ODF file iconGreat news for all lovers of open standards! It’s goodbye to the ubiquitous use of MS Office formats in Whitehall; and what’s more, the government has decided not to sanction the use of Microsoft’s OOXML ‘standard’ despite lobbying by the US software giant and its supporters.

The open standards selected for sharing and viewing government documents have been announced today by the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude.

The standards set out the document file formats that are expected to be used by all government bodies. Central government will begin using open formats to ensure that the general public and civil servants can use the applications that best meet their needs when viewing or collaborating on documents.

The selected standards, which are compatible with commonly used document applications, are:

When government departments have adopted these open standards:

  • the general public, businesses and voluntary organisations will no longer need specialist software to open or work with government documents;
  • civil servants will be able to share and work with documents in the same format, reducing problems when shifting between formats;
  • government organisations will be able to choose the most suitable and cost-effective applications, knowing their documents will work for people both within and outside government (does this mean Whitehall will be moving towards using LibreOffice or OpenOffice, both of which are free of charge? Ed.).

The adoption of open standards comes in the wake of a consultation on open standards (news passim) which attracted over 500 contributions, as well as by talking directly to users.

The new standards will come into effect straight away for all new procurements subject to the HMG’s Open Standards Principles. The Government Digital Service will work with Whitehall departments to publish guidance and implementation plans.