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Why OpenOffice uses ODF

Michael Brauer, Sun employee and member of the OpenOffice team, writes an interesting piece titled Why uses OpenDocument.

It begins with a strong philosophical stance on ownership of information: “The documents that our users and customers create with belong to them, not us. They, not us, must be able to read or process them in the near, far, and very far future. And they, not us, must have the choice to use whatever application they want to do so. And they, not us, have to bear the consequences if this is not given.”

Brauer discusses the decision, in 2000, to create a new file format from scratch, but based on existing standards, because as a true standard file format, it must be application-neutral. This distinguishes ODF from Microsoft’s OOXML, which does not make any effort to be application-neutral. (Its overarching goal is not to introduce any incompatibilities with the new Microsoft Office file format, and nothing more.)

Further, the ODF standard development process also prioritizes two major goals: Open source community members must be able to join, and all work must be done in public scrutiny.

Following these methods keeps corporations honest and prevents the process from veering off under the control of any single interest group. Again, the ECMA standardization process being followed by Microsoft OOXML does not meet these criteria.

ODF is, in its development process and its final form, a far more open and inclusive format than its competitor. More people can participate in or watch over its development, more developers and organizations can implement it in their own projects, and end-users will have greater control over their data when saved in ODF.

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