Thursday, August 23, 2012

Microsoft and Open Document Format (ODF) and Why You Should Care

Electronic document formats matter for courts. This article discusses a recent Microsoft announcement.


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On August 13, 2012 an important posting on Microsoft’s Office Next blog was made by Jim Thatcher who is the Principal Program Manager Lead for Office Standards (quite a title!). In the posting titled “New file format options in the new Office” he describes Microsoft’s support and participation in creating and updating the OASIS-Open consortium’s Open Document Format (ODF) standard.
The chart contained in the posting showing Microsoft’s support for the different file formats is shown below.

The following table shows the evolution of file format support in the last few versions of Office:
Office 2003
Office 2007
Office 2010
The New Office
Binary format 
(.doc, .xls, .ppt)
Open, Edit, Save
Open, Edit, Save
Open, Edit, Save
Open, Edit, Save
Transitional 
Open XML
Open, Edit, Save
Open, Edit, Save
Open, Edit, Save
Open, Edit, Save
Strict Open XML
Open, Edit
Open, Edit, Save
ODF 1.1
Open, Edit, Save
Open, Edit, Save
Open, Edit
ODF 1.2
Open, Edit, Save
PDF
Save
Save
Open, “Edit”, Save

Now why should you care? Because courts create documents… lots of documents. The first problem is that these electronic formats are continually being updated by the software companies and so one must strongly consider a strategy to “future proof” your electronic documents. Using open standards XML based format programmers are able to more easily create and update the document templates courts used for forms, notices, letters, and summons. And XML formats also provide the possibility of using the documents to support CMS and EDMS data entry as discussed in this blog post last year. (http://courttechbulletin.blogspot.com/2011/08/eight-rules-of-e-filing-rule-4.html)

The second problem addressed by ODF is that since it is XML based it also supports basic document archival requirements so that in the future systems will be able to easily read these formats without the need to replicate the computer operating system or even the application used to create the documents. One example of a real problem in using old word processing files exists on my laptop today. I have original Word for Windows 1.0 documents (see the row for binary format in the chart above) I created in 1990 on my system. I cannot open these files in my 2007 version of Microsoft Word because of potential security issues with that particular format that the company has identified. So when I want to look at these files I have to use open source LibreOffice. But when they are XML based ODF or even DOCX formats I will not have this problem in the future.

Last, the other exciting part of this post (yes, I am easily excited) is Microsoft’s support of the XAdES (XML Advanced Electronic Signatures) that is an extension of the XML Signature standards work being done primarily in Europe. This is also something to be watched and considered again as part of your court’s document strategy.


2 comments:

  1. Thanks for great information you write it very clean. I am very lucky to get this tips from you.

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    ReplyDelete