-technically, the reason you can't have two properly open formats with the attributes and capabilities listed is that they'd be indisintinguishable and, therefore, they'd conflate to a single standard. All the more reason to call out the MS offering as a monumental fraud.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meanwhile in an office in East Reading

    Brown Envelopes are being prepared to help 'The UK Government reach the right decision'. Clearly that is decision does not include ODF.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Open formats

    End the Microsoft tax.

    Free the people.

    1. Wibble
      Mushroom

      Re: Open formats

      Would make a much better T-shirt if it read:

      Frankie Says ODF

  13. Bartholomew

    Backward compatibility ?

    Microsoft Word was first released in 1983, 31 years ago, long enough, but not too long ago Government documents should remain accessible forever (e.g. Magna Carta). And yet none of Microsoft's current products can read files generated by this software, and guess what the same is true for Word 3 (1987), Word 4(1989), Word 5(1991), maybe with a few plugins it may be able to read Word 6(1993). But probably not, Office 97 is probably your best bet for backward compatibility supported formats, and even now it is starting to get a bit iffy.

    Microsoft and compatibility are incompatible.

    A lot of authors have this problem first hand and have boycotted Microsoft products, to maintain access to their portfolio.

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      Re: Backward compatability ?

      That is exactly the point everyone should raise now at Cabinet Office Standards Hub.

      If Microsoft cannot guarantee that documents saved in its own formats will be accessible in 50 years time by software available at the time and running on modern operating systems at the time, then such formats are clearly not suitable. And obviously they cannot deliver such guarantee because such formats would have to be both open and implementable.

      While OpenXML is (kind of) open, the fact that it is not actually implemented correctly by Microsoft own software, and the fact that its specification is extremely large and complex, serves to demonstrate the point that likely it is not implementable. Ergo, not suitable for government documents.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Backward compatability ?

        What needs to be said at http://standards.data.gov.uk/user/register?destination=node/348%23comment-form is:

        Any standard adopted:

        1. Must not contain anything that has been patented.

        2. Must be define all aspects of the format.

        3. Must not refer to any other implementation for implementation details.

        4. Must be freely available.

        So basically, the constraints on the standard are that there are no encumberances (patents, licences, fees, ...) and the format is completely defined.

        The use of "must" is deliberate, very. There must be no scope for mis-interpretation.

        The plot needs to be to provide the same level of access to computer age records as exists for records written on paper/parchment/papyrus/... i.e. that can be read at any time in the future.

        OK, a program might need to be written, but the details of the format are documented.

        Also, something that might be a bit hair shirt for most, the standard must be written in plain text :-)

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Backward compatability ? @AC Re: Any standard adopted

          >Must not contain anything that has been patented.

          Not necessarily, the key is that the standard must be publicly available and unencumbered by the need to negotiate royalties etc. thereby avoiding the 'FRAND' problem that engulfed 3G smartphones. So a standard can contain patented elements, but the the owners of such patents has wavered all royalties etc. from those who implement the standard.

          >Also, something that might be a bit hair shirt for most, the standard must be written in plain text

          Definitely a hair shirt!

          I doubt you'll be able to write a standard in plan text that isn't open to wide interpretation. No it will have to use a standard's defined notation and language like ASN.1 and XML. A look at the various draft document standards back in 1990 will give you a flavour of what is involved.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Backward compatibility ?

      Utter rubbish. You can still open ALL those files in recent versions of Word. They are blocked by default for security reasons. See http://support.microsoft.com/kb/938810

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Backward compatibility ? @AC

        >Utter rubbish. You can still open ALL those files in recent versions of Word

        You do realise that Office 2003 SP3 goes off support on 8-Apr-2014? Perhaps that's why you're posting as an AC...

        I can confirm that whilst you could relatively successfully tweak the registry for Office 2003 and regain access to many document formats that were supported either natively in 2003 or via the Convertor pack. However, for Office 2007, MS didn't release a Convertor Pack and reduced the number of file formats supported natively. For Office 2010 and 2013 MS have further reduced support for MS legacy Office file formats.

    3. Jonathan Richards 1

      Re: Backward compatibility ?

      > Government documents should remain accessible forever

      Well, up to the point that they're reviewed for retention or destruction by the appropriate Officer, of course.

      Your point about digital obsolescence is taken, but it should be pointed out that for most of the last thirty years government has been using word processors to generate paper documents which have been meticulously filed (if the registry section functioned properly). I very much doubt that there are any significant government documents older than ten years which do not exist as authoritative paper.

      The corollary to that is that the simplest, most direct solution to the digital obsolescence/incompatibility issue for our MS Office legacy is to print out everything worth keeping, and consign the rest to the bit bucket.

      1. Wibble

        Re: Backward compatibility ?

        There's a big government programme to introduce "paperless working".

        Thinking this through a bit, Office (et al) is only half of the problem. What about all the data stored in assorted databases across government? There's case working systems all over government, most (all?) are completely proprietary.

        Goodness knows how you'll get at this data in 50 years. Heck, even 5 years hence.

  14. jarfil

    Citizen access and future compatibility

    If they are willing to offer a FREE version of MS Office to every citizen, AND guarantee 500+ years of backward compatibility, I say go for it.

    1. Lars Silver badge

      Re: Citizen access and future compatibility

      I would not go for even that.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Citizen access and future compatibility

      You forgot the free Windows licence, so that I could run that free version of Office in a suitable VM.

  15. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Cant we just bring back EDI?

    25 years ago a company I worked for connected in on a 2400 baud modem and in 40 minutes had downloaded over a thousand orders directly into its ERP system. Every day without hitch.

    And now we are arguing over which document format to send each other so that an organic hungover computer can mistype the data into another document so my next door neighbour can get some cryptic response from them.

    1. ijustwantaneasylife
      FAIL

      Re: Cant we just bring back EDI?

      1. Take a so - called EDI standard

      2. Change some details, according to the requirements of the sender and receiver

      3. Hey presto - new EDI 'standard' !

      I have walked through the valley of death that is EDI. Please God, never again !

      Standards, my ar*e !

      1. Andres
        Facepalm

        Re: Cant we just bring back EDI?

        You're doing it wrong then. EDI standards are large and rarely fully implemented. Deciding to use a previously unused part of a document is not creating a new standard. Properly implemented EDI is highly efficient.

        I do agree with your last comment though. To paraphrase Groucho, here is my standard, and if you don't like it, I have others!

    2. Primus Secundus Tertius

      Re: Cant we just bring back EDI?

      Just to clarify, do you mean Electronic Data Interchange, as described in Wikipedia?

      After just glancing at all that, I need a G & T.

      At first, I had confused it with the EDT text editor on VAX/VMS and its 16-bit ancestors. That produced plain text, but had a word wrap function so you could produce or alter a sensible document. There are worse standards to choose from.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Cant we just bring back EDI? @Primus Secundus Tertius Re: EDT

        You've actually inadvertently stirred a memory here.

        I used to use DEC RSX/11M version 3.2. The supplied editor on that pre-dated EDT, and was called EDI, and was a line editor. If I remember, it was very difficult to use (even though I was a frequent UNIX ed user at the time so I was used to using line editors). Fortunately, due to good binary compatibility, we were able to completely ignore it, because someone sent us EDT binaries from either a RSTS/E or an IAS or RSX/11D installation that worked well enough.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cant we just bring back EDI?

      "25 years ago a company I worked for connected in on a 2400 baud modem and in 40 minutes had downloaded over a thousand orders directly into its ERP system. Every day without hitch."

      Yes but that was before Microsoft and SAP took over.

      There's also the small matter that what some IT people call progress seems to be the diametric opposite of what many organisations would view as progress.

  16. wolfetone

    In the words of Adam Hills...

    Microsoft.

    Stop being a dick.

  17. P0l0nium

    Where is Neelie Kroes?

    Where is Neelie Kroes when she's actually NEEDED!

    ("European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda" and ex "European Commissioner for Competition")

    You'd have thought that sorting out EU government document standards and ensuring no one establishes an unfair monopoly was right up her street.

    Or did Megasoft wound her so badly last time that she's cowering in a corner somewhere?

  18. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Elimination . Physical elimination.

    It's the only way to be sure.

  19. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    From Neal Stephenson's "In the Beginning ... was the Command Line"

    Old words...

    I began using Microsoft Word as soon as the first version was released around 1985. After some initial hassles I found it to be a better tool than MacWrite, which was its only competition at the time. I wrote a lot of stuff in early versions of Word, storing it all on floppies, and transferred the contents of all my floppies to my first hard drive, which I acquired around 1987. As new versions of Word came out I faithfully upgraded, reasoning that as a writer it made sense for me to spend a certain amount of money on tools.

    Sometime in the mid-1980's I attempted to open one of my old, circa-1985 Word documents using the version of Word then current: 6.0 It didn't work. Word 6.0 did not recognize a document created by an earlier version of itself. By opening it as a text file, I was able to recover the sequences of letters that made up the text of the document. My words were still there. But the formatting had been run through a log chipper - -the words I'd written were interrupted by spates of empty rectangular boxes and gibberish.

    ...

    Now this was technically a fault in the application (Word 6.0 for the Macintosh) not the operating system (MacOS 7 point something) and so the initial target of my annoyance was the people who were responsible for Word. But. On the other hand, I could have chosen the "save as text" option in Word and saved all of my documents as simple telegrams, and this problem would not have arisen. Instead I had allowed myself to be seduced by all of those flashy formatting options that hadn't even existed until GUIs had come along to make them practicable. I had gotten into the habit of using them to make my documents look pretty (perhaps prettier than they deserved to look; all of the old documents on those floppies turned out to be more or less crap). Now I was paying the price for that self-indulgence. Technology had moved on and found ways to make my documents look even prettier, and the consequence of it was that all old ugly documents had ceased to exist.

    It was--if you'll pardon me for a moment's strange little fantasy--as if I'd gone to stay at some resort, some exquisitely designed and art-directed hotel, placing myself in the hands of past masters of the Sensorial Interface, and had sat down in my room and written a story in ballpoint pen on a yellow legal pad, and when I returned from dinner, discovered that the maid had taken my work away and left behind in its place a quill pen and a stack of fine parchment--explaining that the room looked ever so much finer this way, and it was all part of a routine upgrade. But written on these sheets of paper, in flawless penmanship, were long sequences of words chosen at random from the dictionary. Appalling, sure, but I couldn't really lodge a complaint with the management, because by staying at this resort I had given my consent to it. I had surrendered my Morlock credentials and become an Eloi.

    1. billat29

      Re: From Neal Stephenson's "In the Beginning ... was the Command Line"

      Being a pedant, I will say that word processing existed long before GUIs. And from that point reading (or rather editing) a document on a system other than the one it was created on has been a challenge.

      As we know MS (amongst others) aggressively used changes in its own document format to not only beat off the competition but also to make its customers shell out more money to license the latest version of their application.

      Part of the interoperability problem is actually the user. Many people use Word in a lazy way - spaces instead of tabs; extra line endings to space down the page rather than insert "new page" and so on. As we have all found, its becomes a pain to revise such a document and it is even worse trying to convert it to another format.

      That's why the earlier suggestion on the rigorous use of styles is good. If the content and structure of the document can be retained and verified, then the document can be read years later.

      But PDFs? No no no!

      1. Lapun Mankimasta Bronze badge

        Re: From Neal Stephenson's "In the Beginning ... was the Command Line"

        > Being a pedant, I will say that word processing existed long before GUIs.

        WordStar being a case in point:

        http://www.sfwriter.com/wordstar.htm

  20. Youngdog

    Does anyone here have any figures for Office versions in use?

    Cos I think "the vast majority of citizens and businesses already use OpenXML as their preferred document format" is in fact a porky-pie going by the number of Office 2007 and 2003 installs I see

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Does anyone here have any figures for Office versions in use?

      Most people use "save as....".

      And beyond that have not made any decision about format at all.

      Some don't even remember to choose a name for the file.

  21. DerekCurrie
    Facepalm

    Not this Microsoft garbage, again?!

    CORRECTIONS:

    The Open Document Format is already an an ISO/IEC international standard. That happened back in 2006. Because of severe Microsoft lobbying, their own incredibly clunky and inefficient Office Open XML ALSO became an an ISO/IEC international standard in 2008. Neither format is 'proprietary'. Both are considered 'open source'.

    Here are some useful Wikipedia articles to get folks started understanding the actual state of affairs:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenDocument

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_Open_XML

    Therefore, what's going on here is specific only to the UK Cabinet Office, a temporal policy decision, not a big deal. No doubt, whatever format the Cabinet Office decides to use as their particular standard, they'll be dealing with documents in the other standard as well. Neither standard is going anywhere but onward into the future where both will be required to be supported everywhere.

    1. vagabondo
      Flame

      Re: Not this Microsoft garbage, again?!

      " is specific only to the UK Cabinet Office"

      No this applies to all UK government offices.

      "whatever format the Cabinet Office decides to use as their particular standard, they'll be dealing with documents in the other standard as well"

      There is plenty of software that can produce ISO standard ODF documents. Do you know of any available software that can produce ISO standard OOXML documents? Last I heard Microsoft had not managed it.

      How can OOXML be considered open when there is no published description comprehensive enough to permit an implementation?

  22. Bladeforce

    The de-facto standard he should be...

    ODF not some proprietary crap Microsoft swill to fill their coffers!

    Bring on ODF in the UK and watch Office, sorry Microsofts bottom line, deflate rather quickly. ABOUT TIME TOO!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    After decades of torpedoing open standard formats; finally they are getting torpedoed back. It's about time.

  24. Mark Simon

    Preferred format?

    “… the vast majority of citizens and businesses already use OpenXML as their preferred document format …”

    This must be some strange usage of “preferred” that I was previously unaware of.

    OpenXML is a default format more honoured in the breach than in the observance. Even Microsoft can’t implement it properly. The vast majority of citizens and businesses haven’t heard of OpenXML, and certainly haven’t made a conscious decision that would be required to make it a preferred format.

  25. the spectacularly refined chap

    Let's hope this actually filters through

    I was unemployed for a few weeks late last year and signed on. The Jobcentre insist you use their website for jobsearching and allows you to upload your CV in Word format only. A suggestion that they'd want to stump up a few grand for a machine to run Windows, copies of Windows and Office, and consultancy to secure the machine and keep it secure (why should I bother with that?) didn't get very far.

    They then grudgingly allowed you to upload PDFs as well. However if you try and upload an encrypted PDF it immediately claimed it was corrupt.

    In other words, we insist we must be able to scrape your data. Any agency advertising through us must also be able to scrape your data and bombard you with keyword-matched but obviously inappropriate job suggestions. Forget any notion of anyone reading your CV and if you want to keep your personal information safe don't apply through us. It's not like we're here to help you find work after all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Let's hope this actually filters through

      However if you try and upload an encrypted PDF it immediately claimed it was corrupt.

      Out of curiosity, how do you expect them to use your CV to find work for you if they cannot access it?

      1. the spectacularly refined chap

        Re: Let's hope this actually filters through

        Out of curiosity, how do you expect them to use your CV to find work for you if they cannot access it?

        By reading it perhaps? An encrypted PDF is still perfectly readable and printable, it just defeats the automatic scrapers.

        This isn't imagined - if you read my CV you've get a clear idea of the kind of person I am and the roles I might be interested in. You'd see that I'm primarily an embedded/systems C programmer with major sidelines in hardware design and network protocols and infrastructure. However, like anyone with a little experience I have the usual long tail of countless other odd skills developed to varying degrees well away from my main areas of expertise.

        One of them is PHP, where I state I've done a few database front ends from time to time. It's clear from my CV that's just a casual ability rather than something developed and honed full time for many years. You wouldn't consider me for a PHP developer role, more you'd consider that as something in reserve for those off little jobs that crop up for time to time.

        Why, then, am I still constantly bombarded with mail for PHP developer roles from companies and agencies I've never heard of and are located at the other end of the country? Anybody could see I wouldn't be interested straight away, indeed I probably wouldn't be worth considering for such a role even if I wanted it. The problem is that no-one has looked at it - instead there's been a spectacularly dumb keyword match.

        If they've got my details who else has? There's a difference between sending a specific person or company a copy of your CV in application for a vacancy or even on spec, and it being automatically scraped and keyword scanned by multiple agencies where it can be accessed by any pretty much anyone with little to no checking of credentials first. A CV is an identity fraudster's wet dream and I'd rather keep mine well away from their grubby little mits.

        1. ecofeco Silver badge

          Re: Let's hope this actually filters through

          "Read" a resume?

          How... quaint. This would imply that someone is being paid for that and the time it requires and that just will not do in today's modern world of paying-a-fair-wage-for-a-job-that-needs-to-be-done-is-equal-to-communism.

        2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Let's hope this actually filters through @Refined

          You are reasonably lucky. When agencies first started keyword-scraping from CV's in the 90s, I found myself being offered IMS and MVS roles.

          And the reason? I had Amdahl listed on my CV.

          Yes. Amdahl mainframes, but running UTS and AT&T R&D UNIX. Not a scrap of any IBM operating systems. Destroyed any trust I might have had in the recruitment sector at the time, although I think the best have improved a bit.

  26. Michael Habel Silver badge

    If anything the Government should be encouraged to do this and should in turn encourage those that do business with it to adopt it as well! Its high time for MicroSoft Office to come down a few more Pegs. As if Office365 hasn't already done this job enough for MicroSoft...

  27. Keep Refrigerated

    Don't even follow their own OOXML standard

    Last year I had to author a technical document and the templates that I had to use all came in *ugh* docx format.

    Since I use Linux as my work OS and LibreOffice as my go to docs application, I attempted to use the templates and struggled with the formatting. Also, I found that upon saving the docs, several formatting elements were lost.

    I had an old copy of MS Office 2010 lying around and so decided to try installing it with Wine. Surprisingly enough the install worked and Word fired up. Opened the documents with all the formatting displayed correctly, allowed me to save changes and then I was done... trouble was, upon saving, Word also lost the formatting of the original templates, just like Libre! I couldn't believe it.

    The templates, it turns out, were pretty shit, but what's more shitter is that Libre had obviously met the requirements of the OOXML spec, but somehow MS couldn't even do a better job than the Open Source guys at implementing their own standards.

    I also noticed another document in Office 2010 saved paragraphs with default double spacing (when single had been selected), whereas Libre saved the same document with single as chosen. It's quite frustrating and unfortunately I'm forced to use Word sometimes, just to prove that the problem is with the document itself (the XML), not with my use of Open Source.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't even follow their own OOXML standard

      "struggled with the formatting. Also, I found that upon saving the docs, several formatting elements were lost."

      My experience too - Libre Office is completely pants. Same documents work just fine in MS Office.

  28. W. Anderson

    UK gov, Beware the Microsoft Trojan Horse

    Microsoft engaged the same tasteless and draconian measures in attempting to deceive and force the City of Munich into retaining it's Windows and Office base instead of moving to Linux and ODF Document standard.

    In that case they even pushed HP Germany to create report indicating substantial savings with keeping Microsoft that disputed Munich's own findings , and was ultimately proven to be bogus and without any merit. That situation should clearly tell the UK government how ultimately untrustworthy and deceitful Microsoft is at heart.

    In less than 6 months after completion of the migration away from Microsoft., Munich is already reporting savings in excess of $14 million. The overall annual savings for the City are expected to be proportionally higher, and the greatest advantage are indisputably the flexibility gained in software configuration, no mandated, prohibitively costly upgrades and substantially improved software reliability and security.

    This is an excellent opportunity for the UK government to move confidently and with great resolve into the 21st century, and in the process saving the British people tens of millions of pound every year.. The crass, bait and switch tactics of Microsoft are transparent to all and will not benefit UK one iota.

    1. Empires13

      Re: UK gov, Beware the Microsoft Trojan Horse

      Here Here - I can't agree more ! - Kick Microsoft to the curb !

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: UK gov, Beware the Microsoft Trojan Horse

      "In that case they even pushed HP Germany to create report indicating substantial savings with keeping Microsoft that disputed Munich's own findings "

      That was a private, unpublished and independent report created TEN YEARS after the Munich project was started - and showed that the Munich project actually costs tens of milllions more then was claimed. The project costs of the Munich team didnt for instance reflect the costs of running 2 OSs for seemingly ever more (40% of Munich users still run Windows!) or of creating and maintaining Limux (IBM alone invested over €10 million!)

      This is versus the widely discredited, bogus and non independent numbers generated by a project team that had kept themselves in a job for the last decade! - and during that time - only managed to fully migrate circa 60% of the Munich users to another desktop!

      The current losses including all underlying costs are estimated at about €30 million and the project is unlikely to ever make a return on investment in the foreseeable future due (even though substantial costs were picked up by IBM) to the ongoing requirement to maintain 2 environments....

      1. Chemist

        Re: UK gov, Beware the Microsoft Trojan Horse

        "The current losses including all underlying costs are estimated at about €30 million and the project is unlikely to ever make a return on investment blah, blah"

        My we are getting desperate, the tone of this thread as been overwhelmingly pro-open standards and to some extent anti-MS. So why do you think posting this patently untrue and discredited nonsense will sway anyone here ?

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Re: "why do you think posting this patently untrue and discredited nonsense ..."

          Because paid shill still has to shill.

          1. Chemist

            Re: "why do you think posting this patently untrue and discredited nonsense ..."

            "Because paid shill still has to shill."

            But he/she is absolutely hopeless at it

  29. Don Jefe

    Facts & Standards

    Of all the things that people should be concerned about, I find it difficult to prioritize a document format. At the end of the day you've just got to deal with whatever 'they' pick. Dictating standards falls outside the purview most all general staff, regardless of industry. Standards are out there, they get used or they don't (most don't) and you move on. Feel free to like or dislike one over another if you like. It won't help, and will have zero impact on your salary or career trajectory. But hey, knock yourself out.

    That ^^^ was a joke to see how many people don't read things before they get all emotional. My world revolves around standards and some of you would likely be dead by something we made or worked on if everyone wasn't on the same page. One of the many social services we provide is our input in the standards that impact us. We've got a standards guy, two engineers, administrative staff and facilities we provide, cost free, to standards bodies and companies in our field and our doing so reduces the costs of standards development significantly, for everyone. You're welcome :) I really dig on standards is what I'm saying.

    What MS is doing is pretty dumb, but you're wrong to just write the whole thing off as MS just throwing their weight around. Sure, some of that is certainly going on, without a doubt. But we've created a situation where the advantages supposedly inherent in letting markets determine what is 'best' are completely obliterated. From 7AM to 12PM any given publicly traded company in the West has 'Pro-Free Market duties. From 12PM until 7PM the same company has pour gasoline all over the free markets and threaten to kill it for everyone duties. It's fucking stupid.

    Regardless of how it happened, the stupid MS standard is wide spread and I'm pretty sure no one actually likes it. MS doesn't. It has been a major expense for them since Day 1. But the fact of the matter is that the standard is there. If MS failed to aggressively push for the standards continued adoption in a major market they would be sued into the ground. Then sued again once Word restarted and blew out your table of contents that took a month to sort out.

    In a company with as much power and money as MS it only takes one, really angry Board Member to totally destabilize the entire executive suite. Failing to at least push, and push hard, to protect their standard is absolutely going to make at least one member murderously angry.

    This isn't an MS exclusive issue either. Every industry has an issue like this every 3.57 days. You can't actually do what is best for the company. I've been there when an insanely angry board member kicks in the CEO's office door and makes a viable death threat if you don't do (x). All that bullshit about publicly traded companies always making the best choices because the market demands it is absolute bullshit. 100% Pure, USDA Gold Certified Bullshit.

    Please note. I'm not an MS apologist. I ask for my start button back at the last quarterly call. I'm not saying they don't want to keep the standard or they do want to keep it. I'm saying they don't have a choice in the matter, they've got to push it. Even the big swinging dicks like Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs can't force a board to support them. Until you resign and meet the 53.12 million post-employment clauses, all executives are 100% at the mercy of their boards.

    Like I said, it's really fucking stupid. The way things are now, we see very little benefit from all the bullshit we go through to pay lip service to the idea of free markets.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Facts & Standards

      Once again Don Jefe, it looks like the shills have down-voted you.

      Have an up-vote on me.

      I've been on those top floors. What you've said is almost an understatement to the reality.

  30. W. Anderson

    Beware of Microsoft Shills posing fake logic

    If commenter Don Jefe is British, he should be excommunicated as completely no-thinking for not wanting his Government to operate more efficiently and cost effectively. Mr. Jefe is probably ignorant of fact the latest iterations of ODF based office suites can easily read from/write to all latest Microsoft Office formats and going back to Office 2000. So there would be no need for department to be forced to upgrade in order to read Office 2014if they had office 2012. Microsoft could implement the ODF in Office as an additional supported format in less than one day and for less than100 pounds total costs.

    For those with very little or no knowledge of the history of ODF, Microsoft was an early, fully participating member of the organization, helping to formulate such "modern, platform agnostic forma". However when it because apparent that ODF was headed and close to success, Microsoft jumped ship and created it's own broken EMCA format that only Corel Wodperfect endorsed.

    Formats, particularly Open, Internet and International Formats that allow the greatest cross pollination and interoperability of technology at incredible financial savings and reduced complexity are beneficial to all, and anyone defending Microsoft in this situation on idiotic, dysfunctional logic and false (proven untruthful) reasoning is patently delusional.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Beware of Microsoft Shills posing fake logic

      Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce W. ANDERSON, this weeks 'Person Who Doesn't Read the Comments They are Rebutting Award'. Congratulations!

      I am curious though, those 'incredible financial savings' you mentioned, where are you getting those figures? Of all the things standards do provide, 'incredible financial savings', isn't one of them. Nobody who has ever gone through a large scale standards adoption or migration will ever tell you 'incredible financial savings' were realized after the entire organization had completed the transition. I've been doing this for a long, long time and have yet to see 'incredible financial savings' due to an organization changing or adopting a standard.

      I believe I know where your error lays though. You are confusing cost shifting with cost savings. Useful standards most certainly do provide a decent array of cost shifting tools, but not 'savings'. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is failing to address, or even see, the pinch point created elsewhere inside the company by savings realized from (activity).

      In all but the smallest organizations, changing something (anything) to a degree that you see a savings has created a new, or increased, cost elsewhere in the organization. That isn't subject to probabilities, that is an absolute business law. Nobody, absolutely nobody, is immune to that. If you've got a really well oiled operation then finding and addressing that new issue shouldn't take more than a year(ish). But if you've got a big mess of an organization (like most) and thousands of staff it usually takes years to deal with all the new issues.

      Should you ever find yourself in a position where you're dealing with a decent sized budget remember this rule: The costs of savings rise in direct proportion to the savings realized. Many decades and many, many, many dollars later I still use that and it is 100% true, every single time. Failing to acknowledge that rule is the single most expensive thing you can do to an organization that isn't actively malicious.

      It makes absolutely zero difference what industry you are in or what service/product you provide. If somebody says 'Doing (thing) will save ($this_much) then be wary. That person is dangerously simple minded. Usually, when people say that it is down to simply being inexperienced. It's the kind of thing junior staff bring to you when they want to demonstrate their cleverness. Internal ops and technical people do it too, but their ideas are almost guaranteed to cost 30x over what they might save, they're just too isolated. Also politicians, but nobody can help them, just ignore them.

      The startups in our venture portfolio do it all the time. It's often one of the first, post investment, meetings I have with them. The reality of the actual costs of running and growing a company have set in and they want to implement some savings making elements. Unfortunately, they do the same thing you have done and fail to acknowledge the true cost of savings. Because they don't understand the connections between different parts of the company they can't predict where the pinch point will move to and make adjustments to move it somewhere else if necessary.

      CEO's of companies wanting to sell you something will make those (x) + (y) = savings statements, but that's just because they know that's what you want to hear. If you tried to do that to them they'd just smack the shit out of you for speaking out of place. Junior staff are to be seen, not heard.

      More than a few companies, some very large, have been destroyed because it cost them $35M to save $3M. The upshot is I can by them cheap at that point. I owned a dog food factory in Iowa once. Paid $2M for the factory and the 1,700 acres of land it owned. Good deal that was.

      Standards offer many advantages, and can really enhance speed of growth, but they don't 'save you money'. In any organization, failing to be prepared for the movement of pinch points costs many times more money than any savings you had hoped to realize. True cost savings inside an organization take many, many years to mature and will often see two or three changes in top leadership during their maturation process. 'Plug and Play' or 'Silver Bullet' savings that seem to provide pure savings of large amounts do not exist. If you think they do please send me your company mailing address so I can have legal monitor for an opportunity to buy your company for a song.

    2. Jonathan Richards 1

      "Corel Wodperfect"

      Irony Buffer Overflow

  31. Nico Morrison
    Go

    Anybody registered & commented at standards.data.gov.uk

    When I saw this on /. yesterday I went to have a look & ended up registering & commenting; the standard of comments there is very high, I was surprised, but sadly there are too few of them.

    I added my 2 cents which was basically don't let uSoft in, they are powerful & will corrupt the otherwise admirable effort to open-source standardisation. I should go back & see if the moderators have published my little effort.

    This is the last day (see end), go there & register & put your pov, that is, if you care at all about the IT infrastructure of the UK for years to come.

    http://standards.data.gov.uk/

    And the 'thread', they call it a 'Challenge':

    http://standards.data.gov.uk/challenge/sharing-or-collaborating-government-documents

    (and they seem to have extended the deadline for comment submission to 26 Feb, but I'm not 100% sure of this).

  32. ajx1

    "open" xml

    The biggest problem with Microsoft's Open Office XML format is its cryptic methods for trying to support backward compatibility. They have not clearly defined many aspects of their format, and for many decades they have released new versions of their software which are incompatible with the previous version in the name of corporate profits, to the detriment of anyone trying to create a document and have it be readable in the future. If we've learned anything about the way that Microsoft treats customers with each new version of Microsoft Office, it is that we can't continue to tolerate the inconsistent file formats that change every few years, break compatibility, and only serve to increase the profits of Microsoft due to their forcing users to upgrade to the newest $500 version of Microsoft Office. We needed an open format, written by a standards body with no financial agenda, and this is what ODF has done.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: "open" xml

      You're spot on. The MS standard is crap. Unfortunately, very few standards actually represent the 'best' options. That's not an IT thing, that's just standards in general.

      I harp on it all the time, but you should see the backside of standards development and adoption. It's all royally fucked, regardless of the industry. You find a standards body that has 'transparent' review & acceptance policies and I'll show you where all the actual work is being done and we'll have some whisky drinks without being bothered by anyone who isn't us.

      I said in an earlier post that I'm a big fan of standards, and I am, but I'm not real keen on their development. There is not a standard in existence that wasn't almost completely developed by some industry heavyweight.

      Early in my career I worked on more than a few standards that are still in use today. My job was liaison between various industry players, going between them with the terms and tradeoffs everybody makes to get a little bit of advantage in the final standard. There's always a 5,000 pound gorilla in the room and they always have a lot more leverage than the majority. Basically, they'll allow you to have (x) as long as you don't try to interfere with (y). All those things are dealt with and the standard actually drafted before voting members of the body ever even look at the draft.

      All that stuff you see about various things getting pushed, or left out, of the final draft is nothing more than standards theater to make everybody feel warm and fuzzy. If some group is screaming their voice wasn't heard, that's probably true. A very, very small group does the actual development, and if you aren't invited to the discussions your voice absolutely will not be heard. Well, people might hear the racket, but will ignore it like a passing train.

      Although it hasn't ever negatively impacted me, I still don't like how standards are developed. The 'little' guys always get ignored. Just so we're clear, I'm not concerned with the financial discrimination that goes on (that's kind of what all those piles of money laying around are for). I'm concerned because it is absolutely guaranteed that any strategic and tactical advantages a standard creates are not optimized if everything is built from a single perspective.

      In most standards development processes you've got some really, really high caliber specialist people involved and they every single one know, that the value of something is not determined by its size. In my field we work with such small and precise things that most Humans can't wrap their heads around them and we get right to the absolute edge of breaking physical laws.

      At my company we have made huge impacts on entire industries but that's only been because we are small (comparatively) and look at things from a different perspective. The giant global engineering firms and enormous advanced manufacturers simply can't function like we do because the needs of the businesses are entirely different. That's also why they pay us to do the work they can't, and license technologies we create.

      But you flip everything around with standards development and the same company that paid us $19.8 last year won't acknowledge we exist for the purposes of standards development. I can state that better. The same company that paid us $19.8M last year will ask for our input, but only as far as how they can use that input to hobble someone else. That's just fucking stupid and it is in no way exclusive to my industry.

      It doesn't matter if you make cupcake icing or thermonuclear weapons, the people actually pushing those fields forward don't get good representation and it is detrimental to everyone. In an earlier post I mentioned the resources we provide for standards in our industry. The lack of representation by the technical side of a wholly technical industry was costing me a lot more than the few million a year it costs to send those guys out to kick people in the shins.

      I'll cut this off shortly. Thanks for listening to my rant. Maybe one of you smart folks can figure out something I can't. The problem with standards in general is that there's an MS driving all of them and no matter who it is the standards are weighted in their favor. Standards are never, ever neutral. If you think they are you're not looking hard enough. Huge swaths of every standards based industry are handicapped by a very small group of outsized representation and neither technical nor financial advantages are being remotely optimized. But this is closing in on almost four decades of dealing with standards bodies and I still don't know how to fix them.

  33. Mikel

    Microsoft pride point: nothing else can use Office files

    Let's examine that point in close detail. To whose benefit is that? Who has the power to fix it? To whom it it a nuisance? From whence does this incompatibility come?

    Answer these questions and you know why you don't want it: It is engineered to thwart your interests. Its purpose is not to serve your needs, but Microsoft's.

  34. Michael Thibault

    Gedankenexperiment

    I can't be arsed to pirate a copy of MS Office, install it, and then round up a 'representative' batch of documents of the 'standard' types, to then do multiple round-trip back-and-forth conversions of these documents through multiple workflows, where each workflow uses either: only MS Office; a mix of Office and a FOSSOffice alternately; and, a single FOSSOffice instance. I'd be interested to know: Do the resulting documents eventually diverge from their original forms? Is that divergence, if present, a meaure of entropy? If there's entropy, where is it least?

    1. Youngdog

      Re: Gedankenexperiment

      From my experience there isn't any continued divergence. What tends to happen is an equilibrium is reached where formatting is broken under both MS and FOSS suites in equally annoying and inconveniencing ways

  35. bailey86

    Nice website for comments

    Works on all browsers, tablets etc. Fast, clean design.

    Built on Drupal (open source) and HTML/CSS/Javascript (open standards).

    MS failed to monopolise the web with IE6 - and were forced to adopt standards used by everyone - so their newer browsers work OK. It was a fight but once MS were past IE8 they've started to play on the level playing field - and slick websites like the Cabinet Office website which work fine for all are the result.

    Competition is a good thing for product quality - MS should appreciate that it helps to make them produce better products as well.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Nice website for comments

      Ye....ah.

      Seen the problems with IE 11?

      Our company can't even use anything above IE 8 yet. On Win 7.

      No doubt most of it due to legacy internal crapware, but google the current state of IE 11.

  36. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Or to paraphrase Frank Herbert....

    He who controls the file format controls the universe.

  37. PAT MCCLUNG

    Actually, I like CSV best.

    1. Spoonsinger

      Re "Actually, I like CSV best."

      Which standard of CSV would that be?

      1. Spoonsinger

        Re: Re "Actually, I like CSV best."

        Wow! got a down vote. I assume from someone who hasn't been data mangling for some time. So the conversation goes:-

        M - "Right the client is sending something in CSV"

        Y - "Umm, how is that CSV formed?"

        M - "I'ts' CSV!"

        Y - "Yes, but CSV isn't a standard. We can't assume our current CSV code works on whatever they give us"

        M - "Why not?"

        Y - "Because CSV isn't a standard"

        M - "So just make our code work with their provided CSV"

        Y - "No problem, We'll put someone on it as soon as we have their CSV"

        M - "But it's a CSV"

        Y - "Yes, but CSV isn't a standard"...

        etc....

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Re "Actually, I like CSV best."

          Fully understand the point, but I've yet to find a CSV file that can't be read, just don't expect programs like Excel to correctly auto open it. But yes without some guidance making sense of what you've loaded into Excel etc. can be problematic...

          1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

            Re: Re "Actually, I like CSV best."

            Hmm. Things CSVs don't work very well for:

            Strings with spaces in

            Strings with commas in

            Quote characters around or within strings to allow embedded spaces and commas

            Embedded quote characters inside quoted strings

            Embedded new lines in quoted strings.

            These are all things that MS's CSV files contain, and they make reading the file more than a little difficult, as the rules that are used do not appear to be documented.

            I know! We need to write a standard for it!

            1. Chemist

              Re: Re "Actually, I like CSV best."

              "Things CSVs don't work very well for:"

              I just tried a few in LibreOffice Calc

              test space, "test space","test,comma", test,comma, test;semi, "test";"semi"

              read in as :-

              test space | test space | test,comma | test | comma | test;semi | test";"semi |

              where only the test,comma had been split into two columns ( as expected)

              1. Roland6 Silver badge

                Re: Re "Actually, I like CSV best."

                Re: I just tried a few in LibreOffice Calc

                Which route did you try? Excel permits you to either open (auto detect and determine field) or use the external data import wizard. Trialling the above through Excel 2007, it gets everything into the right columns but doesn't remove the quotes.

                But thinking about how I've handled csv's over the years, it has been a case of either using Word (load as unformatted text file) for the smaller, simpler and one off pre-process or brush up the Awk & Sed scripting skills.

                But then as I said CSV's can be read, just getting them back into a useful form for further processing...

                1. Chemist

                  Re: Re "Actually, I like CSV best."

                  "Which route did you try"

                  Opened the file with calc, data wizard opens , unchecked the non-relevant boxes (space, semicolon) and OK.

                  I generally ask collaborators for data as .csv as I've developed a lot of C over the years for handling all sorts of odd cases and often the files are millions of lines long and need some/lots of pre-processing before going anywhere near a spreadsheet (or more usually JMP)

  38. This Side Up

    Let's get one thing straight

    These formats (OpenXML, ODF, etc.) are word processing formats. A document may not format the same on two different computers even if they are running the same operating system and the same version of whatever "productivity suite". The result depends on printer settings (paper size, margins, fonts, etc).

    PS and PDF are print formats and should render the same if the paper is big enough. However PDF is not as portable as its name would suggest because Adobe has added so many bells and whistles to Acrobat that its files are no longer readable on some platforms unless an older version is forced.

    1. Jonathan Richards 1

      Re: Let's get one thing straight

      Yep, agreed, that one thing is now straight, but there's another thing: for most Govt departments the rendering is NOT IMPORTANT! It's all about the content, or it should be, for everything that doesn't have a public interface (which is almost everything). There are no points for style in the inter-office memo stakes!

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: Let's get one thing straight

        Rendering shouldn't be important to most government departments. That much is certain.

        However, I've yet to meet a government that had any real success in prioritizing much of anything. You start poking around and it's virtually guaranteed that in some forgotten corner of every government building there will be a document that outlines the 'standards of operation and quality control policies' for all government communications internal and external.

        There's going to be some tiny sentence in there that says something to the effect that 'taxpayers deserve the highest levels of quality that can be had to maximize the value of their 'contributions'. I'm quite certain being able to say that straight faced, while signing an requisition form for $235M of Adobe software is a requirement of getting any government job where you have access to funds.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Please, lift the veil.

    XP and Office 2003 worked OK.

    Since then it's been mainly button moving and bull.

    If MS really have paid bugger-all tax on 1.7bn then it's time the government worked out we won't stand them being MS's bitch for ever, and if some suit does go the brown envelope route it's going to be very awkward to cover up this time.

    I moved to Open (Libre) Office years ago, has saved me so much pain and searching for features, forget the money, really, that's a tiny part of the pleasure of a sensible evolving engineering solution over the madness that is MS office versions.

    I use Office 2013 at work and think it looks horrible, it works OK but why should I be visual insulted while doing my inevitable searching for what I could easily locate ten years ago.

    Oh no! I have some "progress" on my shoe....

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Please, lift the veil.

      XP, no. Win 7 is a VAST improvement in speed and reliability over XP.

      Office 2003? Yes. That and 2007 were probably the nadir of Office.

  40. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    Strongly urge everyone to let the Cainet Office know their views.

    Tell them what you think. Otherwise they'll only hear from you-know-who.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cry all you like

    But this is a done deal. There is no chance of ODF making it through this tidal wave of lobbying. The fiasco with ISO showed exactly how easy it is for Microsoft to buy their way to a rubber stamp and that's what will happen here: the decision will be to "prefer" ODF but "accept" MS formats, which means that nothing will change and MS will continue to get free money from our government and libraries and schools for doing precisely bugger all squared.

    It's a nice gig if you can get it.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, the letter was effective -- it induced me to pop over and leave a comment. Might not be what MS wanted me to say though ;)

  43. The BigYin

    I took MS's advice and sent in my comments

    Unfortunately for MS I think they are a a freedom-hating shower of arseholes (not to mention a convicted monopoly abuser) and proclaimed my support for ODF.

    I know there will be pain/costs in the short-term, but that's OK given the longer-term savings.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    add thoughts to the UK govt website before it's too late

    How interesting! I added my thoughts on the UK govt website. Editors of the reg, please could you keep this artice high up on you site untl the 26th, or post related articles before that date, thanks for the heads up.

  45. Empires13

    Very sick of Microsoft

    I am personally sick to death of Microsoft. They think they can use their heavy handed tactics to influence the good work that the UK government is doing by supporting open formats just so they can force users to be kept on their high paying software roundabouts.

    I expect that Microsoft will hit every government office in the UK with SAM audits (if the open standards pass), as punishment for daring to give people a choice. By doing this they will seek to sting the people by searching for every licensing breach they can find and hit the government hard with fines.

    As IT Manager of a government department I once faced their heavy handed tactics and I have dedicated my life to making sure they don't do what they did to me to any other IT Manager or company on this earth. STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHT TO CHOOSE and SUPPORT OPEN DOCUMENT FORMATS !

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Very sick of Microsoft

      "STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHT TO CHOOSE and SUPPORT OPEN DOCUMENT FORMATS !"

      You do know that the first thing that current versions of MS Office ask you when you first launch them is if you prefer to use ODF?

  46. Robin 12
    Pint

    Tax Tax Tax - Save your tax dollars.

    Okay, now that I have your interest.

    This is a move to save pounds for the UK government. Like many governments, trying to deal with all those people wanting to get their taxes cut. Here is a way that the government can save millions if not billions of pounds by moving to Open Source software.

    They could put MS on the spot by mandating that any software must save in the ISO standard and if MS wants to compete, they must be able to save DOCX as the standard mandates and MS has to prove it. What features will be lost?

    As one poster stated, even DOCX has it's own issues between versions of Office. I have experienced.

    Contact your MP and have them support this for tax savings. Point to the Munich success and how it can save the government millions. If one city can save 14 million dollars, then how much can a whole country save?

  47. John Savard Silver badge

    Format

    Open Office is perfectly capable of saving documents in Word 97 format, and that is a format more people are likely to be able to read than ODF. Not spending money on Microsoft software is one thing, but forcing people to get bigger computers is quite another.

    Actually, the standard should really be the version of .doc used with Word 2.0, as Windows 3.1 had already reached adequacy, and all the upgrades since then were but gimmicks designed to extract money from people.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Format

      "Open Office is perfectly capable of saving documents in Word 97 format, and that is a format more people are likely to be able to read than ODF."

      Quite - producing documents in ODF would force everybody that needed to open them to upgrade to MS Office 2010+. Pretty much no one is going to use Libre / Open Office for this.

      1. Lapun Mankimasta Bronze badge

        Re: Format

        > producing documents in ODF would force everybody that needed to open them to upgrade to MS Office 2010+. Pretty much no one is going to use Libre / Open Office for this.

        I remember working hard for clients at a non-profit community organization's cybercafe, opening old MS Word documents with OpenOffice. These were documents that more modern MS Word iterations couldn't open, or mangled. Worked perfectly every time - the only time I ever had any problem was with an MS Works document, but MS Office wouldn't touch that either.

        I doubt your competence to make such statements.

        1. Chemist

          Re: Format

          "I doubt your competence to make such statements."

          I doubt his impartiality to make such statements.

  48. rtb61

    The M$ message. Don't allow fairness, future of documents or, equal access to deter you, Greed Glorious Greed.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Serious problem - another case from India

    Funny how MS ends up minting money even in cases where it should have no way to.

    See this case as reported from India in December 2013 .

    http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/microsoft-and-your-tax-returns/article5515493.ece

    Thanks to this campaign and others, the authorities there have started moving away from their 'MS only' stance in this case

  50. Hans 1 Silver badge

    This is only the start

    There, it is about to happen and I told you, take a look at ie market share over the past 5 years ... that will be the MS Office market share graph in 5 years, maybe even less.

    With MS Office goes exchange, with exchange goes windows server ... MS is dead, will only go downhill from here.

    The only reason we had MS in the datacenter was because we were forced, this will change shortly for government and all their major contractors, and contractors contractors ... like dominos (the game, not pizza).

    Getting more popcorn, finished the last crate I purchased watching the Syrian liberation army ... ;-)

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      I sure hope you're right.

  51. RyokuMas Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    "The software giant has issued an open letter to its partners in the UK, urging them to submit comments on the Cabinet Office proposal to the effect that Her Majesty's government should be allowed to continue to use Microsoft file formats."

    ... in other words, Microsoft has asked that .doc etc. format use should still be allowed. Nothing about using it in place of ODF.

    Show me the documentation where Microsoft are appealing that .doc is used instead of ODF. Until then, this is just click/anti-microsoft-troll bait.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Show me the documentation where Microsoft are appealing that .doc is used instead of ODF. Until then, this is just click/anti-microsoft-troll bait."

      It merely demonstrates that hardly anyone trusts Microsoft. Some may be indifferent, some may be in bondage, some may have escaped but "trust" - not a word often seen near "Microsoft"

      1. RyokuMas Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Trust...

        "It merely demonstrates that hardly anyone trusts Microsoft"

        Personally, I trust no large organisation - right now, Google rings far more alarm bells than Microsoft on the "trust" scale, but I digress... The point is that by blanket-banning .doc, you're taking away choice. Like the browser wars - yep, Microsoft were caught bang-to-rights and were forced to allow people to choose the browser they wanted.

        I also detest hypocrites - and taking away the ability to choose a format offered by someone you've already forced to allow choice over something else is blatent hypocracy.

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Re: you're taking away choice

          No you're not.

          People can very well continue to use MS Office products and save in .odf format.

          The thing is, if that happens then they can also use something else to save in .odf format and that is very much what Microsoft does not want to see happen.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Show me the documentation where Microsoft are appealing that .doc is used instead of ODF. Until then, this is just click/anti-microsoft-troll bait."

      MS, and you, know that allowing the monopoly closed format means that no open format will gain traction in a world where the vast majority grew up surrounded by that monopoly format. So they don't need to say that .doc would be used instead of ODF, because it's bleeding obvious.

  52. Richard C.

    Purchasing MS Office

    Perhaps the UK Government should purchase x thousands of copies of Microsoft Office and Microsoft Windows to run it on. And the way they should pay for it, the same way the government should pay for all purchases IMHO, is by giving the company that amount of discount off their corporation tax bill (not reducing it below zero: after all, surely the government isn't their only customer?).

    What do you mean Microsoft may not be so much in favour of that now? Anything to do with them not paying corporation tax?

  53. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    Aren't they all using XP anyway?

    = makes a "modern" version of Office redundant?

    (Setting a standard does make sense tho' otherwise a small proprietary change can make for lots n lots of headaches)

  54. hoola Bronze badge

    Is there a link to ££££

    Office is one of Microsoft;s cash cows. If a large corporate user start mandating the use of an open standard guess what might happen.....

    All of a sudden the perpetual tie-in to MS Office starts to lose out to cheaper alternative.

    I suspect this is much more an issue of revenue protection than anything else. Hopefully the government will see sense ignore them. Now that is a leap of faith that I struggle with!

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Is there a link to ££££

      >I suspect this is much more an issue of revenue protection than anything else.

      Definitely, if they can keep MS Office in government they are more likely to keep Office in the Enterprise. Hence why, like in the past, we can expect a deal to be done, the details of which will remain confidential, just so that MS can claim the UK government are still a customer.

  55. cortland

    As a hardware and radio guy...

    This sounds similar to the fight the US government declined that notoriously resulted in one forms (name starts wit M) P25, the the new standard for interoperable trunked radio comms, being incompatible with everyone else's bog-standard gear. So much for interoperability.

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