Massachusetts backs ODF and Open XML

The US state of Massachusetts has ended a long running dispute over whether to use Open Document Format or Open XML, by choosing to employ both formats after receiving over 460 comments on the matter.

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The US state of Massachusetts has ended a long running dispute over whether to use Open Document Format or Open XML, by choosing to employ both formats after receiving over 460 comments on the matter.

This means it has ratified the latest version of its Enterprise Technical Reference Model policy, which stipulated that formats it used must be open standards. The policy was revised in July.

As a result of the change, Massachusetts will continue to use the Open Document format (ODF), updated to version 1.1. It is also the first US state to set a policy encouraging the use of controversial Office Open XML File Formats. Next year, Denmark will also be testing both Open Document and Open XML formats.

The Open XML formats were originally created by Microsoft but are now controlled by open standards organisation Ecma. Open Document is supported by IBM, Sun Microsystems and other vendors, but is an open source format controlled by standards consortium OASIS.

The decision means that Massachusetts public sector workers will not be forced to use an open source equivalent to Microsoft Office, which is not compatible with these open formats.

In a statement, Henry Dormitzer, undersecretary of administration and finance, and Bethann Pepoli, acting chief information officer, said: “We believe the impact of any legitimate concerns raised about either standard is outweighed substantially by the benefits of moving toward open, XML-based document format standards. Therefore, we will be moving forward to include both ODF and Open XML as acceptable document formats.”

Massachusetts has vowed to “continue to monitor developments” in standards and to re-evaluate the situation in the future.

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