Tag Archives: ODF

European Union

European Union in talks to move to the Open Document Format

UK government recently spoke about making the switch to open document format (ODF). Following suit, a few members of the European parliament is in favour of going the ODF way too. However, it is not as simple as it sounds. The European Union is still far from taking a formal decision but the talks are already on. The reason that the EU legislature just not involves one country but a host of bureaucracy makes the process more complex.

A member of the European parliament, Indrek Tarand, openly favoured ODF at the European Parliament’s Free Software User Group (Epsfug) meeting. He is also the founder of the Free Software User Group. He said, “Our work is done the day the EU authorities switch to using the ODF standard. The European Parliament should also be able to use its own free software distribution.” It’s noteworthy to add that the adoption of ODF is normally followed by the adoption of the open source software.

Tarand is also involved in an interesting project that has caught the eyes of the IT department of the European Parliament. As part of the Greens-European Free Alliance, which comprise of a group of MPs in the European parliament, Tarand is testing a group of 10 computers that are running a modified Debian distro called Pearl.

It is yet to be seen how Microsoft reacts to these impending decisions. If ODF is actually adopted, it will come as a huge blow to its economy in the country. However, it is also a known fact that EU is not particularly fond of Microsoft, having sanctioned it a number of times for its practices.

Let’s wait and watch the happenings unfold. Stay tuned…


Did you know there were so many Office Suites in Chrome OS?

One of the arguments against Chromebooks is that they aren’t “real laptops.” Critics claim that there there are no office suites and without Internet access, they are relatively useless. Sorry Microsoft and Pawn Stars, it just isn’t true.

There are plenty of productivity options, one of which may surprise you.  Two of them even have offline capabilities.

Google Drive

Besides providing cloud storage, users have the ability to write documents, create spreadsheets, and construct slideshow presentations.  Additional features include drawings and online forms for user feedback.

Those familiar with traditional office suites should be able to navigate Google Docs.
Those familiar with traditional office suites should be able to navigate Google Docs.

Files may be uploaded and converted to Google Docs format. Various options for downloading a document are available, which includes Microsoft formats, Open Document Format, and PDF.

There is even the ability to work offline.

Offline mode has to be enabled through the user’s Google account. Up to 5 GB or 4,000 files can be synced for offline editing. This feature comes in handy for those who aren’t always able to be connected to the Internet.

In offline mode, documents, presentations, and drawings can be created and edited.  Inserting images, spell checking, research, and other special features require Internet access, but the available functions are enough to get by in a pinch.

Files can be downloaded in the following formats for each application:

  • Documents: Microsoft Word (DOCX), OpenDocument Text (ODT), Rich Text Format (RTF), Plain Text (TXT), or HTML.
  • Spread Sheets: Microsoft Excel (XLSX), OpenDocument Sheets (ODS), PDF, CSV, TSV, or web page.
  • Presentations: Microsoft PowerPoint (PPTX), PDF, SVG, PNG, JPG, Plain Text (TXT)
  • Drawings: PDF, SVG, PNG, JPG


Microsoft Office

Those who are still attached to Microsoft products can rejoice. Online versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint may be accessed one of two ways.

Docs.com is aimed at Facebook users, and requires a Facebook account. It allows for collaboration between different users on the social networking site. Templates are available as well as basic editing functions, but there is no offline mode.

In other words, the file was corrupt.

It uses the ribbon interface, just like 2007, 2010, and 365.
It uses the ribbon interface, just like 2007, 2010, and 365.

A more up to date online version is available through Microsoft SkyDrive (soon to be renamed OneDrive). Again, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents can be created and edited. Like Docs.com, OneDrive lacks an offline mode.

This is likely due to the Redmond-based company’s preference that people purchase an Office 365 subscription.

Web Word has been updated to resemble Office 365.
Web Word has been updated to resemble Office 365.

Furthermore, users would have to be willing to trust Microsoft with their files, though the option to download them is available.  The one final caveat is the vendor lock in with proprietary formats (so called “Office OpenXML”).

Zoho Docs

Yet another suite exists for users who want to write documents and get things done.  Users can create a document, spreadsheet, or slide show presentation.

Offline mode has issues on the Chromebook.

Like Google Drive, there is an offline mode that is supposed to allow users to sync up to five documents for editing. While trying to use offline mode through the URL provided, I received an error message that there was no Internet connection, so it may work better on the Chrome browser running on top of other distros, Windows, or OS X.

The word processing interface is similar to old fashioned office suites.
The word processing interface is similar to old fashioned office suites.

Exporting options are as follows:

  • Documents: Microsoft formats (new and old), ODT, HTML, Plain Text, PDF, and EPub.
  • Spreadsheets: Microsoft formats, ODS, CSV, TSV, PDF, or HTML.
  • Presentations: Microsoft formats (PPTX and PPSX), ODP, and PDF.

Though the offline mode didn’t quite work in Zoho, they do allow one to download documents in the older Microsoft format in addition to having better support for the ODF standard.


Google Drive is better integrated into Chromebooks for obvious reasons.  With offline mode and generous space offered through registering new Chromebook devices, Google’s offering may be a better fit depending on the user’s needs.  Microsoft’s offerings are mainly aimed at Windows users, though they do work in Chrome OS.  Zoho offers a compelling alternative, but until their offline mode is a bit more consistent in working, I hesitate to recommend unless the user has unfettered Internet access.

While there is another option via rollApp, ads can be annoying, and loading LibreOffice through the cloud can be a bit sluggish, especially if the Internet connection is not swift enough.

Why Is Google Not Supporting The Open Document Formats?

Microsoft can’t be happier than this.

For ages I have been convincing people to switch from close source to open source, from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice. I have been telling people to ditch the controversial docx format and adopt .odt only to find myself in an embarrassing situation, thanks to Google.

I am a huge advocate of Android and Chome OS (I have converted my wife from Mac → Ubuntu → Chromebook). All this time when I was telling people the benefits of Android, Chromebooks and open source, what I did not realize was that this all will come back to bite me one day.

Today my wife forwarded me an email from her Nexus S asking if I could open the attachment as she could not. I replied, “where is it not opening – your Android phone or the Chromebook?” She replied, “Either.”

I looked at the email, it was a presentation from her friend in .odt format. A friend who we recently converted from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice.


Since I was away from our main PCs, I had no other option but to tell her, “can you please re-send the file in docx fromat.”

This message was the most embarrasing message I ever sent to someone and unf I would blame Google. Why am I blaming Google? It’s a long story, which I will cut short.

Google Was A Supporter Of Open Document Formats
In 2005 OASIS submitted the ODF specifications to ISO/IEC JTC1 and in 2006 ODF became an ISO and IEC international standard. It was a vendor-neutral document format to ensure cross comatibility. Microsoft, instead of adhereing to ODF, proposed it’s own OOXML format to become an ISO standard and get it passed in a controversial (which included allegations of bribing and buying votes) manner. So, now instead of one, the world had two standards. Unlike ODF OOXML had a vendor lock, you had to use Microsoft’s products to use it. Over years we have seen how OOXML documents break when used with non-Microsoft products. So, if you want to use OOXML, you have to buy Microsoft products.

Google was one of the supporters of ODF and it was expected that it will fully support ODF formats. Let’s see how is Google supporting ODF across its products including Android, Chrome OS and Google Docs (the direct competitor to Microsoft Office).

Google’s own Android doesn’t support any ODF files; if you get any odt file as email attachment, the email app or Gmail app can’t open the file. You can’t even download such files to open with other applications (but are there applications to edit ODF files? We will talk about that later).

Yes, there are office suites for Android. Google recently acquited QuickOffice which I believe should give Google an edge over Microsoft Office for Mobile. Unfortunately, QuickOffice doesn’t support any ODF formats. It can’ open or edit ODF files. When I approached Google about QuickOffice’s support for ODF, a Google spokesperson told me that “We don’t have any specific plans to announce at this time.”

So, if you want people to be able to access your documets from their Android devices, the only option you have is to use the vendor-locked Microsoft’s docx fomats.

My wife is an Android/Chomebooks user and just like Android Google Chrome OS also doesn’t support ODF files. When my wife tried to access that attachment from her Chromebook she was greeted by this message.

This file type is not supported. Please visit the Chrome Web Store to find an app that can open this type of file.

Bummer. Her only option was to download that file and then upload it again to Google Drive with conversion on and only she will be able to read it.

That brings us to Google Drive. Does it support ODF? No.

Google Docs/Drive doesn’t offer preview of ODF files; it doesn’t open ODF files. You will have to first convert it to the Google Docs format. Google Docs also doesn’t offer the export in all ODF formats.

What Works With Google Services?
Only Microsoft’s controversial OOXML formats. If you get a docx file, you will get a red carpet treatment in Google services. Android will show preview and allow you to read docx files, same is the case with Chrome OS and Google Drive.

If you uploaded a docx file without conversion Google Docs will show you a preview and also open and edit it. But if you upload an ODF file without conversion, Google Drive won’t offer any preview and will also refuse to open it. You will have to download it and then upload again with conversion on.

So, in a nutshell you are forced to use Microsoft’s OOXML formats if you are a Google user.

Why do I have problems with Microsoft’s format. One reason as I told earlier was the way it was approved as an standard. Second reason is OOXML has huge compatibility issues. These files are infamous for breaking the formatting if you access files from non-Microsoft products. Third reason is that I am an open source/Linux guy. I only use open source technologies and LibreOffice has some issues with OOXML formats. It throws input/output error when you access OOXML files. The second offices suite Calligra doesn’t even support OOXML formats. You can’t export .docx files from Calligra office suite.

So, you are an advocate of open standard and open formats there is no place for your ODF in Google land.

I tend to think it has more to do with demand and supply than Google’s desire to endorse Microsoft’s formats. But then Google is also pushing for WebM, WebP and HTML5 whereas there is no demand for them.

I am left with puzzling questions why is Google not supporting ODF and locking users into an incompatible and vendor-locked OOXML format? Will Google endorse open standards and Open Document Formats or its users will be forced to use Microsoft’s OOXML? I have dropped a message to Google’s Open Source Program Manager Chris DiBona on Google+ but have not heard anything back yet.

What do you say, should Google support ODF across services?

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Google Drops Support For Older Microsoft Office Formats

Google has announced that it is dropping support for older Microsoft Office formats. Google Docs will not export any files in older Microsoft Office formats namely .doc, .xls, .ppt. User will be able to export files in modern Microsoft Office formats such as .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx.

Those users who still have the old Microsoft file formats don’t need to panic, Google will allow ‘import’ of any format to Google Docs and it promises to keep this unchanged. Of course Google does need to support as many formats possible for ‘importing’ data to Google Docs.

So, are users safe or future proof if they use a vendor-lock free, open format approved as an ISO standard?

No, not in Google land.

Why No Support For ODF?
Microsoft OOXML was approved as an ISO standard after a lot of controversy and charges of bribing voters [read the full story here & here]. The ODF was already an ISO standard so there was no need for another standard, but Microsoft wanted it’s own format to become a standard so they got it though hook or crook.

When OpenAlliance was formed to create OpenDocument format Google was one of the strongest supporters of ODF. Unfortunately, today, Google Docs doesn’t support ODF formats. If you are using the original ISO approved ODF formats such as .odt none of the Google services or products support it.

1. You can’t see previews of .odt files if you upload them to Google Drive without conversion, on the contrary Google Docs offers previews of unconverted .docx files.
2. Google’s Android can’t open or view .odf files and throws errors, whereas it can open .docx files.
3. Google Chromebooks behave in the similar manner and can’t offer preview or editing of .odf files.
4. Google’s own QuickOffice also doesn’t support import or export to ODF files.

No Support For ODF In Google Land?


So, while Google is dropping support for old Microsoft formats, it never had support for ISO approved ODF file formats. If a user wants to use Google services, the only option they have is to lock themselves inside Microsoft’s file formats which is either way infamous for breaking formatting when used outside any Microsoft products.

Will Google extent support for an open format and offer full support for ODF across your services and platforms?

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Microsoft Office To Support ODF 1.2 File Formats

Microsoft is extending support for different Open Document and XML formats in Microsoft Office. While Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010 support opening, editing and saving of ODF 1.1 format, the new office will support opening, editing and saving in ODF 1.2 file formats.

The above diagram shows the compatibility chart of different formats in Microsoft Office.

“With these enhancements, Microsoft Office now provides full read and write support for the most commonly used document format standards. So no matter which of these formats your documents are in today, you will be able to work with them in the next release of Office.”

Microsoft Office 2013 will also support editing and saving files in PDF formats.

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