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Government plan to adopt ODF file format sparks standards debate in UK

PCWorld - The U.K. is moving to a system where citizens can exchange information with the government digitally by default—but in choosing the file formats to use for that exchange, it must balance corporate interests with those of citizens.

The recommendation of HTML for browser-based editable text and PDF as the default for non-editable documents is uncontroversial, as they can both be read on most computer platforms.

However, when it comes to exchanging drafts of documents between government departments, or between government and citizens or suppliers, the choice of an editable file format is proving more controversial.

An interministerial body, the Cabinet Office, is now evaluating comments on its proposal to adopt Open Document Format (ODF) as the standard for sharing documents with and within the government.

The goal of the Cabinet Office was to identify document standards that do not impose costs on users, and in which text, spreadsheets and presentations could be edited on different devices without loss of integrity. It also wanted to avoid tying users to a particular vendor.