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Texas, Minnesota Eye Move to ODF

by Elizabeth Montalbano, InfoWorld

Texas and Minnesota may become the second and third U.S. states to adopt ODF (Open Document Format for XML) as the standard file format for government documents instead of the file format that Microsoft uses in its Office 2007 software suite. Two separate bills up for legislative consideration in each state propose to mandate the use of an open, XML-based file format that is "interoperable among diverse internal and external platforms and applications; fully published and available royalty-free; implemented by multiple vendors; and controlled by an open industry organization with a well-defined inclusive process for evolution of the standard," according to the Minnesota House of Representatives bill; the Texas bill uses similar wording to describe the file format the states intend to support. The Minnesota bill proposes that the mandate would take effect beginning July 1, 2008, while the Texas bill gives the state's Department of Information Resources until Sept. 1, 2008 to develop a plan for the transition.

Though the bills do not specifically name ODF as the document format under consideration, the explanation of what each state wants to move to seems to fit the standard. ODF is an industry standard supported by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), is available for free, and is supported by several vendors in their office suites, including IBM, Sun, and Google. Currently, Massachusetts is implementing a plan using ODF as the standard format for all state agency documents. Massachusetts was the first U.S. state to adopt ODF. Microsoft also has submitted Open XML as a global standard, and it is currently before the ISO for approval. If approved and adopted by companies other than Microsoft, it could theoretically fall under the description of an open, XML-based file format as outlined in the Texas and Minnesota bills. Novell plans to implement Open XML in its version of OpenOffice, and Corel plans support for Open XML in its WordPerfect Office software.

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