Home of The Tiny Guide to Free Software for the US Government

December 22nd, 2008 Benjamin Horst (not the same as provides a feature where site members can suggest ideas they’d like to see adopted by the United States Government.

One suggestion currently getting attention on the site is to Support the Free Software Movement.

While this idea itself is highly open to interpretation, a site member offers more concrete suggestions for what it could mean in policy terms. Some of commenter John Zoidberg’s ideas include:

– No more software patents
– Financing and encouragement of Free Software development
– Make source code developed by public research organizations available under an OSI License/public domain/GPL
– Make all public services, government administrations use open document formats
– Make all public services, government administrations use Free Software (servers+desktop)
-Make software source code become GPL or public domain after X years

Government expenses could be trimmed by using more open source, while private sector innovation would also be increased due to competition around the best implementations of open standards. It’s a great way for the government to advance its technology innovation platform.

Information Week Compares Open Source Office Suites

December 15th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

It feels like InformationWeek is writing more and more about open source lately, perhaps because the open source tide is rising ever higher. Last week, IW’s Serdar Yegulalp published Open-Source Office Suites Compared, which reviews, StarOffice, IBM Lotus Symphony, KOffice and AbiWord:

“In this review I’ve taken a look at’s most recent release, along with the commercially-supported StarOffice from Sun, IBM’s reworking of OO.o as Lotus Symphony, the KOffice suite for Linux, and the minimal but still useful AbiWord. Talking about how these would entirely replace Microsoft Office would be misleading, since not everyone might be doing that — so I’ve looked at each product as far on its own merits as possible.”

Each suite has its unique strengths, and Yegulalp does a thorough job comparing their primary advantages and the factors that differentiate them.

Overall, the presence of these five major office suites as competitors, and cooperators that all support the open ODF file format, helps to encourage robust experimentation and innovation which the market has sorely lacked for well over a decade.

“Compatible competition” will bring better value and technology to all of us using these types of software tools.

Germany to Support ODF

December 12th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

The ODF Alliance catalogs some big achievements for the OpenDocument Format in its latest newsletter. (They provide the newsletter as a PDF, so to just read the text you can check out Boycott Novell’s mirror, “ODF Alliance Newsletter – 10 December 2008.”)

What’s big about it? Germany: “Germany has decided to implement use of ODF. According to the announcement made by the federal government’s IT Council, German federal agencies will be able to receive, read, send and edit ODF documents beginning no later than 2010.”

This brings significant additional mass to the movement: “To date, 16 national and 8 provincial governments have now formally recommended or required the use of ODF by government agencies and with the public.”

Among those other adopters are the Dutch, where the government has recently “published instructions in the country’s National Gazette regarding making open standards-based procurement the default – a policy which has been in force since 1 April 2008 – now that the European Commission has given its seal of approval. According to the announcement made on November 24, 2008 by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, this means in principle that for public purchases of IT worth more than 50,000 euro, the use of open standards such as ODF is now mandatory for government bodies in the public and semi-public sectors (“comply or explain” why not).”

Further, the newsletter points out the new ODF Toolkit, jointly developed by Sun and IBM, to build and share libraries that can read and write ODF files for use in developing new software applications.

ODF@WWW Wiki Becomes an Official Incubator Project

November 17th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

ODF@WWW, Kay Ramme’s wiki project built on OpenOffice and ODF, has been accepted as an official incubator project, Ramme announces.

He presented it at the recently-concluded Conference in Beijing and writes, “Since last week ODF@WWW is an Official Incubator Project 🙂 You find it’s home page at”

Integration with and adoption of Web 2.0 concepts has been an important development strategy for OOo, and this is a strong adaptation of wiki concepts into the familiar word processor paradigm. Its growth should be interesting to observe and groundbreaking in many ways.

ODF Templates from IBM

November 6th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

IBM’s Lotus Symphony was developed based on’s codebase and uses the same ODF (OpenDocument Format) as its standard file format.

To help users create attractive documents, IBM has released a number of ODF file templates for things like schedules, invoices, budgets, memos, letters and presentations. While promoted on Symphony’s website, these standard ODF files can be used in any compatible software suite, including, NeoOffice, KOffice and many others.

Download and enjoy!

Venezuela Adopts ODF as National Standard

October 21st, 2008 Benjamin Horst

North-by-South points out another country adopting ODF in its article, Venezuela Adopts ODF as National Standard:

Speaking at the Second ODF Workshop in Pretoria, South Africa, yesterday, Carlos Gonzalez of the National Center of Information Technologies, announced that the Venezuelan government had formally adopted ODF as a standard for the ‘processing, exchange and storage of documents’.” Venezuela joins a number of other countries who have adopted this open standard, along with Brazil, Uruguay, South Africa, Belgium — overall, fourteen national and eight provincial governments.”

Many countries, provinces and cities have adopted ODF, because it is about competition on a fair playing field, and just like HTML, it will bring lots of new competitors, ideas, processes and products into a market that has long been stymied by the decadence of a monopoly. Already, ODF is supported by many companies and many products:

“It is currently implemented by office solutions such as OpenOffice, KOffice, Google Docs, Zoho, IBM Lotus Symphony and Corel Wordperfect. In May 2008, Microsoft announced that Service Pack 2 for Microsoft Office 2007 would add native support for the Open Document Format.”

With momentum like this, we can expect great things for ODF and its users in the future.

Brazil Now Implementing ODF

October 6th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Some time ago, Brazil announced it would adopt ODF as a national document storage standard. Now, our friends at North-by-South announce, it has begun implementing ODF within the government:

“The Brasília Protocol (now translated to English) started the process of implementation of the Open Document Format (ODF) within the Brazilian Government. The Protocol was signed during the opening of CONSEGI 2008 by Bank of Brazil, Serpro, Dataprev, Post Office and Telegraph State Company (ECT), INPE (Institute of Spacial Researches), INPI (Institute of Intellectual Property), Ministry of Exterior Relations and others. All the institutions who signed the protocol are assuming the commitment to use the ODF standard, make it available to society-at-large, exchange documents between themselves in this format and to share solutions in open format.”

The original story is posted on the ODF Alliance website, which notes: “This is no small ODF migration, as the Brazilian entities involved have a combined 500,000 desktops.”

Considering the rapid growth of Brazil’s economy (and more importantly, the ongoing rise of many of its poorer citizens into the middle class), and its growing importance on the world stage, Brazil’s implementation of ODF will create waves that travel far and help many other governments around the world to make the same choice in favor of open standards.

Sweden Approves ODF as National Standard

October 2nd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

The Metamorphosis foundation announces Sweden’s approval of ODF as a national standard. (Originally mentioned by the ODF Alliance in their newsletter, which is archived as PDFs online.)

“Sweden now joins Brazil, Croatia, Italy, South Korea, and South Africa as countries whose national standards bodies have formal approved this standard”, the ODF advocacy organisation writes in this week’s newsletter.”

Numerous other countries also support ODF in various ways, and organization members of the ODF Alliance come from every part of the world.

ODF Interoperability Committee

October 1st, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Rob Weir discusses the new ODF Interoperability and Conformance Technical Committee he played a part in creating:

“For the past 6 months I’ve been talking to my peers at a number of ODF vendor companies, to fellow standards professionals in OASIS, to ODF adopters, as well as to people who have gone through interoperability efforts like this before. I’ve given a few presentations on ODF interoperability conferences and led a workshop on the topic. I led a 90-day mailing list discussion on the ODF interoperability. Generally, I’ve been trying to find the best place and set of activities needed to bring the interested parties together and achieve the high level of interoperability we all want to see with ODF.”

Participants include individuals and company representatives, including those from IBM, Google, Sun, and Novell, and government agencies from the USA and South Africa. Others are welcomed and encouraged to join.

Clearly, the OIC TC is an important step that will help ODF grow in real-world importance and longterm utility as it becomes the dominant global document format.

ODF Debt Reduction Calculator Spreadsheet

September 30th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

In a nod to the growing importance of, Vertex42, “The Guide to Excel in Everything,” has released an OpenDocument version of its Debt Reduction Calculator spreadsheet:

“Download a free credit card Debt Reduction Calculator and Debt Snowball Payment Schedule worksheet for Microsoft® Excel® and This spreadsheet allows you to choose different debt reduction strategies, including the debt snowball effect (paying the lowest balance first) and highest interest first. Just choose the strategy from a dropdown box after you enter your creditor information into the worksheet.”

This particular spreadsheet is very relevant today as economic troubles continue to spread, but a search for “OpenOffice” on Vertex’s site reveals many available OpenOffice-compatible files for download, indicating the site’s commitment to ODF and recognition of its large userbase.