The UK government has formally announced a shift to open standards for its electronic documentation, adopting the Open Document Format (ODF) for editable files and a mixture of Portable Document Format (PDF) and HTML for display files.
The announcement follows considerable lobbying both from groups encouraging adoption of the open formats and those like Microsoft with a vested interest in pushing proprietary equivalents. The new standards, all of which are free from licensing restrictions and can be both created and viewed using free and open-source software, will be rolled out across all government departments as quickly as possible.
'Our long-term plan for a stronger economy is all about helping UK businesses grow. We have listened to those who told us that open standards will reduce their costs and make it easier to work with government,' claimed Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude at the announcement. 'This is a major step forward for our digital-by-default agenda which is helping save citizens, businesses and taxpayers £1.2 billion over this Parliament.'
Existing documents will not be transferred to the new formats, the government's guidelines state, unless there is a request for an editable version. All new documents, however, will need to be in one of the listed formats.
'We had a huge response to this proposal, both from the standards community and the public as a whole. I want to thank everyone who took the time to comment,' added Government Digital Service executive director Mike Bracken. 'Their feedback made it clear just how important choosing the right way of publishing documents is. Using an open standard will mean people won’t have costs imposed on them just to view or work with information from government. It’s a big step forward, and I’m delighted we’re taking it.'