Is Google Coming Back To The Open Community On Document Formats?

Simon Phipps | ComputerWorld UK | December 8, 2014

OpenDocument Format Plugfest event highlights how government pressure is driving open standards adoption

At the ODF Plugfest in London, Google’s head of open source told the audience that work once once again in progress extending OpenDocument support in Google’s products.  At the opening of the event, Magnus Falk, deputy CTO for HM Government, told the audience that the decision to adopt ODF (alongside HTML and PDF) as the government’s required document format is now well in hand. When asked by an audience member about various government agencies that currently require submissions from the public in Microsoft-only formats, Falk said that all such departments must make a migration plan now for how they will achieve use of the required formats.

As a result, Google faces significant pressure securing government business in the UK – including in the health and education sectors – now that ODF is a requirement. The support for ODF in Google’s products is weak and uneven. While Docs can import text (ODT) and spreadsheet (ODS) files in ODF 1.1 and 1.2 format (albeit very imperfectly, as Google staff privately admit), only ODF 1.1 export is supported and there’s no support at all for presentation (ODP) files.

DiBona explained that the file viewer support for ODF in GMail and Docs is developed separately in the company and thus there will be things that can be viewed and not edited and vice versa. ODF support in advanced search is weak, and it’s hardly mentioned elsewhere such as on Android and Chromebooks. Indeed, a recent Google Drive announcement didn’t even mention ODF...