ODF Wiki Knowledgebase

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About OpenDocument

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OpenDocument Overview

The OpenDocument Format (ODF) is an open XML-based document file format for office applications to be used for documents containing text, spreadsheets, charts, and graphical elements. The file format makes transformations to other formats simple by leveraging and reusing existing standards wherever possible.

As an open standard under the stewardship of OASIS, ODF also creates the possibility for new types of applications and solutions to be developed other than traditional office productivity applications. ODF is defined via an open and transparent process at OASIS and has been approved unanimously by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) as an international standard in May 2006. It is available for implementation and use free of any licensing, royalty payments, or other restrictions.

From a technical point of view, ODF is a ZIP archive that contains a collection of different XML files as well as binary files like embedded images. The use of XML makes accessing the document content simple because content can be opened and changed with simple text editors if necessary. In contrast, the previously used binary file formats were cryptic and difficult to process. The ZIP compression guarantees relatively small file sizes, in order to reduce file storage and transmission bandwidth requirements. ODF was the first broadly used document file format that used the concept of a ZIP package containing different XML files.

ODF uses the same set of XML files for different application types. In addition, definitions for elements like tables are consistent across application types as well. The OpenDocument format has a long tradition of openness. The first work on the file format started as early as 1999. Right from the beginning ODF was designed as an open and implementation neutral file format. The open specification process started in 2000 with the foundation of the OpenOffice.org open source project and the community efforts within its XML development project. An even higher level of openness was established in 2002 with the creation of the OASIS Open Office Technical Committee (TC).

Many organizations and companies are participating the ODF specification process. In addition, a growing number of applications implement the OpenDocument file format.

The OpenDocument Format was designed to be vendor neutral and implementation agnostic. In order to simplify transformations and to maximiz interoperability, the format reuses established standards like HTML, SVG, XSL, SMIL, XLink, XForms, MathML, and Dublin Core. ODF files of different application types (e.g. word processor, spredsheet) include the same set of XML files within the ZIP packages.

Features and benefits

Feature Benefit
OASIS standard Open, transparent specification process with multi-vendor participation
Approved by ISO as ISO/IEC 26300 Well known and broadly accepted standard
ISO standard Relax-NG schema types (ISO/IEC 19757-2:2003) Well known and broadly accepted standard
Supported by multiple applications Choice between free open source and commercial implementations including OpenOffice.org, StarOffice, KOffice, IBM Workplace, Textmaker, Abiword/Gnumeric, Google Writely, and AjaxWrite.
Broad industry support ODF guarantees long-term viability. The OASIS ODF TC, the OASIS ODF Adoption TC, and the ODF Alliance include members from Adobe, BBC, Bristol City Council, Bull, City of Largo, Corel, EDS, EMC, GNOME, Google, IBM, Intel, KDE, Novell, Oracle, Red Hat, Software AG, and Sun Microsystems. As of June 2006 the ODF Alliance has already more than 300 members.
Shipping products since September 2005 ODF files can already be created and used today. The first products with ODF support started shipping in September 2005.
Free open source “reference” implementations ODF is supported by multiple free open source office applications including OpenOffice.org, KOffice and Abiword/Gnumeric. OpenOffice.org, for example, is developed by large community including vendors like Sun Microsystem, Novell, Intel, and Red Hat. Due to the availability of the source code, support for additional platforms or languages can be added by anyone.
ODF implementations available for all major desktop platforms Applications with ODF support are available for Microsoft Windows, Linux, the Solaris OS, Apple Mac OS X, and FreeBSD.<
Open standard W3C XForms technology is used for forms The forms concept integrated into ODF is based on the W3C standard XForms which is supported by multiple applications and vendors.
Reuse of existing standards where possible Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel and to make interoperability as simple as possible, ODF reuses established standards like HTML, SVG, XSL, SMIL, XLink, XForms, MathML, and Dublin Core.
Very mature The first work for the ODF file format started as early as 1999 (see the ODF history).

Why an open file format matters

In a world where paper documents increasingly get replaced by electronic records, long term access to the data becomes critical. This is especially the case for legal contracts and government documents which stay valid and relevant over decades, or even centuries.

Like paper and pens have been available from multiple vendors, and not just one single source, document file formats and the applications creating these file formats need to be supported by and available from multiple vendors. This guarantees long-term access to data, even if companies disappear, change their strategies or dramatically raise their prices. 

Open standards that are equally accessible and do not favor one particular vendor, help maintain a diverse ecosystem of vendors. This as well causes competitive pricing, thus ensuring the best use of money from investors or tax payers.

Open standards also lower the barrier of entry, allowing new companies to join the ecosystem. For example, the SQL standard for relational databases allowed the emergence of various implementations including free open source and very specialized high-end database management systems. As long as only standard SQL features are used, database management systems can be exchanged without much effort. Vendor lock-in only happens based on special features not included in the SQL standard. Thus, vendor lock-in becomes a voluntary choice, not a mandatory one.

In the case of public documents provided by governments to their citizens, it is also important that no citizens, or at least as few as possible, get excluded from data access. For example, nobody should be forced to buy software from one specific vendor or for one specific operating system platform. Public data should be accessible to citizens independent off their income and their physical abilities.

Assistive Technologies

Assistive technologies are comprised of hardware and software offerings that serve the needs of persons with disabilities. These include screen readers and screen magnifiers for the blind and visually impaired persons; speech recognition for persons with mobility impairments; and Braille translation and formatting facilities to automate the process of conversion from regular print to braille (and vice versa). Solutions are also available for individuals with color blindness, cognitive learning disabilities, and varying degrees of paralysis (mobility) impairment.

Current ODF assistive technologies include:

See also:

- OpenDocument Accessibility FAQ
- OASIS OpenDocument Accessibility Subcommittee.

Accessibility FAQ

Review answers to frequently asked questions on OpenDocument Accessibility below. Post new questions and additional comments at the FAQ Forum.

How was accessibility addressed in OpenDocument v1.1?

The changes needed to make OpenDocument 1.0 accessible were relatively minor. The OASIS OpenDocument Accessibility Subcommittee did a gap analysis of v1.0 based on these criteria:
  • Support for W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0
  • Interoperability with assistive technologies
  • Preservation of structural semantics 
  • Increased usability of presentations over that available in today's office document formats
As OpenDocument v1.0 was largely based on W3C standards, the required changes were minor. They included:
  • Alternative text for non-text objects 
  • Proper association of captions to captioned content
  • Encoding of pagination information
  • Preservation of table semantic structure imported from other file formats
  • Proper encoding of authored table header content
  • Author-defined logical navigation of page objects in presentations
  • Provision of alternative text hints for hyperlinks
OpenDocument version 1.1 adds alternative text to document elements such as drawing objects and image map hot spots; preservation of structural semantics such as headings in tables: and associations between drawngs and their captions. The OASIS OpenDocument Accessibility Subcommittee took the opportunity to provide not only short alternative descriptive text but also lengthy descriptions for the same objects should additional help be needed for users who are blind, low vision, or who suffer from cognitive impairments. To improve the usability of presentations, OASIS also added the provision for the author to supply a keyboard navigation order. Users who are blind may be confused when accessing a slide because the keyboard navigation order does not match the visual flow of the slide.

Who participated in making OpenDocument v1.1 accessible?

The OASIS OpenDocument Accessibility Subcommitee was formed in January 2006. Participating in this effort are topic accessibility experts from Design Science, IBM, the Institute for Community Inclusion, the U.K.'s Royal National Institute for the Blind, and Sun Microsystems, as well as several unaffiliated individual experts.

Can OpenDocument be converted to DAISY book format?

Yes, The U.K.'s Royal National Institute for the Blind is building a DAISY talking book converter for OpenDocument v1.1 rich text documents.

How well do OpenDocument applications address the needs of people with disabilities?

While OpenDocument v1.1 includes a number of specific improvements for accessibility, it's important to note that many of the concerns around accessibility have to do with the applications that implement the OpenDocument format.  This includes questions about the built-in features of OpenDocument applications that meet the needs of people with disabilities, and questions about how well OpenDocument applications work with specialized assistive technology applications used by people with more severe disabilities.

To improve support for assistive technologies on the Windows platform, IBM donated an extension to Microsoft's Active Accessibility API to the Free Standards Group (Now the Linux Foundation) which was designed to provide advanced access to office applications and expose  all the accessibility features of OpenDocument 1.1. This API, called IAccessible2, was designed with the help of Freedom Scientific and GW  Micro during its implemenation in support of OpenDocument v1.1 in the upcoming  Notes 8 Productivity Editors. Furthermore, IBM worked with assistive technology vendor Freedom Scientific to ensure their office suite implementation of the ODF 1.1 specification worked well with assistive technologies.

Also on Windows, the OpenDocument applications StarOffice and OpenOffice.org already work with the ZoomText screen magnifier from Ai Squared.

On the UNIX platform, StarOffice and OpenOffice.org already work very well with the open source UNIX assistive technologies.  This includes the Orca screen reader/magnifier used by people who are blind or have significant visual impairments, the GNOME On-screen Keyboard which provides rich support for people with a variety of physical impairments, and Dasher, and innovative alternate text entry system used by people who can move only their head or eyes.

How can implementors ensure their OpenDocument applications are fully accessible?

The OASIS OpenDocument Accessibility Subcommittee is developing a guidelines document to help implementers create OpenDocument applications that are fully accessible. More information on this will be posted at the Subcommittee's homepage.

Are OpenDocument accessibility features preserved by applications that export to other file formats?

This depends on the application. StarOffice and OpenOffice.org, for instance, make full use Adobe PDF tags for accessibility when OpenDocument files are exported to PDF, so long as the user selects the "Tagged PDF" option.

OpenDocument Community

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List of organizations using ODF

OpenDocument is being deployed worldwide. Review and contribute to this growing list of deployments in the following categories. (See Case studies for detailed descriptions of representative implementations.)

Deployments: Public sector

National and local government agencies around the world are deploying OpenDocument. If you are aware of additional support in the public sector, please add to this page (log in and select the "edit" tab above).





North America

South America

Deployments: Education

Universites and schools around the world are deploying OpenDocument. If you are aware of additional support in the education community, please add to this page (log in and select the "edit" tab above).

North America
  • Brandon Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia, USA: 250 desktops running OpenOffice.org on K12LTSP. Project began in May, 2005.
  • Noxon Schools in Montana, USA: 185 desktops moved to OpenOffice in December 2005. (60 run OOo on Windows, 125 on Linux.) Also summarized on EdTech.
  • Earlham College, a Quaker college in Richmond, Indiana, upgraded all of its public computers to OpenOffice at the beginning of 2005.
  • Bacone College in Oklahoma.
  • SUNY Albany: ResNet, the campus IT services group, provides incoming students with the ResNet Software Suite CD, which includes Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice.org, anti-spyware and anti-virus applications.
  • University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy: 268 desktops in summer 2003.
  • Public Schools in Portland, Oregon, USA
  • The US State of Indiana will deploy up to 300,000 Linspire Linux computers with OpenOffice.org over the next few years: Linspire press release.
  • Glenwood School for Boys and Girls, Glenwood, IL, USA: Migrated to OpenOffice.org 2 on over 100 desktops in our Grades 2-8 school in September 2005 (started with beta release), replacing MS Office 2000. Distributed 100 installation CDs to students to take home in December 2005. Have deployed OpenOffice or StarOffice to every computer on our campus, approximately 200 desktops in all. While MS Office is still used by many staff members, this was our first year to use OpenOffice exclusively for our students in the academic program.
  • Ontario Ministry of Education
South America






Deployments: Private sector


Companies around the world are deploying OpenDocument. If you are aware of additional support in the commercial sector, please add to this page (log in and select the "edit" tab above).


  • ASIGEST, a Romanian insurance company.
  • Kervan Gida, Turkey with 80+ desktops

  • LIC, India. (life insurance provider) Approximately 60,000 users and five to six thousand servers will migrate to Red Hat Enterprise Linux

  • LVM Insurance in Munster, Germany: 7,700 Red Hat Linux desktops
  • Marisol S.A. - Jaraguá do Sul - Santa Catarina - Brazil
  • NAFECO INC. NAFECO (North America Fire Equipment Company), a US based corporation, has switched its users to OOo. Approx. 125 desktops/notebooks

  • Novell with 5,000 users (most of them on Novell Linux Desktop),  The Novell Migration to Linux

  • PROFI Rom Food, a Romanian food producer and retailer (store chain), with headquarters in Timișoara.
  • Resolvo Systems Pte Ltd: Asia's open source solutions provider based in Singapore has been using OpenOffice company-wide since OO version 1.0. Assisted Singapore Ministry of Defence to migrate to OpenOffice.
  • Total Cont- Sibiu, Romania, a finance and bookkeeping company.
  • ZANDO COMPUTER, an IT consulting company located in Bucharest, Romania, actively recommends and deploys OpenOffice.org and other OpenDocument format solutions to its clients. Zando Computer is also a member of ASRO/CT210, the Romanian standardization body on document formats

Deployments: Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)

NGOs around the world are deploying OpenDocument. If you are aware of additional support in this sector, please add to this page (log in and select the "edit" tab above).

OpenDocument Standardization

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The complete OpenDocument v1.0 OASIS Standard specification document is available in ODT and PDF formats.

The specification defines three Relax-NG schemas, which are also available separately:

  1. OpenDocument v1.0 Relax-NG Schema, the schema for office documents defined in chapters 1 to 16;
  2. OpenDocument v1.0 Manifest Relax-NG Schema, the normative schema for the manifest file defined in chapter 17; and
  3. OpenDocument v1.0 Strict Relax-NG Schema, the strict schema for office documents that permits only meta information and formatting properties contained in this specification itself, as defined in appendix A.
The OpenDocument v1.0 (Second Edition) Committee Specification is available in ODT and in PDF formats. This second edition of OpenDocument v1.0 includes a few editorial changes compared to the original OpenDocument v1.0 specification. The schemas defined by this specification are identical to those defined by the OpenDocument v1.0 OASIS Standard. Please see appendix E.3 of the specification document for a detailed list of changes.

OpenDocument v1.0 has been approved as the ISO and IEC International Standard ISO/IEC 26300:2006.

The complete OpenDocument v1.1 OASIS Standard is available in OpenDocument, PDF and XHTML (zipped) formats.  It  was approved as an OASIS Standard on 2 February 2007.

The three schemas defined by the OpenDocument v1.1 specification are also available separately:

  1. OpenDocument v1.1 Relax-NG Schema (extracted from chapter 1 to 16 of the specification)
  2. OpenDocument v1.1 Manifest Relax-NG Schema (extracted from chapter 17 of the specification)
  3. OpenDocument v1.1 Strict Relax-NG Schema (extracted from appendix A of the specification)

All versions of the OpenDocument specification use these open standards:
  • Dublin Core
  • XSL:FO
  • SVG
  • MathML
  • SMIL
  • XForms
  • XLink

History of OpenDocument

The OpenDocument format has a long tradition of openness. The first work on the file format started as early as 1999. Right from the beginning ODF was designed as an open and implementation neutral file format.

The open specification process started in 2000 with the foundation of the OpenOffice.org open source project and the community efforts within its XML development project. An even higher level of openness was established in 2002 with the creation of the OASIS Open Office Technical Committee (TC).

Date / Time Frame Event / Milestone
1999 The Development of an XML default file format begins at StarDivision. Limitations of the old binary format and a need for Unicode support trigger the change. The goal is to create an open interoperable file format that can be used and implemented by other vendors as well.
August 1999 Sun Microsystems, Inc. acquires StarDivision.
13 October 2000 The OpenOffice.org open source project gets founded by Sun Microsystems, Inc.
13 October 2000 The XML community project gets setup on OpenOffice.org with the goal to define the specification of the OpenOffice.org XML file format as on open community effort.
2002 Definitions for CJK (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) and complex text layout languages get added to the OpenOffice.org XML file format specification.
2002 The first collaborations with the KOffice project begin.
16 December 2002 OASIS Open Office Technical Committee (TC) holds first conference call
May 2002 OpenOffice.org 1.0 and StarOffice 6 get released, both using the OpenOffice.org XML file format as the default file format.
August 2003 KOffice decides to use ODF as its default file format.
2003 / 2004 The original OpenOffice.org XML file format specification gets modified to reflect recent developments in the XML and office application area, e.g.:

* Introduction of XML namespaces that conform to the OASIS naming rules
* Switching from XML DTD's to Relax-NG as the schema language
* Improvements of the schema to better support the validation of documents
* Adaptation of the schema to new versions of standards
* Adaptations for additional office applications (KOffice)
* Adaptations for new office application versions (OpenOffice.org 2.0)
* Removal of inconsistencies in the specification
* Error corrections
December 2004 A second committee draft gets approved, and the tile of this draft gets changed from “OASIS Open Office Specification” to “OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument)”
January 2005 TC is renamed to OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) TC.
February 2005 The third file format specification draft including public review feedback gets approved as a committee draft.
May 2005 OpenDocument Format (ODF) is approved as an OASIS Standard
September 2005 Sun Microsystems releases StarOffice 8 with ODF support.
September 2005 OASIS submits ODF for ISO/IEC approval
September 2005 INdT (research group belonging to Nokia) contributes ODF filters for Abiword and Gnumeric.
October 2005 OpenOffice.org 2.0 is released with ODF support
October 2005 Sun issues a patent covenant statement:

“Sun's public non-assertion declaration may be summarized unofficially as an irrevocable covenant not to enforce any of its enforceable U.S. or foreign patents against any implementation of the OASIS OpenDocument specification”
December 2005 Softmaker releases Textmaker 2006 with ODF support
January 2006 IBM releases IBM Workplace with ODF support
March 2006 ODF Alliance is founded to promote ODF in the public sector
March 2006 OASIS ODF Adoption TC gets founded
April 2006 KOffice 1.5 which uses ODF as the default file format gets released.
May 2006 ISO and IEC approve OpenDocument OASIS Standard
February 2007 OpenDocument 1.1 is approved as OASIS Standard


OpenDocument is advanced by three Committees within OASIS:

  • The OASIS OpenDocument Format (ODF) Adoption Committee members collaborate to provide expertise and resources to educate the marketplace on the value of OpenDocument. By raising awareness of the benefits offered by OpenDocument, the Committee increases the demand for and availability of OpenDocument-conforming products, resulting in a greater choice of tools and platforms and expanding the OpenDocument community of users, suppliers, and developers. For more information, see the Committee charter and member list.
All three Committees operate under the RF on Limited Terms Mode of the OASIS IPR Policy.

OASIS Sponsor members represented on these Committees include:

All Committees invite participation from new members. See Join OASIS for details.