Input To UK Government

My input to the UK Government consultation on document formats:

I believe it is imperative to have a single document format standard used as the benchmark for corresponding with the UK Government, rather than a named software package or a choice of formats. That standard must be capable of complete implementation by any party using only the specification without needing a relationship (such as a license) with a specific vendor or community. Among the existing full implementations there must be one which is both open source and available to citizens without charge (and depending only on other software such as an OS that is without charge). To take any other approach is to tacitly promote the business of a preferred vendor and to restrict access to government to an elite able to obtain the preferred vendor’s offerings.

I believe the proposal above is a reasonable, balanced and effective expression of these principles and I wholeheartedly endorse it.

Migration Needs A Plan

Homeward BoundHave you ever thought of migrating your company to an open source desktop productivity suite? You don’t switch just to save on license fees; think that way and the differences in the replacement package – which can never be a drop-in replacement – will kill your migration like they did Freiburg’s.

While the saving on Microsoft license costs seems like the biggest motivation, actually the most important outcome is changing everyone’s behaviour. Among the goals of this change are reducing the rate of change in the tools and file formats and thus making documents accessible for the longest time and ensuring that the features in use across your company’s ecosystem are as interoperable as possible. One simple but big win is to get people to stop distributing editable document versions of any format. open or not. Hybrid PDFs are the first step to freedom.

With that reduced rate of change and a cross-platform interoperability that allows use of Linux, Mac and Windows, flexibility is enhanced and you’re given much more control over your IT environment as a result. It’s important to invest rather than skimp on the migration; the cost savings come later as the flexibility takes effect

Achieving these outcomes can only happen with planning and purposefulness. Continuing their practice of creating resources and “letting the work do the talking” The Document Foundation issued a white paper explaining how to conduct a successful migration. I’ve read through it and summarised it for you in my InfoWorld column this week, along with a few tips of my own.

TDF naturally use LibreOffice as the open source suite to install, but other open source alternatives work just as well with the same ideas. Hopefully the paper will evolve as the community adds its experience – it’s a hybrid PDF after all, anyone can edit it and this would make a great focus for the cross-community collaboration some folk are calling for.

WebDAV Direct

LibreOffice can connect natively to a WebDav server, apparently. Here’s another video in the same series as the ones I posted about CMIS connections, showing LibreOffice connecting to a WebDAV server (in this case running on a Raspberry Pi!). More of a swiss-army-knife of document access every day.


Open Source Document Management

I’ve not tried a document management system before, but these videos of LibreOffice checking documents in & out of document management systems via the new CMIS interfaces added in LibreOffice 4.0 make it look really easy. I’d like to try a group collaboration using one of these systems.

This video shows how to do it with Alfresco:

This video of using the same featiure with Nuxeo shows it’s just as easy with any CMIS-enabled document management system:

I wonder if there’s any hope of public services like Google Drive or Dropbox or GitHub offering support for the CMIS standard?

Learning from LibreOffice

LibreOffice is built from a large legacy codebase that dates back over 20 years. It includes millions of lines of code, can be compiled for a wide range of platforms and incorporates the ideas from long-superseded approaches to programming. Meanwhile, the LibreOffice development community is diverse, international and distributed. Bringing together the immovable object with the irresistible force has resulted in all sorts of interesting innovation. Read about it in my InfoWorld column this week.


TDF Keeps Up The Pressure

The release of LibreOffice 4.0 continues the regular drumbeat of feature releases (coupled with maintaining a known-stable earlier version) that’s a signature strategy for The Document Foundation. While a lot of the long-term investment they’ve made has been in cleaning the code, speeding it up and making it more stable, there are also important features in the new release that improve LibreOffice’s enterprise value, such as CMS integration, MS Visio 2013 support and support for large spreadsheets and XML data import. Overall, the pressure on Microsoft to innovate remains high. Read more on InfoWorld.

LibreOffice 4.0

Some significant new features here, especially the CMS integration with Alfresco, Sharepoint and others. The interoperability continues too – LibreOffice is increasingly the “Swiss Army knife” of file importers, able to create ODF from just about anything. Impressive work.


This visualisation of activity on the LibreOffice code repository rocks!



How Open Source Forced Microsoft’s Hand

Even if you’re not using LibreOffice, you owe it a debt of gratitude because it (and its ancestors) forced Microsoft to interoperate, have a stable file format and innovate. I explain more in this week’s InfoWorld column.

Making Hybrid PDFs

It’s easy with LibreOffice. Send people attachments you can be sure they can view, but which can also be edited with free, open source software.

Here’s a how-to video that explains how to make Hybrid PDF files – that’s a normal PDF file, but with the ODF source of the document embedded so that anyone with LibreOffice is also able to open and edit it. Both ODF and PDF are widely implemented open standards, so you can be sure that there’s a choice of free and open source software for editing and viewing them and that they will remain accessible in perpetuity.


The instruction sheet I edit in the video is available for download. Naturally, it’s an editable PDF!

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